The 2021 NYC Pest Control Guide: Termites

Here’s what you need to know about dealing with termites and termite swarmers in New York City, including facts, prevention, control, and extermination.

Termite Control in NYC

Springtime signals the beginning of termite season, particularly for the eastern subterranean termites found in New York City and the Tri-State area. 

Termites may be small, but they are one of the most destructive and expensive types of pest infestations. Each year, termites invade approximately 600,000 homes in the United States, causing $5 billion in structural damage and termite control costs.

One of the reasons why termites cause so much damage is that they stay out of sight and are hard to detect. By the time a homeowner or landlord finally discovers signs of termites, the infestation has often already caused severe damage. The best way to stop a termite infestation is to catch it early on.

Understanding how termites behave and recognizing the early warning signs will help you prevent and protect your property from further damage. Read our guide to learn about the signs of termites and how to protect your home from termite infestations.


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Facts About Termites

Termites are small, saw-toothed insects that love to eat wood and other cellulose-rich materials. Due to their small size and white or light-brown color, termites are sometimes also referred to as “white ants.”

Eastern subterranean termites, or “dampwood” termites, are the most common species of termites in New York. They thrive in dark and damp environments full of cellulose-rich materials to feed on. Subterranean termites build their colonies in the soil and surface in the spring to find new food sources.

Termites are social insects with a caste system made up of a queen, a king, workers, soldiers, and reproductives (also called alates or swarmers). 

  • Queen termites can grow to 4 to 6 inches in length, or about the size of a finger. A subterranean termite colony’s queen can live up to 30 years, producing up to thousands of eggs each day.
  • King termites are the size of an average worker, and together with the queen, releases pheromones to maintain order within the colony’s caste system.
  • Worker termites search for and collect food, while also building mud tubes and maintaining their nests.
  • Soldier termites protect the colony from predators. Compared to workers, soldiers are bigger in size with darker heads and larger mandibles.
  • Reproductives (swarmers) are winged termites produced once a termite colony is matured. Their sole mission is to find new mates and establish new colonies.

More Termite Facts

  • A termite colony starts with one king and one queen.
  • A mature termite colony can house between 60,000 to 1 million termites.
  • Subterranean termite colonies mature in about 6 to 7 years, after which swarmers are produced and leave the colony to find new mates.
  • Termite swarmers are poor fliers, and typically travel no more than 300 feet away from their original colony.
  • In New York, the most common species of termites are eastern subterranean termites.
  • Surprisingly, two of New York’s most detested types of pests evolved from a common ancestor. Termites belong to the same order as cockroaches: Blattodea.
  • Termites never sleep. They’re constantly eating and working 24/7, which is one of the reasons why these pests are so destructive — no rest for the wicked!

Problems Caused by Termites

Termites do not bit, sting, or carry disease, but a termite infestation can lead to many other types of problems in your home. Termites consume wood and anything with high cellulose content, but they will also chew through other materials in order to find new sources of food.  

Structural Damage

The main concern that most homeowners have when it comes to termites is structural damage. A small termite colony can eat through 5 grams of wood each day. Subterranean termite colonies often go years undetected, and over time can cause significant damage to the structural integrity of your home.

Damage to wooden structural elements in your home can lead to problems such as foundation issues, cracked walls, and warped doors and windows. In extreme cases, a severe termite infestation can eventually cause a home or building to collapse entirely.

Electrical and Heating Problems

Though the wood in your home is a termite colony’s focus, they will also chew through other materials to get it. For example, termites can chew through or dislodge electrical wiring, cables, and insulation.

Mold

It’s not surprising to find termites and mold together. Both naturally thrive in damp conditions and feed on dead wood. A termite infestation can further exacerbate these damp, moisture-rich conditions, causing or helping mold grow in your home.

Signs of Termites

Although they are usually hard to detect, termites will leave clues in and around your home. Recognizing these signs of termites can help you decide when to schedule an annual termite inspection or contact a termite control professional.

