Termites are a common problem in certain areas. They bring billions of dollars of loss to the state and individual homeowners.
But usually, when you’re thinking of termite damage, you fear the most the destruction of your home structural elements and generally afraid of the roof collapsing on your head because of them eating through the wood.
Well, good news, it’s hard not to notice the pest presence for time long enough for something that disastrous to happen. But what can easily get an irreversible damage from termite’s infestation is your furniture.
Yes, you’re thinking right, that beautiful wooden bench you have on the terrace, your favorite modern style table or antique grandmothers rocking chair, they are all in danger. So let me tell you how to notice, fight and prevent the nasty insects destroying your property.
How do termites enter?
There’re two ways the termites can enter your house – from the outside of from under the ground. The once that are nesting in the soil are the subterranean termites.
To prevent the subterranean termites from entering your house you can:
- Pretreat the soil around the building with special chemicals.
- Make sure there’re no water leaks in the house.
- See that there’s no untreated wooden structure in direct contact with the soil.
Second type of infestation is the one that the swarm brings. The swarm happens when all the winged reproductives of the termite colony takeoff up in the air and search for a mate and a new colony place. This way your furniture can be invaded by the drywood termites.
This little creature doesn’t need anything else than the dry piece of wood to create a nest and a colony. For this reason, your dining table is as attractive to them as anything else. Once the swarmers couple finds a place of their liking, they get themselves inside the wooden structure and lay the eggs, that after hatching become the first individuals of the new colony.
The beginning of this kind of infestation is extremely hard to notice. If there’s a small crack in the wood – it’s the perfect entry point for the new colony king and queen. The colony might grow quite slow and in the beginning account for only couple of hundreds of individuals, so there’s a chance that some time will pass before you know you have a problem.
Signs of infestation
In short, you look for:
- swarm and swarmers;
- damaged wood;
There can be more than one way for you to use the swarm presence to your benefit. First of all, the swarm itself. Once you see it starting (usually in spring and summer early morning) pay attention where it comes from:
- Old humid rotten wooden log.
- From under the ground.
- From piece of the dry wood or inside your house.
For the first one there’s not too much to worry about. Most probably it’s a colony of the dampwood termites. They prefer the decaying wood to your furniture, so most of the time you can find them in the woods and other natural environments.
Normally this termite will not target your household, unless you have somewhere the wood perfect for their colony. But usually it won’t be your dresser.
The swarm emerging from underground is a sign of the subterranean termites’ colony presence. If it happens really close to the house – start searching for the mud tubes around it and maybe order the full inspection.
If you have your house protected from this termite species, then they should not harm your furniture. If the individual winged termites will enter the house they will just die, not finding the conditions they search for.
The swarm of drywood termites can bring the danger. If they enter your house they might find it suitable for the new colony. And if you see the swarm starting right inside your house – you definitely have a full-blown infestation in progress.
Almost any kind of damage on the wooden surface can be a sign of the termite’s activity. Tiny pinholes are the most certain one, others include buckling paint, sunken or rippled wall coverings and so on.
If you see a suspicious area – tap on in with the dull side of the screwdriver to check for the hollowed wood. If you found it – here’s your nest.
Frass is simply the drywood termite’s droppings that are kicked out of the nest in process of eating and digesting the cellulose. You can find them in small piles, resembling to the sawdust.
The main difference between the sawdust and the frass is the shape – the balls of the termite excrements is a 6-side granular. And if you find it next to the furniture – there’s a high chance it is infested.
If one or several of those signs are present – call for a proper inspection. Of course you can try and do your own, but you might skip just one nest and then you’ll have the problem constantly reappearing.
Treatments for the infested furniture
There’re plenty of methods you can use yourself and some that require professional help. Here’re what can be done:
If there were more than couple of drywood termites’ nests found in your house, than the fumigation with sulfuryl fluoride can exterminate all those termites in one go. Also, this way is not destructive for the lacquer and paint, so it will work very good for the valuable pieces of furniture or antiques.
