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Termites


 

Family Hodotermitidae
Dampwood Termite









Characteristics ? 

Size:  King and queen bodies range from 1/2- to 5/8-inch. Nymphs range up to 5/8-inch. Soldiers range up to 3/4-inch in length.

Color:  Kings and queens are brownish in color.

Kings and queens have two pair of wings that are equal in size and shape and extend well beyond the tip of the abdomen. They shed their wings after brief dispersal flights.

Behavior ?  Dampwood termites are social insects that live in colonies consisting of several specialized forms. A mature colony may release "swarmers" (winged males and females) in late spring through fall, depending on the species. The swarmers have well-developed eyes, are pigmented in various shades of brown, and often have wings that are "smoky" in appearance. After pairing, males and females will shed their wings and may infest stumps and fallen logs. They now become the king and queen of a new, developing colony. The majority of the dampwood colony consists of nymphs (immatures) that are pale and soft-bodied. Although they have no true worker caste, the nymphs perform the basic "house-keeping" duties similar to subterranean workers. This involves enlarging the gallery system, tending to the needs of the king and queen, care of the eggs and newly hatched young, and obtaining food for other colony members. As nymphs mature, they become reproductives (alates) or soldiers. The soldiers have pale, soft bodies, but large, dark, hard-shelled heads with powerful mandibles. The soldiers defend the colony against invasion by ants. Because their mandibles are so specialized, they are unable to feed themselves, and must rely on care from the nymphs. Physically, dampwood termites are larger than the subterranean and drywood termites, and the dampwood soldier can be quite formidable in appearance.

Habitat ?  While subterranean termites may be found in every state except Alaska, the dampwood termites are much more limited in geographic distribution. They can be found mainly in the coastal mountains and inland mountains of California, Oregon and Washington, and to a limited degree in Arizona and Nevada. Florida is home to a common species of dampwood termite. As their name implies, dampwood termites infest wood that has an excessive moisture condition, and therefore are not often found in structures.

Tips for Control ?  Because dampwood termites infest wood with excessive moisture content, it is unlikely they would infest a structure. However, leaky plumbing, faulty gutters or downspouts, or snow drifts against wood exteriors could result in the moisture levels required for infestation by dampwood termites.

       
Family Kalotermitidae
Drywood Termite 

    
Characteristics ? 
Size:  Soldiers measure 3/8-inch in length; male and female reproductives grow to 1/2-inch long. During the winged stage there are four equal size wings that extend longer than the body by 1/8- to 1/4-inch.

Color:  Usually pale brown.

Drywood termites have soft bodies and are cylindrical in shape. They have six legs, compound eyes and chewing mandibles.

Behavior ?  Drywood termites are social insects that live in colonies. The colonies are composed of kings, queens and soldiers. There is no worker caste as in subterranean colonies. The work is performed by immature termites before they become adults. King and queen termites perform the reproductive functions of the colony. They are light to dark brown and 1/3- to 3/8-inch in length. Soldiers guard the colony against invaders such as ants. They are pale, cream colored and wingless with large brownish heads and jaws. The nymphs (immatures), which are the most numerous caste, are pale, cream colored and wingless. The soldiers and immatures remain inside the wood at all times.

Habitat ?  Drywood termites infest only dry wood and are most often found in attic wood framing as they do not require contact with the soil. They obtain moisture from the water produced by the digestion of cellulose. Winged reproductives fly from an existing colony, pair and fly to new dry wood areas, enter a small hole in the wood, and start to form a colony. Colonies will contain up to 2,500 members.

Tips for Control ?  There are some things a property owner can do to help prevent drywood termite infestation.
  • Store firewood and lumber away from the house.
     
  • Use 20-mesh screen on all windows and doors, and especially at ventilation openings for attics and crawl spaces.
     
  • Exposed wood that is sealed with a uniform coating of paint, varnish or other sealant will help prevent easy access by drywood termites. Be sure to seal nail holes and cracks.


Coptotermes formosanus
Formosan Subterranean Termite




Characteristics ? 
Size:  Alates, or swarmers, are about 1/2-inch overall length, including the wings.

