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Common Subterranean Termite Myths

Florida, the state of palm trees, sunshine, beaches and termites. Yes, you read that right, TERMITES. Florida’s warm and humid climate offers the perfect environment for termites to make their home. Early spring is the time of year that Subterranean Termites tend to swarm in the Tampa Bay area. For many homeowners, that is the first sign that they have a termite problem even though chances are, they have been in the walls of a home for years. There are some common myths about termites that we will address in this week’s blog post.

Myth # 1 My home is made with brick or concrete block, I won’t get termites
Many people mistakenly believe that since their homes are built with brick or concrete blocks, they won’t get any kind of termite activity. That is just a false sense of security. All homes have wood in the interior walls, joists, attic and roof, not to mention those homes with wood floors. Subterranean termites will often move over foundation walls to where there is an expansion joint which allows them to access structural lumber. A Subterranean termite only needs a 1/64th of an inch crack in the foundation to find a way into your home.

Myth # 2 Subterranean termites live in the dirt
This is partially true. Subterranean termites nest in the soil to obtain moisture, but they will also nest in wet or damp wood. If the wood does not touch the soil, they will build mud tubes to reach wet wood. These mud tubes are essential to their survival because they keep the temperature and humidity at optimum levels. They also protect the subterranean termites from sunlight, dehydration and predators while they are feeding on cellulose (wood) material. Mud tubs can measure several feet in length and can reach to the second story of a home or higher. We have seen subterranean termites in multi-story condos Subterranean termites live in “galleries” that are hidden in the wood. If you were to poke a pencil into a wooden board that contained a gallery, the pencil would go right through the wood like butter. The subterranean termites keep a thin layer of wood in place to protect the gallery.

Myth # 3 I don’t have a termite problem because I don’t see any
Many homeowners don’t realize they have a termite problem until there is a swarm. Subterranean termites tend to swarm in early spring when weather conditions are just right. It can take a subterranean termite colony several years to grow large enough to swarm. Meanwhile, they remain hidden while they eat away at your largest investment, your home. On average, there can be as many as 13-14 subterranean termite colonies per acre with a million termites in each colony. Every home should have a subterranean termite treatment

Myth #4 The trees and dead wood on my property will divert the termites away from my house
While dead trees, fire wood and other cellulous materials will provide subterranean termites with an abundant food source, it won’t prevent them from expanding their colony to your home in search of food. You should always remove dead trees and keep firewood stored away from your house. If you have mulch in the flowerbeds around your home, try to use rubber mulch. Regular mulch is the perfect meal for subterranean termites. We recommend that cypress mulch, pine bark mulch and other mulch made from cellulous materials be kept at least 12 inches from the foundation of your home.

Myth #5 I live in a new house/new subdivision, I won’t get termites
All homes, even new ones, are highly susceptible to Subterranean termites. Being proactive is the best defense against subterranean termites. By law in Florida, new homes must have the ground pre-treated for subterranean termites prior to the foundation being poured. You should receive a subterranean termite bond that is renewable annually for a nominal fee. We recommend having your home inspected for termites once a year. It only takes breaking our barrier for termites to again gain entry to your home. If you have a subterranean termite bond, we recommend having a booster treatment every five years.

Does your home need a termite inspection? Contact us today for a free, no obligation termite inspection or call 813-234-8888.

General Questions about Pest Control

Knowledgable, courteous, serving North Tampa communities for 10 years. New Tampa, Wesley Chapel, Land o Lakes, Lutz, Pasco, Hillsborough

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

When I sprayed the ants, why didn’t they go away?
Most over the counter sprays are repellent in nature. The ants still know where they want to go, but need to find a different way to get there. Although the ants that were directly sprayed were killed, the original colony will split into two individual colonies.

What kind of treatment do you use for roaches?
There are a variety of indoor and outdoor roaches. Once we identify the roach, we will know how to best treat the problem. For inside varieties, like the German roach, we use baiting, crack and crevice methods to treat where they hide. For outside roaches, like the Palmetto roach, we treat the perimeter, concentrating on entry points to prevent them for entering the building.

Why didn’t my fumigation kill spiders and roaches?
Roaches that are still in an egg casing are not affected by fumigation. Spiders are known to hold their breath.

Why don’t you spray my baseboards?
We treat where pest hide. Treating crack and crevice areas reduces the chance that children and pets will come in contact with our products.

What is the dust by the front door?
It could be anything from drywood termites to fire ants. You should have your VIP Pest Control professional come to your home and diagnose the issue.

Are the products that are used dangerous for my children and pets?
Every product has some negotiable risk, however, VIP Pest Control, through correct placement and responsible use of products, reduces the risk in comparison to baseboard spraying.

Do I have to wash dishes after you treat?
Most treatments in your kitchen cabinets are done by a method called baiting, which will not require you to wash your dishes. If further treatment is required, your VIP Pest Control professional will recommend that you remove your dishes prior to treatment.