Termite gas bombs
This is a DIY fumigation method. You can execute it yourself:
- Place the item you need to free of termites in the closed space, such as garage, and place in on the carpet of newspapers or plastic sheets.
- Close all the windows and openings to make sure that’s once released the gas will stay in the good concentration.
- Activate the bomb or the spray and quickly leave the room.
- After one hour open the windows and doors and let the gas aerate completely.
Orange oil is a natural treatment, so it will not be toxic for animals of children.
Termites die when they come in contact with it and in order to deliver it to them you’ll need to drill the small holes in the wood to pour the oil in the colony corridors.
Otherwise you can try to use the holes that the termites make in the wood themselves.
The best is to combine this treatment with the gas bombs.
Heat and cold treatment
The termites are dying if exposed to the excessive cold or hot environment (more than 120 or less than -20 degrees Fahrenheit). So you can place the object in the freezer, or oven, or just under very hot sun and if the termites won’t die, they definitely will choose to leave such an unpleasant place.
The borax powder mixed with water is applied to the wooden surface with the paint brush. It is advisable to use the gloves while doing so, so the acid won’t harm your skin. This is one of the oldest and time checked insecticide you can use.
Then, obviously, there are other chemicals on the market. If you choose to use them – check first that they don’t require special license. Also make sure that it’s not destructive for paint or lacquer if you plan to use it on the valuable items.
Here you can learn more information about effective termite control remedies: Bora-Care, Boric acid, Borate, Fipronil, Chlorpyrifos, Chlordane, Borax, Timbor, Termidor, Terminator, Phantom, Lorsban and Biflex.
Valuable and Antique furniture
One more way the termites might enter your household is you bringing them in yourself. When you buy something on the flea market, pay attention on any “interesting” wood structure. There’s always a chance that something you found a charming vintage quality is actually an active termite infestation.
Of course the best treatment for valuable furniture objects is preventive pretreatment.
Such as spraying the essential oils, applying orange oil and sealing all the possible cracks.
But if you already skipped this step and you have your precious chair infested with termites, there’re some things to consider before treatment:
- Be careful choosing the insecticide – it might damage the exterior of the object if applied.
- Fumigation might be the best method for killing the termites inside the structure, as it leaves no trace on the decorative pieces.
- If the furniture has plastic, metal and other different material details – make sure they will not be damaged if you decide to use heat or cold.
- If you never used the wood sealer before better trust it to professionals, as it can spoil the looks of the item if used clumsily.
The last thing – if you keep your furniture in storage, make sure it’s sealed in plastic. This way you will not have it damaged by the termites as well as the moisture.
If you interested in more information of termites we recommend you to read the following articles:
- All types of termites. Are they harmful to humans? Can they bite you? And what is the difference between drywood and subterranean ones?
- What does swarmers of different species look like: drywood, subterranean, formosan?
- Signs of infestation outside and in the house: in walls or furniture.
- What does termite holes look like? What is droppings and is it toxic to humans? Do termites make noises?
- Posible termite damage, how does it look like? Examples of damage in walls and wood floors.
- All about flying termites: how do they look like, swarming season and what to do if there are swarmers in your house?
- How do they do nests and mounds? How to find it in your garden or inside the house?
- Termite life cycle – from egg to larvae. And social hierarchy: workers, soldiers, queen.
- Did you know that termites can infest living trees, for example a palm or a pine tree. They also like to live in stumps.
- You can prevent the infestation by using barriers, such as: HomeGuard, Physical systems, Safeguard, Stainless steel mesh, Kordon.
As with any termite situation, the key to avoiding the headache of getting rid of the invaders in your furniture is prevention. The oils and insecticides can be applied right when the items are first placed in your house.
All the cracks and old holes can be sealed. Don’t waste time and prepare for the termites now, then you will never need to face the real problem.