Color:  Alates are yellowish brown

Just like other subterranean termite species, Formosan termites hatch from eggs as nymphs and later develop into one of the three castes that make up the colony's society: reproductives, soldiers or workers.* Reproductives include the king and queen, winged alates (swarmers), and supplemental reproductives. * Winged alates are primary reproductives that eventually fly out of the colony in swarms and attempt to establish new colonies.* Supplemental reproductives remain in the original colony to assist in egg production to keep the colony growing. They look like a large version of the worker except that they have undeveloped wing buds.* Soldiers comprise 10 to 15 percent of the Formosan colony, compared to 1 to 3 percent in a native subterranean termite colony. Their teardrop-shaped heads have large, forward-projecting mouthparts called mandibles. The soldier's job is to protect the colony, and they will aggressively attack anything that disturbs it. * Workers and nymphs represent the majority of the colony. They are responsible for foraging food; constructing shelter tubes; maintaining and enlarging the nest; and caring for the reproductives, soldiers, eggs and newly hatched nymphs.

Behavior ?  Formosan termite colonies begin small, with a single pair of reproductives - a king and a queen - but may grow to contain several million individual termites. Initially, the king and queen establish the new colony by producing 15 to 30 eggs. Two to four weeks later, the nymphs hatch and are nursed by the reproductives. The queen deposits a second batch of eggs one to two months later. The first batch of nymphs takes over the nursing responsibilities. The first new termites produced are workers. As the colony grows, soldiers are produced and finally, three to five years after the colony is started, winged reproductives are produced. A mature queen can live more than 15 years and deposit as many as 1,000 eggs per day. A mature colony may produce more than 20,000 reproductive alates each year. Alates, or swarmers, do not reproduce in their original colonies. They swarm out of the colony by the thousands along with alates from nearby colonies. Each alate attempts to pair with an alate of the opposite sex from a different colony. Few survive this quest. Those that are successful become the kings and queens of the new colonies. Swarming usually follows a warm, rainy day in late spring or early summer, most often in May and June, and typically occurs in the evening between twilight and midnight.

Habitat ?  In addition to huge underground colony systems - often 10 times larger than those of other subterranean species - Formosan termites build carton (mud) nests within the walls and other enclosed spaces of a structure. These nests may serve as residences for tens of thousands of individual termites and as reservoirs of moisture to sustain them during dry periods. Found primarily in tropical and sub-tropical climates, Formosan termite colonies have been established all over Hawaii, in Charleston, South Carolina, and along the Gulf Coast, including several parts of Florida; Galveston, Texas; New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Auburn and Mobile, Alabama. Individual Formosan sites have also been discovered in places such as San Diego, California; Atlanta, Georgia; and Memphis, Tennessee. Formosan termites are considered more vigorous and aggressive than other subterranean species. Because Formosan termite colonies can contain several million individuals, they can cause damage at an accelerated rate, with a mature colony causing significant damage to a structure in a relatively short time. Formosans are also more difficult to control than native species when using traditional liquid soil treatments. Unlike other subterranean whose colonies are almost exclusively underground, Formosans can establish secondary aerial nests with no connection to the ground. Called carton nests, they are usually found inside walls, under cabinetry, and in other enclosed voids within a building.

Tips for Control ?  Formosan subterranean termites are difficult to control once they have invaded a structure. For that reason, prevention should be the first line of defense. If a Formosan colony is found within a structure, quick action is required to minimize potential structural damage. When the soil of an infested structure is treated to stop their entry, the individuals already in the structure may form an independent nest above ground and avoid the treated soil.

Prevention:
  • Use wood pressure treated with preservatives that make it more resistant to termite attack.
     
  • Correct any sources of excess moisture - leaky plumbing, air conditioning condensation, poor drainage, inadequate ventilation - to deny the termites an additional moisture supply.
     
  • Contract with a professional pest control company to regularly inspect your home to detect a termite infestation and then treat it accordingly.
     
  • Eliminate all wood-to-soil and rigid foam board-to-ground contact.
    Remove any wood debris.

Control options:
  • Place a termiticide barrier in the soil between the termites and the wood structure.
     
  • If the structure is already infested, locate the carton nests for localized treatment, or fumigate the entire structure.
     
  • Above ground bait stations may also be necessary if the structure is already infested.
     
  • Control aerial colonies by correcting excess moisture conditions and by fumigation or installation of above-ground termite baiting stations.
     
  • Remove cartons and locally treat those areas with appropriate products.