When can I expect results?
Depending on the insect and the size of the infestation, it could take a few days to a few weeks.

How long should I water new sod?
New sod should be watered every day for the first month.

Can I get by without tenting?
Sometimes it is possible, depending on the size of infestation, to treat termites without a tent. If you are seeing swarms of termites, you may have had this problem for several years. In those cases, we recommend fumigation. But, every house is different. Have your VIP Pest Control professional inspect your home and let you know which method is best for your situation.

What will it cost?
The cost of your service is determined by the size of your home and/or lawn, and its particular needs and issues. Our service rates are budget-friendly and competitive. We will be glad to visit your home and offer a free quote.

Drywood Termites: How to Identify Them

Drywood Termite Droppings and Wings - Tampa Bay

Termites cause billions of dollars of damage in the United States. Drywood termites are very common in Tampa and the surrounding areas. They feed on materials that contain cellulose, such as wood and paper. When the drywood termite feeds on these materials in nature, the process returns nutrients back to the soil. But when they infest your home, they can cause serious and expensive damage. They feed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Left untreated, a small infestation can grow quickly. Often, one of the first signs of a drywood termite infestation is dropped wings. They swarm from exit holes (small openings) in the wood, and lose their wings soon after swarming. They are attracted to light. They are blind, so the light helps them find each other so that they can mate. Drawn by the light, they can enter your home from the outside.If you suspect an infestation, look for termite bodies and wings on windowsills, in spider webs and in light fixtures. Another sign is frass, tiny pellets that are produced by the drywood termite. They obtain moisture from the wood or cellulose. Once they have absorbed all the moisture in the wood they have eaten, the remaining dry material is waste. These pellet-like droppings are generally the color of the wood on which the termites feed. Small piles of frass can be found near infested wood. Drywood termites can invade wooden structures, attics, wooden furniture and other places.

Droppings and Wings from Drywood Termites
drywood termite droppings, wings, brown, swarm, infested, damage, attics, furniture, tampa

Wood Destroying Organism (WDO) Inspection Report

WDO (Wood Destroying Organism) Report - VIP Pest Control

A Wood Destroying Organism (WDO)Inspection Report is a written report of an inspection on a home for visible and accessible evidence of an infestation or damage by wood destroying organisms. Usually this means subterranean or drywood termites, but will also cover wood destroying beetles and wood destroying fungi.

WDO inspection report is provided when a home or other structure is being sold and the mortgage lender or buyer requires the inspection as part of the transaction. If an inspection is done for these purposes, the inspection must be reported on a specific report form as required by Florida Law. (Chapter 482, Florida Statutes). The form is sometimes called the “1145 report” because of the old form number.

The WDO inspection can only be done by a wood-destroying organisms identification cardholder (or a certified operator with the wood-destroying organisms category) of a pest control company like VIP Pest Control licensed by the state of Florida. These employees must receive special training to be qualified as WDO inspectors.

Most Common Termites in Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay termite: Subterranean. Fly, swarm, WDO, wings, brown, black, how to treatment them

Tampa Bay is ranked #3 in the United States for termite infestation. If you live in the Tampa Bay area, you are at risk for damage to your biggest investment, your home. They can enter your home through various entry points such as windows, plumbing, cracks in the slab and wood to ground contact and other conducive conditions. Listed below are a few of the most common termites in the Tampa Bay area.

Subterranean termites are one of the most destructive wood destroying pests in Florida. They cause more than $2 billion in damage each year in the United State. That is more than the cost of damage by fire and windstorm combined. They generally swarm the end of February to the beginning of May.
Some of the locations that they build mud tubes are around the base of your home, in bathroom traps, in your garage, and around hot water heaters. Anywhere that there is wood to ground contact is conducive to subterranean termites. Wood chip mulch is perfect example of wood to ground contact. When the mulch touches your home, they gain entry into your home via the cracks in the foundation. They thrive on wood to ground contact and conducive moisture conditions.

Most people associate drywood termites with tent fumigation. Tent fumigation involves placing a tent over the entire building and then pumping a poisonous gas into the structure. There is a great deal of preparation involved in the fumigation of a structure. This preparation must be discussed with you by a licensed professional. They are difficult to detect. They can leave behind wings and pellet-like droppings. If you suspect that you have drywood termites, you need to have your home inspected immediately. Swarm season is usually from May-August. Swarms generally occur at night. They are attracted to light, therefore you should put your outside lights on a motion detector during these months. They can swarm from your neighbor’s house to yours simply because you leave your outside lights on. They can be carried from one place to another in furniture. As a precaution, it is a good idea to turn off exterior lights so that if your neighbor has drywood termites, they don’t swarm over to your home.

