In New Orleans, we tend to be most aware of termites in late spring when Formosan termites swarm. But according to Tommy Sanchez, owner/operator of termite specialists House Call Pest Control (with fellow locals Darrin Blystad and Steve Rooney), termites in New Orleans are a 365 day a year threat. That said, there are ways to mitigate the threat and treat infestations.
There are three types of termites: subterranean, dampwood (not common in our area), and drywood. For subterranean termites (which include Formosan) Sanchez recommends regular preventative measures: liquid treatments with non-repellent chemicals and active bait systems for native subterranean termites, which include Formosan. Subterranean termites survive in the soil and above the soil within the home. The type of treatment depends on the structure.
“Preventative measures cost a fraction of dealing with live infestations,” said Sanchez, who recommends working with an experienced exterminator.
There are no preventative methods for drywood termites, which swarm in late summer and fall. After being discovered, drywoods are treated with fumigation, which is effective for killing all existing termites but cannot prevent new infestations. Drywoods’ natural habitat includes trees and structures and new infestations do occur.
Some companies may first advise a spot treatment for drywoods with a liquid chemical. But tenting, which involves covering the house with huge tarps and filling the house with an odorless gas, and requires removing all living things (including plants), as well as open containers of foods and things that are injested or used orally (medicines, toothpaste, mouthwash etc.) is considered the most effective means of dealing with this type of infestation.
“Fumigation is the most complete treatment but it’s also the safest treatment for our clients; there is zero chemical signature post treatment,” said Sanchez.
Subterranean termites are easy to detect. Signs of infestation include mudtubes in and around the home, pinpoint holes in drywall, swarming exit holes (typically pencil size) and bubbling paint. The most common sign of drywood infestation is termite frass, which resembles coffee grounds or salt and pepper, but varies in color depending on the wood on which the termites are feeding. If you’ve seen any of the above, Sanchez advises calling a local pest control company for a consult. If concerned about a tree infestation, he advises calling an arborist to assess the health of the tree.
Sanchez also emphasizes the importance of maintaining your home to limit conditions that are hospitable to termites. Keep water and wood containing products (firewood, building wood etc.) away from your house. Flower beds against the house should not be higher than the foundation. Lattice work on a raised house should not have direct contact to the ground. And vegetation and vines should be trimmed away from the house.
- Don’t be naïve about termites; they are part of our ecology. Make a plan to keep them from infesting your habitat.
- Eighty percent of local infestations are from Formosan termites, so local pest control companies have a lot of experience with them and are good at what they do.
- Do your due diligence to limit termite friendly conditions such as piles of wood and vegetation growing on your house.
About the Designer
Airforce veteran, Holy Cross College graduate and native New Orleanian Tommy Sanchez, owner/operator of House Call Pest Control (with two other native partners named above), has more than 30 years of experience in the field of termite control. House Call treats some 800 residential and commercial properties a year.