     
    CARTON NEST

Family Rhinotermitidae
Subterranean Termite




Characteristics ? 
Size:  Worker: 1/8- to 3/8-inch in length. Soldier: Body is similar to that of the worker, but large, deck head with powerful mandibles. Supplementary Reproductive: About one inch in length. Primary Reproductive: About one inch in length.

Color:  Worker: Pale, cream colored. Soldier: Light colored with brown head. Supplementary Reproductive: Light colored. Primary Reproductive: Dark brown/black.

Soldiers have an elongated head with pincer-like mandibles. Supplementary Reproductives have either no wings or very short non-functional wings, while Primary Reproductives have four wings of equal size until they are shed. Primary Reproductives are the termites most often seen in the open. They are commonly referred to as "swarmers."

Behavior ?  This termite is known to swarm in spring, but small flights can occur at any time of the year. Swarming is the visible means that termites use to establish new colonies. As the colony grows, specialized castes are produced for the different tasks required. One caste produced is the workers. Another caste is the soldiers. And a third caste is the reproductives. Primary reproductives swarm and start new colonies. They are called alates or swarmers. Although thousands of primary reproductives may be produced each year, they all leave the nest. Supplementary reproductives, on the other hand, can become reproductive only in the colonies in whch they were born. They assit the primary king and queen in population growth of the colony.

Habitat ?  Subterranean termites live in colonies in the ground, building vertical tunnels that look like mud tubes above ground level so that they can search for food. Because subterranean termites will die if exposed to air for an extended period of time, the tunnels provide protection from the open air, allowing workers to carry food to the nest. Subterranean termites can form tunnels through cracks in concrete, so slab homes are not exempt from these termites. They need to stay in contact with the soil in order to survive, unlike drywood termites that only need low moisture.

Tips for Control ?  There are several things a homeowner can do which can help prevent termite infestations or make them easier to detect.
  • Store firewood away from the house.
     
  • Make sure at least four inches of the foundation can be seen all around the home. Siding should not extend into the soil. Mulch and soil should not touch the siding.
     
  • Make sure water drains away from the foundation to ensure water does not accumulate. Rain gutters are ideal; however, the downspout should direct the water away from the home.
     
  • Roof or plumbing leaks can allow termites to survive above ground in a house. These should be corrected as soon as possible.



 

TERMITE CONTROL

For over 50 years the standard subterranean termite control method has been to place a pesticide material (termiticide) into the soil under and around a structure to create a chemical barrier to protect the structure from subterranean termite attack. As long as the pesticide remained effective, the structure would be protected from sub termite attack. The chemical barrier method was especially effective with some of the longer lasting termite pesticides such as Chlordane. Long lasting termite pesticides are no longer available and have been banned in most cases. Since the currently available chemical barrier pesticides are very short lived, the concept of using a chemical barrier treatment as a the sole means of controlling subterranean termites becoming a thing of the past.

 


The technology to kill termites using baits is now widely available.  Instead of injecting chemicals into the soil which will only last a few years, and potentially contaminate the environment, termite baits are placed directly into the ground around the outside of a structure which kills the termites.. Termite baiting is simple and can also be used as a preventive measure to detect termites before they become a problem. Termite baiting allows termite control in situations where the structure is untreatable with soil termiticides, there is concern about pesticide use and/or in structures where soil treatments have failed.  



 


 

Termite baiting works by killing the workers in the termite colony.  When the worker termites have been eliminated, the colony is starved of food.  The reproductives, queens and soldiers die of starvation because they cannot feed themselves.  When the queens and reproductives cannot eat because there are no workers to feed them, they die and the termite colony starves and "crashes".

To effectively bait for termites, a prebaiting strategy must be implemented:

Step 1 - PreBaiting

In order to establish a feeding connection with the termite colony, the scout termites have to locate a food source and the worker termites must feed on it. Termites eat wood and cellulose, nothing else.  In the early stages of the baiting process, the termite scouts or foragers will find the bait stations and "tag" them with a "pheromone" which is a scent trail for the worker termites to follow.  Next, the worker termites will follow the pheromone trail established by the scout termites and begin feeding.   This process establishes the feeding cycle with the termite colony.  

Termite detector stations are specifically engineered to encourage termite feeding and to establish a feeding connection with the termite colony.  It has been said that termite detector stations are "windows" to the termite colony.

