Signs of termites in trees: how to detect and save a tree?

Photo 1Do termites eat trees? For Sure. Termites infesting trees appears to be a common problem with dangerous consequences. The tricky thing is, many backyard owners are not even aware of termites living inside the roots of the trees, which makes it hard to detect the actual infestation.

Sooner or later, the termites may move from an infected tree to your house, which will make the problem more serious and the treatment more expensive(by a few thousand dollars).

However, the tree infestation alone may result in termites weakening the tree to the level it starts dropping rotten branches of your head or the whole tree falling on your house (this way, your “house termite treatment” wont help you).

Tree infested with termites may even fall on your neighboor’s property, which may result in problems with the law. So? what to do if termites infested trees near house?

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Signs of termites in trees: how to detect?

Do termites attack living trees? Do termites eat live trees? It is often considered termites eat dead wood only, though it’s not true, for there are several termite spices who eat living wood, so your tree is not safe even if it’s healthy.

Anyways, every infected tree is basically dangerous long-term because termites damage the heartwood of the trunk, as well as roots, and the actual damage is hard to estimate. Thus, you need to learn how to control these ubiquitous insects before the irreversible consequences happen.

Photo 2Termites you can spot in the tree may vary by their activity:

  • simply feeding on the tree but having a colony under the surface;
  • having a colony inside the tree;
  • having multiple colonies.

You can detect the termite presence in the infested tree by spotting tunnels, shavings, termite carapaces, termite eggs on the bark of a tree. Sometimes you can even see a termite colony nest (“big brown clod” attached to a trunk of a tree).

In order to detect subterranian termites, try to dig out a thin layer of surface right near the trunk. Termites can also live deep inside the trunk, to check this you can make a tiny hole by drilling the trunk to it’s center (angled downward) – if the resistance suddenly weakens, the trunk is hollow, and termites are likely to infest the tree eventually.

You can also pull the drill off and check if there are termites on it, or insert a grass stem, take it out and check. After all, check the hole the next day – if it has been patched, you have certainly disturbed termite’s business.

More information on how to spot and treat termites in stumps, pine and palm trees?

You next step depends on what you have discovered:

If you haven’t spotted any signs of colony, then it’s better to apply non-direct control. Be sure to cut down the dead branches and burn them, for those might be termites only interested in dead wood.

Pour non-repellent termiticides (pesticides, that insensibly kill the whole colony by spreading) on the bark and on the ground arund the tree in 3 meter radius.

You can also aply termite baits in case you grow food plants or have water body nearby and dont want to contaminate them. That way, termited will bring slow-acting poison to their real colony, spread it and die altogether.

Photo 3If you spotted eggs, a colony nest or found termites inside the hollow trunk, then you should implement direct treatment by using repellent termiticides (pesticides, that drive away and kill termites right away).

Just pour them right into the colony nest/hollow trunk. For this case it is also recommended to consult a tree doctor or a professional pest control company, because the tree health diagnostics is highly recommended to detect and prevent any additional colonies being active/established.

WARNING: If you are going to remove the infected dead tree, cancel the removal if possible(or at least leave a stump) and contact a pest control company, for this situation requires direct approach and professional expertise to evade expenses and get any effective results.

Learn more about drywood termites: signs of their activity; best methods of treatment: spot treatment and DIY methods; how to get rid of them in furniture?

Can I eliminate termites without the syntechic chemicals?

While you can obviously cut off and burn dead branches, cut down the tree and destroy the stump, termites may remain deep underground, feasting on the roots remained or just have a remote colony.

However, you may apply somewhat “natural” pesticide – the orange oil(dont confuse with orange juce, this one is toxic upon ingestion). The orange oil can only kill termites in the active area, it does not have a spreading effect, so it is used for direct control by pouring inside the hollow trunk or a colony nest.

It may be an option if you do not want to contaminate the surface nearby. Boric acid has the same effect, and it is also toxic to humans, thus be careful.

Learn more about subterranean termites: signs of their activity; best methods of treatment and DIY methods. Eastern subterranean termites and their tunnels and tubes with photo.

