The termite is one of the most studied insects there is, and with good reason. After all, there’s plenty to be interested in when you consider an insect that can subsist solely on wood.
They’re also beneficial in nature, as they ‘recycle’ fallen trees and decaying stumps. But they also enjoy feasting on living trees, like the ones providing shade and landscape decoration in your yard. That’s an aggravation, no doubt, but it can also pose a real danger when the tree becomes unstable and falls.
That’s why it’s important to take certain steps if you discover that termites have infested one of your trees. And if they’re in your trees, they’re a threat to move in to your home, as well.
What Are Termites?
Closely related to the cockroach, there are over 3,000 species of termites in the world. They’re also one of the most successful insects in that they’re found everywhere except Antarctica. They survive primarily on dead plant material and cellulose – which is found in wood. Amazingly, termite queens can live to be 50 years old.
When Are They Most Active?
Unfortunately, once a termite colony is established they can be a year-round problem. The colony usually grows most during warm weather, however, and a single colony can contain up to 250,000 termites.
Do All Termites Infest Trees?
The majority of termites feast on dead wood, but there are a few species that feed on live plants and trees. Among these are Formosan termites – which the USDA once estimated have infested 30 percent of the live oak trees in New Orleans. They also feed on cypress, ash and other types of trees. Termites prefer to feed on the wood of declining trees, but healthy trees are also affected.
How Do I Know If My Tree Is Infested?
Many termites will leave small holes and wood shavings where they’ve entered the wood. The best place to look for them is around the base of the tree; you can use a small shovel to dig around the roots because termites usually exist just below the soil line. Because Formosan termite colonies are so large, you may also see discarded wings and termite carcasses. Other signs include shelter tubes on the trunks of trees, and swarm ‘castles’ located within scars of the trees, or even small white eggs.
What Should I Do If Termites Are In My Trees?
It’s important to remove termites as quickly as possible after you discover an infestation. That’s especially true if the colony is located near a house or other building that can be infected.
Things You Should Do
Make sure you prune away infected wood as soon as possible. Burn or destroy the wood to make sure that the termites don’t spread away from it.
Locate the termite colony, if possible, and completely eradicate it. You’ll also find their colonies in wood piles, in the ground, and underneath buildings.
Spray liquid termiticide around the base of the infected tree – in a 3-foot radius – and any nearby trees. Also spray the trunk up to the height of two feet. This will deter further termites from approaching the tree. It’s even not a bad idea to spray around the entire perimeter of your yard.
Set termite traps around the area. These are available at hardware stores and home improvement retailers, and will alert you to any new termite activity. The traps are chemical free and pose no threat to pets or children.
Regularly monitor the infested tree for any additional evidence of termites.
Are There Other Ways To Prevent Termites?
There are a variety of things you should avoid to lessen the likelihood of a termite infestation in your yard, trees or home, including:
- Leaving dead tree stumps in your yard.
- Stacking firewood near your home.
- Piling excess mulch around the home.
You can also hire a professional termite inspector to do annual inspections.
Is There A Risk To My Home?
Just because termites have infested a tree in your yard doesn’t automatically mean that they will migrate to your home. It is important to prune away any dead branches that may be touching your house. Because termites eat from the inside, they can make a tree so unstable that it can no longer support itself. And that can pose a serious danger to your family and your home if the tree is nearby. Liability issues could also arise if the tree falls into your neighbor’s property.
Not all termites infest live trees but the ones that do can cause significant damage and pose danger to the nearby area because of falling trees and limbs. If you suspect that termites have infested one of your trees, you need to act quickly. Learn to recognize the signs of a termite infestation and act accordingly. This will prevent further damage and lessen the possibility of termites migrating to your home.