It is important that a solid feeding connection be established in an area where the termites can continually feed without disturbing them.  That is the reason that Termite detector stations were developed.  Termite detector stations only contain wood.  This wood is called detection wood or "interception" wood.   It only serves to establish a feeding cycle with the scout and worker termites so that a toxicant can later be used.   When a solid feeding connection has been established with the worker termites, the wood can be replaced with a toxic substance that the termites cannot detect, which kills them.  When the worker termites die, the colony cannot feed itself, so the termite population slowly starves, dies and the colony eventually crashes.

There are several different bait station designs pictured to the left.  They are all equally capable of establishing a termite feeding cycle.  Ease of use is what is important.


Step 2 - Using Toxicant

After the worker termites have begun feeding and a solid connection is established through the worker termites with the termite colony, a toxic substance is placed inside or next to the station that the termites will transition to.  The termites are continually fed this toxic material until the feeding stops.  The length of the feeding cycle and the amount of toxicant used depends on the termite population and the size of the colony(s). Depending on whether a Chitin Inhibitor or a Metabolic Inhibitor is used, the length of time it takes to achieve control of the colony may range from a few months to several years.


Step 3 - Colony Control
When enough worker termites have been killed, the delivery of outside food sources is eliminated, and the colony depletes its internal food sources,  the colony slowly starves and crashes.  The worker termites directly feed the soldiers and the queens. Without the worker termites, the colony cannot feed itself, and will soon exhaust it's food supply.  When all food sources have been depleted, the colony crashes.  This is the goal of termite baiting.

Termite baiting is really a simple process, but can be confusing since there are so many bait products to choose from.  The bottom line is that all termite bait systems work.  Some take longer than others to achieve control. 

The question is - how much money do you want to spend ?


 


Hexaflumuron (Sentricon TM ) and Diflubensuron (Exterra TM and Advance TM) come from a class of chemicals known as Chitin "kite~en" Inhibitors.  Chitin Inhibitors work by not allowing the immature worker termites to molt.  Immature worker termites make up about 20% of termite colony.

Chitin is a hormone that immature worker termites secrete to allow them to molt or shed their outer body covering (exoskeleton).  Chitin inhibitors stop the formation of chitin in the termite.  When the termite starts to molt, without the chitin hormone, they die.  Chitin Inhibitors also cause the disruption of the termite social behavior.  Termites affected by chitin inhibitors turn a chalky white appearance. 

An interesting note on Chitin Inhibitors is that only the immature worker termites are affected.  That's because soldier termites, reproductives and the queens are already mature.  Only about 20% of the colony actually consists of immature workers.  That means only 20% of the colony is affected by the action of the chitin inhibitors, 80% of the colony is not affected and must die of old age before any long term effects are seen.  Worker termites have been known to live relatively long lives, some up to 5 or 6 years.  (Bayer)

Worker termites molt an average of 5-7 times during the maturing process. Once mature they can live up to 5 or 6 years. (Bayer)  So it could be said the effects by the Chitin Inhibitors on termite colonies could take longer than 5 or 6 years. Some experts are now suggesting 8 or more years if at all.  It has also been suggested that the Chitin Inhibitors effects are way too slow and termites in many instances could overcome the effects of the dying workers by simply laying more eggs and making the entire process ineffective.

Chitin Inhibitors are protected by the manufacturers and are not sold direct to homeowners.

 

)


Sulfluramid
(Firstline and Terminate)
and Sodium Borate (Timbor and BoraCare) and Hydramethylnon (Subterfuge) come from a class of chemicals known as Metabolic Inhibitors.  MI's work by not allowing the termites to convert food to energy.  In essence once effected by the MI, the termites slowly starve to death.  It has been said that termites die on a full stomach with Metabolic Inhibitors. In essence MI's are stomach poisons killing the termites within 60 - 90 days. 

Sulflurimid is a very slow acting poison that is thought to actually kill the tiny protozoa in the worker termites gut.  This tiny protozoa converts the wood that the termite eats into a source of sugar. The termite then excretes a wood pellet (frass).  When the protozoa dies, the worker termite, not being able to digest it's food, dies of starvation.

