Affiliate Disclaimer: All products and services featured are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Any pest inside your home is a nuisance, but some do more than wear on your nerves. Termites, for example, can eat away at your home’s foundation, insulation, wood structures, and even pool liners. Even worse, most home insurance policies don’t cover structural damage caused by termites.
Quick and effective treatment is crucial when termites attack, and you’ll want to know the signs of a termite infestation to spot any issues before the damage begins. Our guide on how to get rid of termites outlines how to identify these pests and address an infestation, as well as the best do-it-yourself (DIY) methods and when it’s time to call in a top pest control company.
Addressing a Termite Infestation
Business owners and homeowners spend more than $2 billion every year treating damage from termites, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). To avoid becoming part of this statistic, you’ll want to start treating your home right away.
Two primary types of termites infest homes in the United States: drywood termites and subterranean termites. Both termite species are dangerous to your home, but each nest in different areas around your property. Each type of termite requires specific treatment methods, so it’s important to know what type of termite colony you’re battling before addressing the problem.
How to Get Rid of Drywood Termites
Drywood termites feed on and nest inside wooden structures. They may have wings and range in color from deep yellow to light brown. Larger than their subterranean cousins, these insects can grow up to a half-inch. Warmer, coastal areas like California, Florida, and Hawaii are the drywood termite’s natural habitat. Drywood termites live in small colonies of up to 2,500 members.
Common treatment methods for drywood termites include sprays, spot treatments, and essential oils:
- Boric acid: Spraying the traditional pesticide boric acid onto infested areas can kill termites through dehydration. Use this approach cautiously indoors, as boric acid can harm children and animals if ingested.
- Orange oil or neem oil: These essential oils are organic insecticides best used for minor termite issues.Though they are not good options for large infestations or quick relief, both oils can slowly prevent and eliminate termites by stopping them from successfully reproducing or shedding their skin. To create a DIY treatment, mix 2 cups of room temperature water, a few drops of dish soap, and nine to 12 drops of your oil of choice in a spray bottle.
- Repairing wood: To eliminate drywood termites’ homes, you can drill holes in the infested wood roughly 10 inches apart, drilling until you feel your drill or screwdriver hit the nest. Fill the holes with termiticide, then putty over them to fill them. This method is best for finished or painted wood, not high-quality hardwoods.
How to Get Rid of Subterranean Termites
As their name suggests, subterranean termites nest underground, tunneling into your home through mud tubes. There are several options for subterranean termite treatments, such as termite insecticides, termite baits, termite barriers, and even parasites. Subterranean colonies are much larger than drywood termites, ranging from 100,000 to 1 million members.
These are the best DIY methods to get rid of subterranean termites:
- Beneficial nematodes: These parasitic roundworms are microscopic, but they are tiny, powerful termite hunters. When beneficial nematodes burrow into a termite, they poison their host within a few days. Even better, these organisms are natural parasites to many other garden pests. If termites live in your outdoor areas, sprinkle the affected areas with potting soil, water, and beneficial nematodes to combat the infestation.
- Insecticides: Termite foams, such as Termidor, are an effective way to reach cracks and crevices where termites hide. The foam will fill the area before evaporating, leaving behind a chemical residue of insecticide that kills termites upon contact. Dust agents are also available to kill termites that even foam or liquid cannot reach. Be careful to read all instructions on insecticides and avoid using them around pets or children. Another bonus is that foams often work to eliminate ants, as well as termites, giving you an added layer of pest control.
- Termite baits: Like other baited traps, termite baits lure in unsuspecting pests who will carry poison back to the colony as a food source. Most bait stations work by killing these insects during the molting process.
- Termite barriers: Liquid termiticides such as fipronil and imidacloprid can be sprayed on the soil, mulch, or wood chips outside your home to create a barrier. Most liquid termite barriers kill termites upon ingestion. Once a termite has touched the barrier, the pesticide will spread from one termite to another upon contact, slowly killing the colony.
How to Identify Termites
Termites can be mistaken for ants, but there are a few key differences between the two insects.
- Antennae shape: While ant antennae have a bend, termite antennae are straight.
- Body shape: Termites have a wide, straight shape, while ants have a thinner waist and narrow body.
- Colors: Ants may be red, black, or deep brown, while most termites range between tan and light brown colors.
- Wing size: Flying ants and winged termites both have two sets of wings. However, termites have equally sized pairs of wings, while flying ants have one smaller and one larger pair.
Signs of Termites
If you can’t get a close enough look at the insects to tell whether or not they’re ants, you may be wondering: how do you know if you have termites? Here are the telltale signs of an infestation.
- Clicking: Strange, small clicks inside your wall may indicate termite presence. Soldier termites bang their heads against wood and shake their bodies to signal danger to other colony members.
- Damaged wood: Drywood termites can bore into wood, using cellulose as a food source. If you notice small holes in the wood around your house, such as door or window frames, baseboards, windowsills, or flooring, it may be time to conduct a more thorough inspection.
- Discarded wings: Before termites venture out to begin a new colony, they collectively shed their wings into piles. If you notice small piles of wings around the house, you may have an unseen termite infestation.
