By Stephanie Butcher, Coweta County Extension Service

Question: How can I protect my home from termite damage?

Agent: Termites cost Georgia homeowners tens of millions of dollars each year to repair and treat infested structures. This is peak season for termite swarms, so chances are, you may see a termite swarm if you haven’t already.

Subterranean termites are the most common wood-destroying insects in the Southeastern U.S. They are a normal part of soil around buildings in our area and can be found in most any suburban yard in the Southeast. Whether or not a home is susceptible to a termite infestation depends on a variety of factors though including construction type, home maintenance, landscaping, and perhaps conditions in and around the structure that favor the activity, growth and survival of termites.

Subterranean termites are soft-bodied insects that dehydrate easily, so they must have access to a moisture source. They usually find that moisture by maintaining contact with the soil, but they can also find it in a variety of above ground sources like leaky roofs, water trapped or wicked into exterior walls, rain gutters, and condensation.

They will also eat nearly anything that contains cellulose including wood products, books, paper, boxes, paneling, the paper on drywall, wood cabinets, etc. They also prefer softwoods, like pine, over hardwoods and softwoods are often used as structural wall studs, sill plates, joists, and headers in homes.

So how can you protect your home from termite damage? You should contact a licensed termite control company for an inspection. To find out if a company is licensed, you can call the Georgia Department of Agriculture at 404-656-3641.

Although it may be tempting to consider treating for termites yourself, it is best to leave it to the professionals. The knowledge, treatment techniques, products, and equipment needed to get rid of termites hiding in a home or building depend on the skilled practice and understanding from an experienced professional.

Finally, termite control companies offer two types of contracts –  1.) retreatment of a recurring problem, 2.) retreatment of a recurring problem and some or all of the repair costs associated with new termite damage. Only the second type of contract will pay for repair of damages to a structure caused by subterranean termites. Inspections are the cornerstone of the difficult process of termite management, so it is advisable to have an annual termite inspection.

If you find what you think could be termites or are told that you have termites, you can bring a sample to the Coweta County Extension office for positive identification.

For more information, call 770-254-2620 and ask for the publication, “Termite Control Services: Information for the Georgia Property Owner”.

The University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences is an equal opportunity, affirmative action organization.