Termite FAQs
Skip to content

Termite FAQs

Suppose my home has drywood termites.  How can I get rid of them?

Answer: You have three options:  spot treatment, fumigation or physical removal of infested wood.  But a wood-penetrating gas fumigant is the only sure way to get them all.

What will an inspection cost?
Answer: The cost of an inspection varies.  However, the fee is usually small.  You should keep in mind that even if the results of an inspection are negative - if termites aren't present - your money wasn't wasted.  You've purchased peace of mind.

What does such an inspection involve?
Answer: Because a pest control operator has a trained eye and knows what to look for, his examination will be brief but thorough.  He will identify evidence of any previous treatments or infestations, any wood-destroying insects present and the damage they have caused and any structural conditions that may make your home especially vulnerable to attack.   

If none of these signs is present, does that mean my home is free of termites?
Answer: Not necessarily.  Termites work from the inside out and are very often hard to detect.  Especially drywood termites that have no link to the outside and spend their entire lives indoors-in walls, in roofs, etc.  The only way you can be sure you're not sharing your home with termites is to have it inspected by a professional pest control operator.

How can I tell if I have a termite problem?  And, if so, what kind?
Answer: Subterranean termites are often detected during swarming, usually in the spring, when some fly from their nests to start new colonies.  Other signs are shelter tubes primarily composed of mud on the surface of walls, joists, piers, chimneys, plumbing and other fixtures.  Weak or broken structural members, blistered wood and soil in cracks can also be evidence of subterranean termites.  Drywood termites sometimes give themselves away by creating surface blisters on wood and leaving wings or piles of waste that look like sawdust on windows and floors.

Where are termites found in the U.S.?
Answer: Subterranean termites inhabit the 48 contiguous states and Hawaii, but are most common in the southern two-thirds of the U.S.  Drywood termites are not as widespread as subterranean termites.  They are mainly a problem in the South.

Are there different kinds of termites?
Answer: Entomologists have identified over 2,000 species, 55 of which exist in the United States.  But there are only two kinds, basically, that homeowners have to worry about:  subterranean termites and drywood termites.

Don't termites attack only old, run-down buildings?
Answer: Termites have been found in buildings as early as four days after construction.  Every building fabricated wholly or partly of wood is susceptible.  Chemical or mechanical barriers can be established in the construction stage to prevent or discourage termite infestations in new homes.

How destructive are termites?
Answer: Nationwide, termites cause over a billion dollars in damage annually-more than all tornadoes, hurricanes and windstorms combined.  Because they nibble away slowly from the inside, damage can be very extensive before it's noticed.  It's not unusual for a termite to feast on a building throughout a life span of 15 years-and the queen can live and produce eggs for up to 50 years.  Undetected and untreated, termites can severely damage and, in time, destroy a home.

What steps can I take to choose a pest control service that will meet my home's needs?
Answer: Contact several companies in your area to get information on the types of services they offer and what they charge. You may find a great deal of variation on contract terms, prices and treatment options. Review the contract terms carefully and ask about anything you do not understand. Note whether the company offers coverage for damages caused by termites, what the renewal options are, and what conditions could void the warranty. Companies are required to be licensed with SPCS in order to provide commercial pest control services. Ask the company to provide verification of licensure.  You may also call SPCS to confirm that the company has a license.  All other information requests concerning a company's employees, complaint history, etc. will need to be submitted in writing to the Structural Pest Control Service, Attention: Public Information Officer, PO Box 12847, Austin, Texas 78711-2847, or Fax:  (888) 232-2567, or e-mail: spcs@TexasAgriculture.gov. Ask the company to provide you information concerning termite experience and training the inspector and/or applicator have received. Each person may have different levels of experience. A new company may have personnel who have years of experience in the industry. An existing company may have a high turnover rate resulting in inexperienced personnel. You may send a letter to SPCS requesting information about past investigations the SPCS has conducted concerning the company. In response, you will receive a list of the investigations and their results for the past five (5) years. This information should be provided to you within seven (7) to ten (10) working days. Your local Better Business Bureau may provide information on past complaints they have received concerning the company.

