By Dan Suiter
University of Georgia
They're in nearly every region of the United States. But they're most abundant, and thus cause the most damage, in the Southeast.
Here, in any yard in a suburban neighborhood, a resident population of termites will likely be found feeding on wooden fence posts, garden stakes, railroad or landscape ties, tree stumps, fallen limbs, firewood, etc.
To learn more about termites' biology, see the University of Georgia Extension Bulletin No. 1209, "Biology of Subterranean Termites of the Eastern United States" (www.ces.uga.edu).
Contract typesProfessional termite control firms offer homeowners two types of contracts. They generally state that companies will either:
- Treat a new or recurring termite infestation (the re-treat-only contract).
- Treat a new or recurring infestation and repair new structural termite damage (the re-treat-and-repair contract).
TermsThe terms and conditions of termite control contracts vary greatly among companies. It's best to study and understand each contract type before selecting one.
Usually, termite control contracts are renewable annually for a set number of years. Many companies offer a 5-year annually renewable contract. Some provide shorter and longer terms.
The term for many termite bait contracts has no maturity date. It may remain open-ended for as long as you keep paying the yearly renewal fee.
The cost of the first treatment typically covers the contract for a year. At the beginning of the second year and each year after that until the contract expires, you have to pay a renewal fee.
Each year, the contract is considered renewed and its active status continued only when the company gets the renewal fee. Most companies may cancel the contract if the fee isn't paid by its due date.
RetreatmentRetreatment contracts generally require that the company return and treat part or all of the home to get rid of a new or recurring infestation at no extra expense, as long as the terms of the contract are met.
Under a retreat-only contract, the company holds no responsibility for damage, old or new, from a termite infestation. Under this contract type, repairing the damage is the sole responsibility of the property owner.
With the retreat-and-repair contract, the company pays to repair new structural termite damage, as long as the terms of the contract are met.
Define 'new'"New" means the damage can be documented to have happened since the first treatment, or the contract's effective date.
But you can't tell from the damage when it happened. Termites commonly infest, feed on and then leave food resources in wood. They leave only the evidence (damaged wood, soil in wood) that they were there at some point.
So, when you make a claim against a repair contract, you usually have to show that you found live termites at the site of the damage.
If you find live termites, a photo or video often helps provide proof of activity. Termite control companies may also have to verify the presence of live termites.
(Dan Suiter is an Extension Service entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)