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updated August 1, 2002


Preventing Termite Infestations
submitted by Barb Ogg, PhD, Extension Educator

Termites live in the soil and they eat wood. It makes sense they prefer to feed on wood touching or buried in the soil. Studies have shown more than 90% of termite infestations in houses can be traced to wood that is either buried in the soil or touching the soil surface. Elimination of wood/soil contact is the number one action people can take to make their home less likely to be infested by termites.

During housing construction, wood debris is sometimes accidentally buried in the fill next to the house. This situation can result in a termite infestation and subsequent problems in getting an effective barrier treatment.

Decks and wooden porches can touch the soil and cause a termite problem. The wood should be placed on a concrete footing several inches above the soil surface. Decks and porches should be constructed of wood that has been pressure-treated with a wood preservative. Redwood is somewhat more resistant to termites than other wood, but it is not as resistant as pressure-treated wood.

What about wood chips used to mulch plants around the house? Wood chips will work into the soil over time and serve as a source of food for termites. It would be best not to use them next to the house, but there are no studies indicating how far from the house is safe. Wood chips made of redwood, cypress or cedar will be somewhat termite resistant, but, over time, the naturally occurring resins in these materials will leach into the soil and termites will readily feed on these mulches.

To prevent termite damage, firewood should be stored on a concrete pad and never stored against the house. You can still burn termite damaged wood, but it will be light and burn too fast to be a good fuel.

In nature, termites feed on dead tree roots. If you have lost a tree or shrub near the house, you may want to dig the roots out, rather than letting the natural decomposition process take its course.

Because termites need moisture, moisture problems near the foundation can increase the attractiveness of these areas to termites. Take a look around your house and make sure water drains away from the foundation. Now is a good time to clean-out gutters and downspouts and repair or replace those that leak.

Making decisions about termites is stressful because many homeowners do not understand termites and all available termite control options. Because termite control can be expensive, making hasty and uninformed decisions can be costly. To become better informed about this topic, attend a workshop “Everything Homeowners Should Know About Termites and Termite Control” on Thursday, May 16, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. It will be held at the Lancaster Extension Education Center, 444 Cherrycreek Road. The cost is $20, which includes training and reference materials. This workshop will also be held in Lexington, Grand Island, Omaha and Wilber. Please call 441-7180 for more information or to pre-register.


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