Stuck Windows or Doors

Termite damage causes windows and door frames to warp, making it difficult to open and close them.

Mud Tubes

These wood-colored, vein-like structures can be found along the side of your home near areas with exposed wood. They function as tunnels, allowing termite colonies to travel between food sources.

Termite Swarmers

Finding swarmers is one of the most telltale signs of a termite problem. Swarmers are winged termites that resemble flying ants. They usually emerge in the spring, and because they are attracted to light, you’ll often see them in large numbers around doors and windows.

Other signs of termites

  • Maze-like patterns on wooden surfaces
  • Damaged wood
  • Tiny holes in walls
  • Discolored drywall
  • Peeling paint
  • Buckling or squeaky floorboards
  • Loose tiles

How to Prevent Termites

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is especially true when it comes to termites, which can silently cause damage to accumulate for months or years before being discovered. Here are some ways to help protect your home from termites.

  • Regularly inspect your home for signs of termites, such as damaged or hollow wood, bubbling paint, mud tubes, and stuck doors or windows. Getting an annual termite inspection is recommended, especially if you live in an area with high termite activity.
  • Wood can also be treated with borate to prevent termites. Borate is a low toxicity chemical that both preserves and protects treated wood by acting as a barrier to termites. This is an effective method of prevention typically done during the construction of a new house or structure.
  • Seal any structural cracks or crevices in the walls or foundation of the interior and exterior of your building.  This will close off potential entrances for termite colonies. 
  • Keeping your home dry will deter termites by removing the damp environment that termites thrive in. Divert rainwater away from your home and be sure to repair any leaks. Make sure basements and crawlspaces are also dry and free of clutter.
  • Replace damp or damaged wood on the exterior of your home, including your porch and storage areas, as this wood can provide food and access to termites.
  • Any scrap wood and firewood should be discarded or stored away from buildings. Wood should be kept above ground and covered so it can stay dry, and be sure to inspect it before bringing it inside your home.
  • Remove dead trees, stumps, and roots near your home to remove other food sources for termites. 

Solutions to Get Rid of Termites

There are multiple ways to manage a termite infestation, depending on the size and severity of the problem. The most common (and effective) treatments for termites are:

  • Soil and barrier treatments
  • Termite baiting
  • Fumigation

Termites are not a do-it-yourself pest. If you know you have a termite problem, it’s important to contact a termite control professional as soon as possible.

Soil and Barrier Treatments

Soil treatments involve applying liquid termiticides to the soil underneath or around the foundation of a building, creating a chemical barrier that protects the exterior of your home and stops termites from tunneling through.

Other barrier treatments include injecting foam termiticides into walls and floors or installing termite shields around wooden structural elements. Depending on your situation, these methods are combined to simultaneously stop existing termites while also preventing future infestations. 

Termite Baiting

Termite bait treated with low doses of slow-acting termiticides can be used to provide long-term termite control. Worker termites bring poisoned bait from bait stations back to their nest, eventually destroying the entire colony and eliminating the problem at its source. 

The termiticides used in soil and barrier treatments typically last up to 5 years. Depending on the situation, they can be more cost-effective than using termite bait systems. 

Fumigation

Fumigation involves enclosing a severely-infested area with sulfuryl fluoride gas (Vikane) to exterminate all termites inside. Your home may be tented and sealed for up to three days depending on the size of your home and the level of termite infestation. 

Best Termite Control in NYC

At MMPC, we have 25+ years of experience managing termite infestations in New York City, Long Island, and the Tri-State Area.

We know firsthand that no two cases are the same, and we always listen carefully when working with our clients in order to properly diagnose and treat their specific termite issues. 

Read more about MMPC’s professional termite control services here.

If you have questions about termites, or would like to schedule a termite inspection or treatment, call (212) 219-8218 or fill out our termite contact form!