How can I control termites in trees myself?

Photo 4How to save a tree from termites? There are several ways of dealing with termites in trees, depending on the situation.

The most effective way of dealing with termites is by using non-repellent chemical barrier in the area. It is done by liquid soil treatment with liquid termiticides which are used for house protection aswell.

The most popular ones:

  • Termidor (Fipronyl) – the most popular termite control product in USA and Australia, widely used by many pest control companies. Considered the most effective termiticide and used by a lot of pest control companies.
  • Taurus – (Fipronyl) a cheaper analogue.
  • Altriset – (Chlorantraniliprole) eco-friendly product, but a bit less effective. it is the best option, when environmental safety in a major concern.
  • Premise 2 / Premise 75 (Imidichloprid) – the most popular one in most countries. The main chemical component is derived from tobacco leaves, it causes termites to die in large quantities in the same place. That frightens other termites and banishes them naturaly.
  • I MaxxPro 2F / I MaxxPro WP (Imidichloprid) – a cheaper analogue.
  • Phantom – (Chlofenapyr) – very popular one, absolutely undetectable by termites, so it can be applied to few spots in small quantities, which makes it economical.
  • Bora Care – (Sodium Borate) – a special wood treatment chemical, which will last the life of the wood when applied.

Here you can learn more information about another effective termite control remedies: Boric acid, Borate, Chlorpyrifos, Chlordane, Borax, Timbor, Termidor and Terminator.

However, due to some of these being toxic to bees, birds and aquatic inhabitants, these chemicals might be prohibited in your country/state, so be sure to check the regulations. Also, aviud using these chemicals in near water bodies and food plants.

If applied correctly, liquid non-repellent termiticides are considered relatively safe to people and pets, and the chemicals decay within several years and do not pollute the soil long-term(although, avoid misuse).

In You can treat the tree bark and the soil around, however, it is okay to applly some of these chemicals to the tree only – use chemicals which have a spreading effect, like Fipronyl and Chlofenapyr, Nevertheless, this kind of treatment is the most effective, deadly and reliable.

If you cannot apply soil chemical barrier for whatever reason, you can use termite baits, which are absolutely safe, but can bee less effective and more expensive.

Photo 5For the direct control, repellent chemicals are more viable because of the instant effect.

Those include liquid and dust and foam repellent termiticides. Keep in mind, that termiticide dust is dangerous if inhaled, so it’s better to use one on the actual termite nest, if you found one.

Liquid repellent termiticides can also be poured into a hollow trunk and termite galleries via drilled holes, however, foam is more appropriate for this. Foam termiticides are actually very popular among professional pest control companies.

It’s not recommended to use liquid repellents for soil treatment in this case, because they are considered more toxic that non-repellent ones, however, you can treat the trunk by 2 meters above the ground height to prevent termites approaching it.

Permethrin-based termiticides are considered relatively safe to mammals (they are even used in flea collars). The most popular repellent termiticides:

  • Talstar Professional (Bifenthin) – very low cost, reliable, effective, has been applied for years.
  • Bifen Insecticide / Termiticide (Generic Bifenthrin) – a lower cost analogue.
  • Dragnet FT (Permethrin) – highly toxic and repellent to subterranean termites.
  • Prelude (Permethrin) – is a low odor analogue, relatively short living termite control product thus does not cause a long lasting soil contamination.

Here you can learn more information about effective treatment method called tenting (fumigation): dangers for termites, preparing for fumigation and cleaning after, how long does this procedure last?

Useful articles

If you interested in more information of termites we recommend you to read the following articles:

Helpful video

In this video we show you how to inspect trees for termites and how to treat them if they have active termites:


If you spotted a single termite, it is most likely 250 000 of them nearby already, so you should act quickly, when you notices these insects to prevent any serious damage.

Keep an eye on your trees during spring as it is the period when termites actively search for food sites. And do not keep your firewood or any other dead wood on the ground in proximity to your trees or a house.

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