Termites are a serious problem in your walls, but they’re perfectly normal in your yard. That doesn’t mean you should give them free roam to spread until they find their way inside.
If you have termites in your yard, how do you get rid of them? There are a few DIY methods you can try if you don’t want to call a professional pest control company right away.
As always, be extremely cautious when using any insecticides yourself. Follow the instructions on the package exactly, and don’t let pets or children near the treated area.
Note: If you suspect termites in the structure of your home, call a pro ASAP for a termite inspection.
5 ways to get rid of termites in your yard
1. Foam termiticide
What it is: The foam termiticide Termidor contains the chemical fipronil, which paralyzes termites gradually and causes them to die. After you spray the foam and it evaporates, it leaves a residue that begins affecting termites as soon as they touch it.
How to use it: Spray Termidor foam (or a similar foaming termiticide) into any holes, cracks, or crevices where you suspect termites are hiding. Fill the space wall to wall, floor to ceiling with foam.
This termite treatment remains effective for about one month. Repeat every month as long as termite activity continues.
2. Termite baits
What it is: Termite baits work just like other insect baits. Foraging termites are attracted to the cellulose (what termites eat) in the bait. But the food source is laced with a toxin that stunts the termites’ growth so that they die when they try to molt.
The toxin is slow-acting, so affected termites have time to bring the poisoned food back to their colony and spread it around to even more termites. Baits are usually more effective than contact chemicals at wiping out large numbers of termites.
How to use it: Purchase termite baits and follow the instructions on the package to set them up outside. Set up bait stations all around your home’s foundation and any area where you’ve seen termites. The bait stations should be no more than 10 feet apart from each other.
3. Termiticide barrier
What it is: Liquid termiticides (active ingredient fipronil) and granular termiticides (active ingredient imidacloprid) are undetectable to termites, so they will not avoid areas treated with these pesticides.
When termites come in contact with either pesticide, they eventually die. But first, they carry the poison around with them and spread it to the rest of the colony.
How to use it: If using granular termiticide, spread it around your home’s foundation, decaying trees, woodpiles, and other wooden structures.
If using liquid chemicals, create a sort of moat around your foundation. Let the chemicals soak into the ground, where they will come in contact with subterranean termites (if that’s the termite species you have).
Creating a termite barrier like this with termiticides ensures that even if some termites get near or even inside your home, they’ll die soon after.
What it is: Beneficial nematodes are microscopic parasites that prey on termites. They get inside the termites’ bodies and release bacteria that poison them to death within a few days. Nematodes are long-lasting because they breed and multiply on their own.
Note: Nematodes are the best natural alternative to chemical termite treatments.
How to use it: You’ll find nematodes at many garden supply stores and online. Mix the nematodes with water according to the instructions on the specific product you buy. Apply the mixture to gardens, mulch beds, tree stumps, and any other areas where you’ve seen termites.
5. Boric acid
What it is: Boric acid is a processed version of the natural mineral boron. When termites ingest boric acid, it messes up their ability to absorb nutrients and affects their nervous system, resulting in death.
How to use it: Boric acid usually comes as a powder. You can either spray the powder undiluted with a powder sprayer or make a solution of 1 teaspoon boric acid for every cup of water. Either way, spray the boric acid around areas of the yard where you suspect termites.
Spray boric acid again every three to five days until termite activity in your yard stops. Beware that boric acid can dry out and kill plants and grass.
Some things you should not do
While some DIY methods are effective at treating termite infestations in the yard, others are not effective.
Here are some common recommendations you should ignore and why.
The foragers you see above ground are only a small portion of the termite colony in your yard. Relocating a few termites will encourage them to find new places to infest, such as your home.
Meanwhile, the termite problem in your yard will still be just as bad. Relocating termites doesn’t eliminate them, but rather helps them spread.
Regular insect sprays that kill on contact can only take out a few termites at a time. They do nothing to eliminate the rest of the colony, which lives out of your reach, either deep underground or inside a tree stump, woodpile, or other wooden structure.
Spraying a handful of termites at a time is nothing more than a waste.
Building a raised garden bed with pine sleepers will not keep termites away. In fact, the moist wood of the sleeper makes a perfect habitat for them.
Plus, pine sleepers are treated with arsenic or deltamethrin, which can seep into your soil. From there, those chemicals can end up in vegetables or herbs you grow in your garden and plan to eat.
Signs of termites in your yard
Termite colonies live deep underground or inside wood structures, and they’re primarily active at night. That means you may never see the termites themselves.
These are some other signs you can look for.
Termites dispose of their fecal pellets through kick-out holes about 1 millimeter in diameter. If you see tiny holes in a wooden structure with what looks like a pile of coarse dirt nearby, it could be termite droppings.
Mud tubes (aka mud tunnels)
Subterranean termites use mud tubes made of dirt, wood, and saliva to move from the soil to wood structures, such as a tree stump, woodpile, or the wood inside your home. Mud tubes trailing up a structure are a sure sign of termites.
Note: Drywood termites and dampwood termites don’t use mud tubes. Subterranean, drywood, and dampwood termites are the most destructive termites.
Discarded termite wings
Termite swarmers (flying termites) shed their wings after mating season. Discarded insect wings around your yard or home in large quantities could have come from termites.
Damage to trees or other wooden structures
Holes or large chunks missing from trees, woodpiles, or any other wooden structures could be the result of termite damage.
Knock on the wood in multiple places. If you hear a hollow sound, termites have likely infested that structure. Another easy test involves trying to pierce the wood with a screwdriver. If the wood gives easily, that’s a potential sign of termites.
The most obvious sign of termites is actually seeing live ones flying around your yard or underground while digging in your soil.
Termites can have pale white, light brown, or black bodies. They’re about ¼ to ½ inch long. Homeowners often mistake them for ants.
FAQ about termites
Termites hate sunlight. Too much sun exposure can kill them. Minimize covered, shady spots in your lawn to make your yard less appealing to termites as a habitat.
Termites also hate the smell of some plants, such as mint, vetiver grass, and marigolds.
Getting rid of termites in your lawn costs about $75 to $150, depending on the size of the infestation. Getting rid of termites in your home is more complicated and costs about $200 to $900 on average, although it can cost $2,000+ in some cases.
The short answer is no, termites don’t bite humans. It’s physically possible for a termite to bite a human or another living thing if they feel threatened, but they almost never do.
The number one thing that attracts termites to a home is moisture, namely moist wood or moist soil near the home’s foundation. To prevent these conditions, replace water-damaged wood ASAP before termites have a chance to find it and let your soil dry out between each watering.
Keep an eye on wood beams in your basement, attic, bathroom, and behind air conditioning units or dishwashers. All these areas are prone to water damage.
When to call an exterminator
Termites are very difficult pests to control with DIY methods because they live in large termite colonies and stay hidden most of the time. If you don’t want to have to call an exterminator, your best bet is to prevent termites in your yard in the first place.
Any time you find termites indoors or even suspect them, you should call an exterminator immediately for an inspection. Once termites are in your walls, DIY methods are mostly ineffective. And termites can quickly cause a lot of expensive damage.
Trust us, you’re better off paying for a termite control specialist now than paying to replace whole walls or portions of your foundation later.
A good way to keep pests at bay is to keep your property trimmed and tidy. If you would rather keep your weekends for fun and activities, consider calling a local Lawn Love pro to help you with your lawn care.