- Frass: Termite droppings, or frass, can be seen around baseboards, windowsills, door frames, and other wood surfaces. Frass has an oval shape and often looks like a small grain.
- Hollow wood: As termites eat away at your wood’s interior, they begin to hollow out your home’s wooden structures. If you knock on wood and hear a hollow or light thudding sound, it may indicate termite damage.
- Live insects: Most obviously, if you see a thick-bodied, winged termite in addition to any of these signs, it is likely time to start treatment or call in a pest control service.
- Mud tubes: Subterranean termites use mud tubes to connect their food source, wood, and the soil they call home. If you see small tubes about the width of a pencil skimming the surface of your property, you very likely have termites.
- Paint damage: As termites eat and warp the wood of your home, they allow moisture into the area. Often, this results in bubbling or peeling paint surfaces around the home.
Preventing Future Termites
Once you’ve addressed your termite troubles, you’ll want to avoid future infestations. Here are some of the most common termite prevention measures.
- Avoid moisture: Check for any dampness in your roof, gutters, and air conditioners. Subterranean termites are drawn to moisture, so keeping your home dry and leak-free can prevent their presence.
- Clear wood away from the house: Firewood stacks or tree stumps near your house, deck, crawl space, or porch can be starting points for termite infestations. If possible, build outdoor wooden structures with termite-resistant wood.
- Choose the right yard materials: Rubber, gravel, and mulch made without wood are good choices. If possible, avoid wood chips and wood-containing mulch as they provide a ready food source for termites.
- Keep pipes and gutters clean: Without regular maintenance, pipes and gutters can accumulate wood pieces and create damp environments—the perfect nesting place for termites.
- Schedule termite inspections: If you notice any signs of termite activity, request a termite inspection. Many companies will perform them for free before diagnosing what treatment is needed.
DIY vs. Professional Termite Control
If you’d like to save money and you’ve caught your problem quickly, at-home treatment is a viable option. However, remember that termite damage can quickly cause severe or irreversible damage to your home’s structure. While DIY methods can work well at the earliest stages of termites, large-scale infestations may require methods such as fumigation and professional bait systems.
If you have a large colony in place or don’t feel confident that you can treat the bugs yourself, it may be worth calling a professional exterminator before your home is seriously harmed. You’ll save both time and money in the long run.
How to Choose a Pest Control Service
Before you choose a pest control service, consider the following factors:
- What is the company’s reputation on sites such as Google Reviews or the Better Business Bureau? Look up your local office, as service quality may vary between locations.
- How does this company train and license its technicians? For example, Orkin requires its technicians to complete at least 160 hours of training within their first year at the company. It also trains its employees in drilling and liquid and foam application for termite prevention.
- How does this company determine and diagnose termite issues? Some may offer ongoing protection, while others provide á la carte choices. Terminix offers three packages for various levels of termite protection, but all come with an annual inspection to prevent future problems.
- Does this company offer a reservicing guarantee? Many companies guarantee their treatment will remain effective for a specific time frame, promising to re-treat if termites return.
The EPA recommends avoiding pest control companies that sell services door to door, try to pressure you into signing a contract on the spot, or claim that their products contain secret ingredients.
If your termite problem is small, you can turn to natural options like beneficial nematodes and essential oils. However, you may need serious termite killers like liquid, foam, or dust termiticides for a larger infestation.
If you’re concerned about the long-term effects of termites or want the convenience of professional help, we recommend calling a provider with decades of experience and an online chat feature, like Terminix. If you’re looking for a money-back guarantee, Orkin is another excellent choice, and Hawx offers solid customization options for homeowners seeking long-term pest control. All three providers have specialized termite treatment plans.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you get rid of termites by yourself?
In some cases of smaller infestations, it’s possible to get rid of termites yourself. You can try some of the below DIY methods:Applying liquid or foam termiticides to your home’s exteriorUsing essential oils or beneficial nematodes as an organic solutionSetting up termite baits to slowly kill the colonySpraying boric acid around affected areas inside the homeNote that not all of these methods are safe to use around animals or children, and larger infestations will likely require a professional company.
What kills termites naturally?
Natural ways to kill termites include borax powder or sodium borate, neem oil, orange essential oil, and beneficial nematodes for outdoor termites.
What attracts termites?
The main attraction for termites is wood and the cellulose it contains. Other items that attract termites include cracks in building exteriors, piles of firewood or tree stumps near your home, leaks in air conditioners or roofs, moisture and debris in gutters and pipes, and wood in close contact with your home’s foundation.
How We Chose the Top Pest Control Companies
Our pest control research process starts with analyzing customer reviews on third-party websites such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Trustpilot, and Google Reviews. We then do a deep dive into each company’s website, service plans, and available cost information. We also secret shop the companies we review, reach out to representatives, and request quotes.
From there, we compile the information we’ve gathered and compare each company using our in-depth pest control methodology and review criteria. This process uses a series of factors that are important to our readers, and we score each company depending on how well they perform in each factor. For instance, companies that offer more guarantees for their service earned more points than others, and pest control plans with a larger range of covered pests earned more points than ones with fewer.
After analyzing dozens of residential and commercial pest control businesses through this process, we were able to determine the best pest control companies on the market.