Need termite prevention? Arizona subterranean termites are the most economically important wood-destroying organism in Arizona, with over $20 million per year being spent for prevention and corrective treatments. This high-dollar amount could be reduced if homeowners implemented a number of relatively simple, inexpensive, practical measures around their home and outlying structures that reduce the risk of Arizona subterranean termite infestation(s). Preventive measures are cost effective given that a home or business typically represents a large monetary investment.
Most Arizona construction and landscaping features can literally invite termites into your home. Understanding Arizona termite biology and habits can help you understand the necessity of prevention measures. Altering conditions around your home can reduce the termites’ environmental requirements for moisture, food (wood), and shelter.
Arizona Termite Prevention
In Arizona, native subterranean termites are the most common type of termites that infest homes. Arizona termites like most insects need moisture to survive. They are closely associated with the soil, where they construct an underground nest and/or a series of interconnected nests, hence the name “subterranean termites.” Arizona termites excavate narrow tunnels through the soil, creating a network through which they can travel to reach food sources. They also transport soil above ground to construct mud tubes (shelter tubes) and to line their feeding galleries in wood. Soil serves as a source of moisture that helps protect termites from the drying effects of air. It also shields termites from predators (ants, birds, lizards, etc.) that feed on them.
Cellulose (especially wood) is the main food source for Arizona subterranean termites. In nature, termites feed on dead wood, including roots and stumps. Around your homes, termites readily feed on wood mulch used in landscaping. Most types of mulch provide termites with moisture and protection from the elements. In homes, Arizona termites often first attack wood that is located close to the soil (i.e., lower parts of the house like sill boards and wall studs). They then can follow the framework of the house to gain access to upper levels and floors. As they feed, they excavate galleries in the wood. Arizona termites also can tunnel through inedible materials such as foam insulation, plaster board, etc. or cracks as narrow as 1/64th of and inch as they search for food.
Do not unknowingly invite termites into your home!
Employ any, or all of the following measures to help disrupt the termites’ ability to locate moisture, food (wood), and shelter.
Solutions to Conditions Conducive to Termite Situations
Problem: Cellulose (wood, dead plants and tree stumps, material, paper, etc.) in contact with soil provides termites with ready and unobservable access to food.
- Keep all wooden parts of the house foundation at least 6 inches above the soil.
- Keep mulch levels several inches below the siding and wooden parts of the structure.
- Avoid or minimize use of wood mulch next to the foundation.
- Remove dead trees, stumps, and roots near the structure.
- Never store firewood, lumber, or paper against the foundation or in the crawl space.
- Remove wood debris and form boards.
- Keep stem-wall footer clear of stored items and visible
- Keep plants at least 2-3 feet away from your homeâ€™s foundation
- Minimize water levels within 12 inches of your home
Problem: Moisture accumulation near the foundation provides water needed for termite survival.
- Grade or slope soil away from the foundation.
- Divert rain water away from the foundation.
- Maintain clean gutters and down-spouts.
- Install down-spout extenders and splash blocks.
- Use drain tiles if site is flat.
- Divert lawn sprinklers and irrigation water away from the foundation.
- Promptly repair leaking faucets, water pipes, and air conditioning units.
- Use mulch sparingly (no more than 2 inches depth is recommended).
- Keep plants and ground covers 3-4 feet away from the house foundation.
Problem: Poor ventilation in crawl space provides water needed for termite survival.
- Cover approximately 75 percent of the soil surface in the crawl space with a vapor barrier (4-6 ml polyethylene sheeting).
- Install 1 square foot of vent opening per 300 to 500 square feet of crawl space area (when using a vapor barrier).
- Install 1 square foot of vent opening per 150 square feet of crawl space area (without a vapor barrier).
- Enhance cross ventilation.
- Remove any vegetation covering vents.
Problem: Hidden termite access.
- Install trellises and trim plants so that they do not contact the house.
- Do not build flower planters against the house.
- Regularly inspect cracks or joints in concrete slabs for evidence of termites.
- Install metal flashing when attaching porches or decks (even when using “treated” lumber) to an existing house.
- Remove mulch that contacts siding or obscures a clear view of the foundation.
- Never install foam board insulation (polystyrene) below grade.
- Water is directed away from the foundation.
- Wood and other cellulose materials (including mulch) are away from the foundation.
- The foundation is exposed around the entire house.
- The basement (or crawl space) is relatively dry.
- Have your home inspected at least once a year by a trained/experienced termite inspector