Sodium Borate works basically the same way that Sulflurimid works.  Sodium Borate is commercially available also as Timbor TM. Timbor is a white powder formulation that can be easily mixed with water and sprayed on infested lumber, etc.  Sodium Borate has not achieved the same popularity that Sulflurimid has as far as termite baiting in the pest control industry.  It has always been considered more of a "natural" alternative to traditional pesticides since it is basically a naturally occurring mineral mined out of the ground by US Borax in Death Valley, California.

Metabolic Inhibitors can potentially effect have a much more profound effect on the termite colony compared to Chitin Inhibitors.   Unlike Chitin Inhibitors, Metabolic Inhibitors will kill all termites that feed on it.

One Terminate Stake will kill approximately 10,000 to 30,000 termites.  That means it will take about 20 Terminate stakes to kill the average 250,000 termite colony. (Spectrum Corp)

Louisiana State University tests indicate that a colony of termites was eliminated in as little as 48 days with Sulflurimid.  (Forschler)

When compared to a chitin inhibitor, Metalbolic Inhibitors are cheaper, more economical, thought by many to be more effective and most importantly available to anyone.





 

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Chitin Inhibitors
can take many years to get an affect on the termite colony once active feeding has begun.  How long it takes for the termites to find the bait detector stations and begin their feeding process varies.  On average it takes about 8 -12 months just for the termites to begin feeding.  In other cases, it can take 2 or more years for feeding to begin.   Add in the amount of time it takes for the chitin inhibitors to work, and it can easily take 2-8 years to complete the baiting process.   It all depends on the participation of the termite.  (Gold)

With Sulfluramid, it depends on how fast and aggressively the termites consume it. Control has been established in as little as 48 days by Louisiana State University researchers.  (Forschler)




No.  Termites are cold blooded (poikilothermic) animals,  low temperatures can substantially reduce or stop their activity close to the earths surface during certain periods of time during the year.  For this reason, if the temperature falls low enough, termites may cease to feed in bait stations or the onset of feeding in bait stations may be delayed until temperatures have stayed above a certain level for long enough period of time. 

Generally speaking, termite activity will be reduced in the bait stations during those times of the year during which the average mean daily temperature is below 50 degrees F.    Exceptions to this are areas inside of structures where the temperature is raised due to heating, sunlight, etc.  Termites can be active all year long indoors, but outdoors, termites generally are most active during the late spring and summer months.  

Does this mean you should wait to start baiting until the spring or summer ?  No.   When the bait stations are installed into the ground, that area is disturbed.   The bait station must become a natural part of the environment before the termites will find it.  Soil disturbances will only serve to repel termites.  Again, it generally takes 8-12 months (time to termite activity) for the termites to find the stations and feed on them.   Termite baiting is a slow process,  you can't speed it up.

The point here is that with a professional bait system, yearly fees apply that you must pay even in periods of termite inactivity.  With the
Smartdisc Termite Locators or  HomeChoice Termite Bait Stations, you decide when to check the stations, and if the weather turns bad, you are not stuck with monthly servicing fees.




Professional installation prices for most termite baiting systems are generally figured by the linear foot measurement around the outside perimeter of the structure. An average price per linear foot can be as high as $12.00 per linear foot depending on the pest company and the region of the Country (USA).

An example of a Termite baiting treatment price for a 2000 sq. ft. home that is approximately 200 linear feet based on an average price of around $8.00 per linear foot would be $1600.00 for the first year and around $400.00 per year thereafter.  Remember, the whole process can take 2-8 years.  That means you are paying $400.00 per year whether termites are feeding or not.  Calculate all the costs together and you can easily spend
$4200 or more over an 8 year period. 

An easy way to figure your per station cost is to take the total first year cost and divide the number of stations into it. If your estimate is $1600.00 and you are getting 20 stations, then your cost per station for the first year is $80.00. Your cost per station over an 8 year period is $210.00.

If these prices sound a little high, you might want to check out the HomeChoice TM Termite Detector Stations. The HomeChoice termite Detector stations are available directly to homeowners for $12.95 each.
SmartDisc Termite Locators are only $12.95 each.  That's a good deal.