What should I expect from a wood destroying insect inspection?
Answer: The first thing you need to know is that any structure containing wood or cellulose material provides a natural food source for subterranean termites.  Even structures that are mostly steel and concrete are vulnerable to termite attack. The following list will provide some general conditions conducive to termite infestation: (1) earth-wood contact; (2) firewood stacked against foundation; (3) wood debris in crawl space; (4) wood mulch [within 3 ft. of foundation]; (5) faulty grade; (6) insufficient ventilation; or (7) moisture.

A licensed person will conduct a careful inspection to determine the presence or absence of visible evidence of infestation from wood destroying insects.  The inspection will be made in those areas which are readily accessible and where infestation is most likely to occur.  No inspection is made in areas that require the breaking apart or dismantling/removal of any objects.  Therefore, it is not a warranty as to the absence of wood destroying insects. It is not a structural damage report. A wood destroying insect inspector is not ordinarily a construction or building trade expert and is not expected to possess any special qualifications that enable him to detect the extent of structural damage.  Evidence of wood destroying insects is noted in the report. 

I have spoken to my pest control company, and I still cannot resolve my termite problem. What should I do?
Answer: If you have spoken with your pest control company, and you are still unable to resolve the problems you are having concerning a termite treatment, contact the agency at 866-918-4481, fax 888-232-2567 and request a complaint form. An SPCS inspector from your area will contact you after you have completed the complaint form and returned it to the SPCS at PO Box 12847, Austin, Texas 78711-2847. Typical response time to a complaint is approximately three weeks. It is not advisable to repair any damage or to have your home treated before the inspector has been able to inspect the home. A more thorough investigation can be conducted if damage is still visible. Remember, damage caused by termites occurs very slowly, so no significant, additional damage will occur in the few additional days required to properly investigate your complaint.

Can I receive compensation for an improper termite treatment or Wood Destroying Insect Report?
Answer: The SPCS does not have the authority to compel a pest control company to pay damages.  SPCS cannot settle disputes arising from a contractual disagreement.  SPCS can communicate offers of settlement between parties.

Is the pest control company required to give me termite treatment disclosure documents before performing a termite treatment on my house?
Answer: At the time a bid is submitted and prior to treating, the pest control company proposing the treatment is required to give the prospective customer termite treatment disclosure documents.  The documents must include, but are not limited to, the following items:  (1) a diagram of the structure or structures to be treated; (2) a label for any pesticide recommended or to be used, and the proposed concentration of the termiticide to be used; (3) the complete details of the warranty provided; (4) definitions of the types of treatment; and (5) the signature of approval of the certified applicator or technician licensed in the termite category employed by the company making the proposal.

At no time will a proposal be given on the back of a business card, all supporting documents must be given as described above prior to treatment. 

If the warranty does not include the entire structure treated, the areas included must be listed.  The warranty information must also include the time period of the warranty, the renewal options and cost, the obligations of the pest control operator to retreat for termite infestations or repair termite damage caused by termite infestation during the warranty period and conditions that could develop as a result of the owner's action or inaction that could void the warranty. 

Can I receive compensation for an improper termite treatment or Wood Destroying Insect Report?
The SPCS does not have the authority to compel a pest control company to pay damages.  SPCS cannot settle disputes arising from a contractual disagreement.  SPCS can communicate offers of settlement between parties.

I had a pest control company treat my house for termites last year, but now I have termites again.  What should I do?
Answer: Retreatment for subterranean termites can only be performed if there is clear evidence of re-infestation or disruption of the barrier due to construction, excavation or landscaping and/or evidence of the breakdown of the termiticide barrier in the soil.  These vulnerable or reinfested areas may be retreated in accordance with application techniques described in each individual product's labeling.  The timing and type of these retreatments will vary, depending on facts such as termite pressure, soil types, soil conditions and other factors that may reduce the effectiveness of the barrier.  Annual retreatment of the structure is prohibited unless there is clear evidence that re-infestation or barrier disruption has occurred. 