The Formosan subterranean termite (Coptotermes formosanus) is one of the most destructive termites. It’s originally from Asia but due to worldwide trade it can be found in Africa, Hawaii and the United States. The Formosan termite colony can be 10 times the size of other subterranean species and can forage up to 300 feet. A mature Formosan colony can consume as much as 13 ounces of wood a day can severely damage a structure in as little as three months time. Treatment for these termites can be very difficult due to their ability to live above ground in cartons. Cartons are made of saliva, mud, and fecal matter that have an outside shell like a coconut. Many times to complete treatment one must fumigate, complete a soil treatment, and remove the carton to gain control of this nasty termite.

Bed Bugs: Clearing up the myths

VIP Pest Control - Bed bugs, fleas, ticks - New Tampa, Wesley Chapel, Land o Lakes, Lutz, Pasco, Hillsborough

Bed bugs only bite in the dark.
False. Although they tend to be more active at night, they can bite at any time.

Only dirty, cluttered homes get bed bugs.
False. Anyone can get them. Bed bugs have been found in the homes of the wealthy and poor. Unsanitary conditions will not cause them but getting rid of clutter will help to reduce the number of places they can live and hide.

Bed bugs cannot be seen with the naked eye.
False. They are small but can be seen with the naked eye. A magnifying glass will help. Young bed bugs are about the size of a poppy seed and mature ones are about the size of an apple seed.

If I see bite marks I have bed bugs.
False. Other insect bites may resemble them. Presence of live bed bugs or their eggs will confirm their infestation in an area.

If you have bed bugs you need to get rid of infested clothing and furniture.
False. Clothing can be laundered to get rid of them. In most cases furniture can be treated and should only be discarded if there are no acceptable treatments that can get rid of them.

Bed bugs are not known to cause or spread diseases.
True. They have not been shown to cause or spread diseases. Some people will react to bed bugs bites and excessive scratching can lead to secondary infections.

Bed bugs cannot fly and will not jump from the floor to the bed.
True. They have no wings and cannot fly, jump or hop.

Bed bugs are only found on the bed.
False. Although they are called bed bugs they are not only confined to the bed. Bed bugs are commonly found in beds, on sofas, in chairs and areas near where people sleep or lounge.

Some people are not affected by bed bugs.
True. Some people do not have a reaction to bed bug bites and may be unaware that bed bugs are in their home until they actually see them.

Bed bugs can live for many months without feeding.
True. They can live for many months without feeding.

A bed bug inspection needs scent detecting dogs to really tell where bed bugs are.
False. Bed bug scent dogs can be helpful, but are rarely necessary. Some bed bug scent dogs can signal the presence of them even when there is none, and may even miss some, with results varying according to the training the dog receives, the experience of the handler, and other factors.

Encasing a mattress and box spring will prevent future bed bug infestations in your home.
False. Encasements will help prevent a mattress or box spring from becoming infested or being a reservoir for bed bugs, but bed bugs can still find their way onto a bed to bite. And if they cannot live in a mattress or box springs, they will live somewhere else. Encasements are a good tool, but are not sufficient to prevent or treat an infestation.

Products can claim to be effective for bed bugs without proof.
True. Pesticides registered with the Environmental Protection Agency do have to have data to back their claims. But products without pesticides, or with pesticides that are exempt from registration requirements may make exaggerated claims without proof. Use common sense. If it sounds like a miracle product, it probably isn’t.

Insect foggers provide very little control of bed bugs and may even cause the bed bug population to disperse, making control more difficult.
True. Insect foggers do not effectively control bed bugs. Insect foggers are dangerous in that they can leave unwanted residue throughout the treated area. Most insect foggers contain a flammable propellant and some have been associated with a number of fires.

Source: NYC Department of Health & Hygiene



What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. They are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal.

Where are bed bugs found?
They are found across the globe from North and South America, to Africa, Asia and Europe. Although it has traditionally been seen as a problem in developing countries, it has recently been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe. They have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found. Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

Do bed bugs spread disease?
They should not be considered as a medical or public health hazard. They are not known to spread disease. They can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.

What health risks do bed bugs pose?
A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite, to a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered to be dangerous; however, an allergic reaction to several bites may need medical attention.

What are the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation?
One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the tell-tale bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body parts while sleeping. However, these bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if they have infested an area. These signs include: the exoskeletons after molting, bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets, rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture, and a sweet musty odor.

How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug?
It is hard to tell if you’ve been bitten unless you find the bodies or signs of infestation. When they bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten. Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea — a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites. Because the bites affect everyone differently, some people may have no reaction and will not develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten. Other people may be allergic to them and can react adversely to the bites. These allergic symptoms can include enlarged bite marks, painful swellings at the bite site, and, on rare occasions, anaphylaxis.

How did I get bed bugs?
They are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. They travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-aways as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.

Who is at risk for getting bed bugs?
Everyone is at risk for getting them when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading an infestation.

How are bed bugs treated and prevented?
The bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. Bed bug infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs. The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for the signs of an infestation.

Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

VIP Pest Control can treat bed bugs in your home.