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Local professionals offer tips, information on termites for season

By Staff | Mar 27, 2009

Now is the height of termite season across Southwest Florida, according to local pest control professionals.
Termites annually cause $5 billion in damage, and Florida is one of the most active states for these pests.
“There’s a lot of activity, particularly in North Fort Myers now. Conditions here are favorable for termite infestation,” said Patrick White, general manager for the Fort Myers-based Terminex.
It is not just the dry season, he said.
“A lot of trailer communities are vulnerable because they are woodframe trailers,” White said. “The other thing is that they have vinyl siding.”
Termites can be hard to spot, he added.
“They eat wood, so you won’t notice them until you see what we call ‘kickout holes,'” White said. “When they eat the wood, they make holes, with pellets that look like sawdust. With vinyl you don’t see that on the outside. Until they make that hole, and start to secrete that fecal pellet, that’s when people start noticing the problem.”
Walt Tumiati, chief executive officer of local Abate Pest Control Inc., which works with a lot of homeowners, taught a class for community association managers and explained a lot about termites.
“Termites are often mistaken for ants,” Tumiati said. “The body structure is similar, but the easiest way to tell the difference is that a termite has a broadly joined thorax and abdomen. Ants, on the other hand, have a narrow waist between the thorax and abdomen. Also the wings of termites, front and rear, are of equal size. Ants’ wings are longer in front and held at an angle above the body when resting. Termites are usually lighter in color than ants.”
He said that while now is a busy rime for the pests, residents can have problems with them all year long.
Concerning pre-construction, he said, “All new construction should have the soil pretreated for termites. These treatments should be done according to label specifications. Most pretreats fail for two reasons: chemicals are not mixed according to the rates listed on the label and improper treating procedures.”
Concerning post-construction, Tumiati continued, “In post construction treatment there are many different products on the market — contact kill, repellants, bait — and the best of all products like Premise. Repellants and contact kill have been used for many years and have worked well, however the drawbacks are the odor and the need to be applied with a continual barrier around the foundation. This is so critical that a gap as small as 1/16th inch will allow the termites access to your structure.”
When you see the signs of an infestation, it may not be too late, said White.
“Usually by that point what can be required is a fumigation, which can be quite costly,” he said. “What people need to do is have a certified termite inspector come out to their home at least once a year to do an inspection. We know the places to look, the conditions where it’s favorable for infestation. We can certainly catch it before it becomes a major problem.”
Tumiati agreed about trouble spotting them, and what they can be drawn to.
“Depending on the type of termite, you may have mud tubes that you may or may not see because they are below ground level,” he said. “You can also have termites if they have an alternative source of moisture in the house. It could be a leaky water pipe, it could be an air conditioning drain, it could be a leaky water heater — any source of moisture. They must have moisture. What I tell people to do is if they see something that concerns them, call a pest control professional.”
Swarms are a sign of termites, said both professionals.
“Your readers should be on the lookout for termite activity this time of year, and one of the most obvious signs is a termite swarm,” said White. “Termites swarm in an effort to find a mate. Swarm season is getting under way in North Fort Myers, and readers can learn more about termites and track their swarms via an interactive swarm map at: www.swarmwarning.com.”
If you see an insect swarm, it may not necessarily be termites.
“Every ant known to man swarms at this time, it may not be termites,” added Tumiati. “A good way for a novice to differentiate between an ant and a termite swarmer is ants have a three-segmented body, where a termite appears to be two. Also termite wings are equal in size and extend beyond the body, and a termite has two sets of wings.”
To contact Terminex, which offers free inspections, call 561-2100.
To contact Abate Pest Control, call 242-8080.