Published on 05/01/08

Termite control not for novices

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

You can try and control the insects inside and around your house yourself. But leave the termites to the professionals, says a University of Georgia expert.

“There are a few pests you can’t really tackle yourself. I could walk you through ant, flea and cockroach control, but not termite control. You can’t tackle them yourself,” said Dan Suiter, an entomologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Equipment essential

Effective termite control involves product selection, chemical formulations and, most importantly, proper equipment, he said.

“Even if you could get the right chemicals, you’d need the right equipment,” Suiter said. “And you can’t even rent it.”

Suiter coordinates pest control operator trainings at the Georgia Structural Pest Control Training Facility in Griffin, Ga.

Many homeowners try do-it-yourself termite treatments after getting “sticker shock” from a professional’s quoted price.

False security

“They purchase over-the-counter chemicals, spend a Saturday applying them and then feel pretty good about the job they’ve done,” Suiter said. “The problem is they now have a false sense of security. Think of what’s at stake. Your home is the biggest investment you have.”

Termite treatments typically cost several hundred to $1,000, depending on the severity of the infestation, he said. It typically takes several hundred gallons of pesticide at a cost of $2 per gallon to treat an average home unless baits are used.

“If you have your home treated, the termite control company cannot treat again unless there is evidence of termites,” he said. “The first treatment is viewed as a preventative measure.”

Suiter encourages homeowners to keep in mind what they’re paying for when they sign a contract with a pest control company. “You’re paying for the treatment and for their expertise,” he said.

Termite trivia

Because of the hot and humid climate, the Southeast is known as the termite belt, Suiter said. Three native termite species and one introduced species from China can be found in this region.

Signs of a termite infestation include damaged wood, shelter tubes and flying termites. In the spring, winged termites swarm, leaving their colony to mate and start new colonies.

“Termites really don’t have it out for you personally,” Suiter said. “They’re just foraging for food. They prefer softer spring wood, and they rely on moisture to survive. That’s why they bring mud up with them.”

Many people confuse termites with winged ants. But ants have a waist and termites don’t. And, ants have jointed antennae and termite antennae are straight. Both have two pairs of wings, but termite wings are all the same size. The first pair of ant wings is smaller than the other pair.

For more information on urban pests, go to the UGA Urban Pest Management program Web site at For detailed information on termite contracts in Georgia, call the Georgia Department of Agriculture at (404) 656-3641.

Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.