We have termites on our property what do we do?
October 4, 2013 2:20 PM   Subscribe

I was gardening today when I noticed that an old treestump in our garden seems to have a small termite colony in it. The stump is about 10 foot or 2.5 metres from our wooden framed unheated garage which connects to our house how worried to I have to be? Is it time to call the pest control guy and get some baiting stations set up?

When I lived in Australia I would have called in someone that deals in termites without a second thought having a colony this close to my house, but as winter is about to hit here in Northern Indiana (Zone 5) I don't know if that is as necessary, will the winter freeze kill them of?

Yes I am very aware of the damage termites can do, having lived in a state in Australia that has to use metal for fencing and has concrete telegraph poles because of the speed with which these little buggers can eat destroy things so don't worry if the general consensus is call a profession in to deal with them that's what I'll do. It's just my In Laws think I am over reacting and termites aren't a problem this far north, or at least that's what they said when I wanted a termite inspection before buying our current house and hey if I don't need to spend the money in the lead up to Christmas I won't complain.

And just in case any ideas on the cost for getting baiting stations set up in the Midwest so I don't get ripped off also appreciated.
posted by wwax to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
No, you're not overreacting. I'm in central Illinois, and a couple years ago we had termite inspection and treatment done by our regular exterminator service (Orkin) after finding them in the corner of the yard. The treatment cost about $1300 but is supposed to last for at least ten years. They recommended treatment because a.) they found evidence that the house had been treated before, and b) while they found no evidence of actual damage, they did find mud tubes that had recently been made by termites in the crawlspace under our house, along the foundation. If $1300 seems steep, whoever does the inspection can probably recommend some cheaper alternatives. But yes, termites thrive in the Midwest, and you are smart to get on top of things now.
posted by tully_monster at 3:06 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Anecdatally, my neighbor noticed some termites in a pile of wood chips left behind by an earlier inhabitant, and a year or two later found termites in the wood framing of his house.
posted by exogenous at 3:39 PM on October 4, 2013

I had termites in the ground about 15 to 20 feet from my house in Boston. I called an exterminator who said not to worry about it. She said there are lots of termites in the ground. The important thing is to keep vegetation away from your house, so the termites don't have a natural point of entry.

Of course YMMV.
posted by alms at 5:00 PM on October 4, 2013

I've seen plenty of cases of termites right next to buildings. Termites are part of the natural process of decay and recycling in nature. Getting an inspection wouldn't hurt, but the value of exterminating the ones outside your house if there is no evidence of internal activity is questionable.
posted by singingfish at 5:19 PM on October 4, 2013

will the winter freeze kill them


If the winter freeze killed termites, no termites would live in your area. It is unlikely that someone's pet termites ran away to live in your stump.

at least that's what they said when I wanted a termite inspection before buying our current house

You can get a termite inspection now. Usually they are relatively cheap, and you want to have someone who won't profit from any termite treatment you get to determine if you need an exterminator.

Be sure to tell the inspector that you already own the home and are just wanting to find out what the best course of action is.
posted by yohko at 6:14 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Termites are just colonial insects. They can be killed by insecticides, heat, acid, salt, mechanical disturbance of their colonies, or any number of combination strategies that disrupt their reproduction. You may live in an area that prohibits one or more of these disruptive strategies, but if you think about it carefully, and research the topic a bit, you'll probably come across an effective elimination strategy for your area.
posted by paulsc at 7:27 PM on October 4, 2013

I'm not that far north of where you are in Minnesota. Termites are unusual here due to the winter cold. This article talks about an unusual Minnesota infestation (inside a couch!) and mentions this factoid: In places where winter temperatures can remain at or below 15°F for at least four days, drywood termites will not survive. Note that that refers to a specific termite, though.

This page at Ohio State has a map that suggests that northern Indiana is right on the edge of the main zone for subterranean termites.

Your real estate person should know what the termite risks are in your area, but if you're still nervous, it's perfectly reasonable to call a local exterminator and ask about the bugs you're seeing.

Here's some basic info to start with on termites in the U.S.
posted by gimonca at 8:15 AM on October 5, 2013

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