How to Get Rid of Termites and Keep Them Away

How to Get Rid of Termites and Keep Them Away

Many pests find their way into your home looking for food — whether it’s residue on dirty dishes left in the sink or crumbs you forgot to sweep up off the floor.

But in the case of one pest, their favorite food is your home itself.

The mighty termite has lived on earth for more than 120 million years — they even outlived the dinosaurs! Of the 2,500 species found throughout the world, about 45 live in the United States and 4 of them have been identified in Missouri, according to entomologist Richard M. Houseman of the University of Missouri Extension Service.

And it’s the subterranean termite that does the most damage to U.S. homes and businesses — to the tune of some $4.5 billion a year in pest control and repair costs.

Subterranean termites live in the soil and feed on wood connected to the soil, including the wood found in your home or business.

But how can you get rid of termites? Effective termite control requires a holistic approach:

  • Understanding what causes a termite infestation
  • Termite inspection
  • Termite prevention before construction
  • Termite removal from existing structures

What Causes Termites?

Don’t let their tiny size fool you. Termites actually form complex societies with their own rigid caste system:

  • Eggs — the earliest life stage
  • Larva — newly hatched “baby” termites that are still growing and developing
  • Workers — responsible for finding food for the rest of the colony
  • Soldiers — responsible for defending the colony
  • Nymphs — preparing to molt into reproductives, leave the nest and start their own colony
  • Swarmers — reproductive termites who grow wings, leave the colony, mate and find a favorable spot to start a new colony

Infestations happen when workers locate structural wood and recognize it as a good source of food to take back and share with their friends back at the colony.

  • They may build shelter tubes from the soil to the building.
  • Sometimes they find their way in through cracks in the foundation.
  • At other times they come in through seams near plumbing or electrical lines.

Termite infestations are hard to spot for a number of reasons:

  • The tiny size of these insects.
  • Their entryways are usually hidden behind walls or under the foundation.
  • Damage accumulates slowly over months or even years, so you may not notice until it’s too late. Termites feed on the soft grain inside of wooden structures until only a hollow outer shell remains.

How to Check for Termites

Termites damage your wood by chewing tunnels on the inside of the structure. Because termite damage is done on the inside of the wood, you may not be able to see it easily.

One good way to check for signs of termites is with a screwdriver handle.

Use it to gently tap on the following structures:

  • Sill plates
  • Header joists
  • Ends of floor joists
  • Bases of wall studs
  • Flooring

Termite-damaged wood will give of a hollow sound when tapped and show little resistance to light probing. You might also look for earthen shelter tubes close to where your foundation meets the wall of the building.

If you are able to look inside damaged wood with a flashlight, you may notice a fecal-soil mixture. Termites bring this into the tunnels to maintain the moist environment they need to survive.

  • If you notice moist soil within a tunnel in damaged wood, you have an active infestation.
  • If you find old, dry soil, it may indicate and older infestation.
  • The more wood damage you find, the longer the infestation.
  • In some cases you may find live termites upon inspection.

How to Stop Termites Before Construction Begins

The best time to stop termites is before construction begins on a new house or commercial building. There are three important steps that can help you accomplish this, with help from a licensed pest management professional.

  • Sanitation. Keep unnecessary wood and moisture away from the property as much as possible. Remove scraps like stakes and boards, and don’t place wood under porches, steps or patios as a filler. To control moisture, downspouts should carry water away from the foundation walls and your finished grade should slope away from the structure. Provide sufficient ventilation to crawl spaces to keep them dry.
  • Start with a good foundation. Your best bet here is a poured, reinforced and crack-free foundation. Hollow blocks, bricks and rocks all leave cracks where termites could easily enter your home and should be capped off with at least 4 inches of concrete between the foundation and the soil.
  • Keep wood and soil separated. Because termites live in the soil, and look for wood to eat, the more you can keep these two materials separate the better. All wood structures — basement walls, posts, porch supports and wooden steps — should be separated from the ground by a concrete foundation or base. And don’t stop with the wood. All siding materials — including brick, stucco or vinyl — are vulnerable to termite penetration and should be separated from the ground by 4-6 inches of concrete.
  • Create a chemical barrier. Pretreat the soil under and around your foundation site with termiticide and have a vapor barrier installed before installing the foundation. Why? Because termites can enter your home through openings as small as 1/32 inch. That includes foundation cracks and small gaps around plumbing and electrical wires. And because even the best foundations usually develop some cracks over time, a chemical barrier is needed.

Pretreatment sites include the soil near or beneath concrete slabs, garage floors, porches, patios, basement walls, and utility lines.

How to Treat Termites on an Existing Property

In existing buildings, a professional pest control provider can treat the soil adjacent to termite entry points, with a termiticide that gets carried back to the nest by worker termites.

Termite control begins with a thorough inspection to locate the site of the colony and any wood structures that have been damaged. This tells your pest professional where to apply a liquid treatment that will eliminate the entire colony including the queen.

The termite treatment is applied using methods known as drilling and rodding.

  • Drilling. If the infestation is located underneath your house or place of business, your pest professional will drill through the slab into the soil. Treatment will be injected into the soil using rods that saturate the surrounding earth with termiticide.
  • Rodding. Metal termite rods are inserted into the ground about 12 to 18 inches deep, and about one foot apart, around the perimeter of your building. These rods are used to inject the termite treatment directly into the ground.


Do you need to get rid of termites from your home or business? Do you need pretreatment before beginning a new construction project?

Contact Fight the Bite. We’ll provide the information you need and help you keep termites from feasting on your property.