2003 test results by Dr. Roger Gold of Texas A&M University indicates that all termite baits are equally effective when used properly.
The only difference is in the actual poison used to kill the termites.  That's it.    Diflubensuron and Hexaflumuron contain Chitin Inhibitors  -  Firstline and Terminate contain Sulfluramid which is a Metabolic Inhibitor.   Chitin Inhibitors kill only the immature worker termites.   Sulfluramid kills all workers and soldiers or any termite that feeds on it.   So in essence, Chitin Inhibitors only effect about 20% of the termite population.   Sulfluramid can effect up to 100% of the termite population resulting in much faster control.



Is Slower or Faster Control Better ?


A widely held opinion in the pest control industry is that termite baiting needs to be a slow process, and chitin inhibitors work slowly enough so that they "work through" the termite colony.  The problem is that chitin inhibitors tend to work so slowly that many experts in the pest control industry are beginning to doubt if they ever work well enough so that the termite population does not have a chance to rebuild during the extended period of time that it takes chitin inhibitors to work.  Texas A&M University is reporting that in test sites across the State of Texas, Sentricon has achieved only 30%-40% control  in 2+ years of controlled study.  This percentage is low due to the fact that in many of the 25 test sites, termites have not even begun feeding on the Sentricon stations. (Gold)

One well known National Pest Control Company that uses Sentricon states in their termite baiting contract that the guarantee they provide only begins 6 months - "Repair Effective Date" after the date of installation and continues for a period of 24 months.  After 24 months they may at their sole discretion elect to provide a chemical treatment and give you the option to cancel your termite baiting contract.   If you choose to pay the enormous fees that this company charges for termite baiting, you may end up getting a spot treatment to control the termites and a cancelled termite baiting contract after 2 years.  Plus they will remove your bait stations as provided in their contract.   If termite baiting takes 2+ years to complete - and some experts are now saying as long as 2-8 years, what are you really getting for your money ?  You would be better off buying stock in this company and buying your own termite baiting system and doing it yourself.

Sulflurimid kills termites that feed on it within 60 - 90 days of consumption.   Sulflurimid kills termites, and the faster you kill worker termites, the faster control will be achieved.




Termite colony elimination in real life situations is difficult to prove unless the subterranean termite colony can be located and dug up. That is because subterranean termite colonies are too well hidden, usually deep in the ground.  Dow Agrosciences contends that above ground Termite colonies in Japan and Australia were killed using the Sentricon TM System.  Dr. Brian Forschler of Louisiana State University confirmed that termite colony elimination occurred by using several different bait materials including Sulfluramid (Terminate and Firstline) in controlled settings where termites were confined to tree stumps in swamps in Louisiana.



Sentricon and Exterra
both use what is called the "standard of proof" when determining termite colony elimination.  The standard of proof is basically this - when the termites have been feeding for a sustained period of 6 months, and they have consumed at least 128 grams (2 lbs) of chitin inhibitors or a minimum of 20 Terminate or Firstline stakes, and the feeding stops for at least 6 months, and no further feeding continues, and there are no signs of termite activity inside or around the structure, then colony elimination is assumed to have occurred.  This same standard of proof can also be useful when using the HomeChoice or SmartDisc Termite Bait Kits.

Even if total colony elimination does not occur, termite bait tests in field sites have resulted in substantially reduced termite populations. This is called termite population reduction.  Faster control is usually achieved with Sulflurimid because it is a Metabolic Inhibitor (stomach poison). (FMC)

In laboratory tests, the termites are confined to a given area normally inside a small plastic swimming pool and given only 1 type of wood to feed on.  This limits their choices of food and forces them to feed on the termite bait and they soon die as a result.   In the field or the "real world", termites live many feet down in the ground, commonly in the roots of buried tree stumps - and forage for many different sources of wood. They have a selection of different food sources. If the termites do not like a particular wood, they go somewhere else - following the scout termites "recruit" pheromone trail and feed on other wood sources.  Because of this random feeding behavior, it is impossible to say with any amount of certainty that a termite colony has been eliminated simply because they stop feeding on the termite bait.   With any termite bait toxicant, a certain amount has to be consumed before lethal effects on the colony can even be considered.  In cases where only a small amount of feeding as occurred, effects on the colony are often insignificant.

The bottom line is that if the termites find and consume all of the toxicant bait, then some control will be achieved. If you prefer to do it yourself, it may take some experimentation and a little bit of hard work, but after it's all said and done, you will know more about your termite infestation than any pest company could ever know (or would spend the time to find out), and you could potentially save yourself a few thousand dollars in the process.

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