Keep in mind that termite control is as much an art as it is a science.  Many factors can affect the adequacy of a treatment, including the construction of the house, and re-treatments may be necessary.  Termites (only need 1/32 of an inch to gain entrance) can still be in the walls of the house six to eight weeks even after a proper termite treatment.  If you have a re-infestation and are under contract with a company, contact the company so licensed individuals may identify and address the problem.   

What is the difference between subterranean and drywood termites?
Answer: Subterranean termites usually return to the soil to live and reproduce and are found throughout Texas.  Drywood termites, found more commonly in coastal areas such as Houston and Corpus Christi, do not have soil contact but can live inside walls or other wooden building materials.

Where and how do termites live?
Answer: All termites subsist on cellulose, which termites get from wood.  Termites are social insects with a highly organized caste system, much like ants or bees.  Subterranean termites usually live outside the house in underground nests.  Subterranean termites use moisture in the earth to survive.  Since subterranean termites also need cellulose, they often tunnel into nearby homes to get it.  Drywood termites, on the other hand, need no contact with the earth, because their moisture is derived from the moisture in the wood and home.  They live right inside the home and can have multiple infestations throughout the home.

What treatment methods are commonly used to combat termites?
Answer: Subterranean termites are treated using the methods and procedures listed on the product label.  You have basically three treatment methods: pre-treatments, treating the soil prior to the home being built; post treatment, a treatment after the final grading or any time after construction; fumigation, normally used for drywood termites wood removal or borate products for spot applications.  When fumigation is performed, a certified applicator for the pest company must be present at the time the gas is released into the house and when the house is released for occupancy following the fumigation and proper aeration.  A technician licensed to do termite work with the advice of a certified applicator can perform a treatment for subterranean termites without the certified applicator being present.

What chemicals or techniques are commonly used for termite control, and how safe and effective are those chemicals?
Answer: Currently, several chemicals on the market are commonly used for termite control.  Additionally, some companies use a technique called "termite baiting."  The baiting technique involves the installation and monitoring of bait stations.  The bait stations do not attract termites. They have several slates of wood or composition for termites to feed on.  Once the termites have been detected in the stations, the bait is changed to bait that has been treated with a termiticide which, when carried to the colony or nest and fed to other members of the colony, will kill the individuals that receive the bait.  Termiticides are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Termiticides are considered an acceptable means of termite control.  A consumer should receive disclosure information, including a label of the termiticide that is being proposed for use and warranty information, from the pest control operator at the time of bid.  A consumer trying to determine which company to employ should review the disclosure information.  Termiticides alone will not guarantee elimination of a termite infestation.  Inspection methods, procedures and application techniques all contribute to a successful treatment.  If you have a health-related question concerning the termite measures to be used on your home or that has already been applied to your home, you may obtain a copy of the chemical's package label from your pest control operator and take it to your family doctor for analysis.  All pest control operators are required to give to the consumer a copy of the label of the termiticide to be used before the termite treatment is conducted.  Any health related questions may be directed to the Epidemiology Department of the Texas Department of State Health Services, (512) 458-7269.

What should I do if I have termites in my home or if I think termites are damaging my home?
Answer: Do not panic.  Most types of termites do their destructive work very slowly.  If your house has never been treated for termites by an exterminator, contact several local pest control companies and get estimates for their termite control services.  These same companies can inspect your house to see exactly what types of pests are attacking your home.  If you are not sure you have a termite infestation, an inspection will reveal if a visible termite infestation is present.  If you have termites swarming (flying around) in your house, the swarmers can be combated using a variety of over-the-counter pesticides designed for flying insects that are available to homeowners.  Termites generally swarm once a year for a period of about twenty-four (24) hours.  The swarmer is the reproductive form of the termite and does not do damage to wood.  It is helpful to save several of the swarmers in a plastic bag for the inspection by your local pest control operator before a termite treatment is performed.
Any further questions?

Answer: If you have further questions concerning termite control or pest control in general, contact your local pest control operator or if the company's response is unsatisfactory, then contact the Structural Pest Control Service at PO Box 12847, Austin, Texas 78711-2847, 866-918-4481.