EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was reprinted with permission from Techletter, a biweekly training letter for professional pest control technicians from Pinto & Associates.
When inspecting for wood-destroying insects (WDIs), it’s important to identify conducive conditions at the site, which include certain landscaping issues.
1. Soil or Mulch Build-Up. Excessive soil or mulch against brick walls or siding at the foundation provides a protected gateway for termites to enter a structure by bypassing the treated soil beneath.
2. Raised Foundation Planters. Landscaping plant containers such as flower boxes, planter boxes and other fixed open planters are often built right up against the house or touch an element of construction that is part of the house.
Planter boxes may be at grade or raised above it. Sometimes they are simply three-sided boxes with no bottom and using the structure as the fourth side. Termites can move into the planter box from the ground below and then find their way into the structure undetected through direct wood/soil contact, through weep holes in brick, through cracks or under the siding. If not protected by flashing, membranes or poured concrete, foundation planters can provide direct access for moisture, termites and carpenter ants into a structure.
3. Shrubs/Trees/Vines Touching Walls. Carpenter ants commonly invade homes by traveling up in trees and shrubs and crossing over to the house where branches are touching the walls or roof. Vines such as ivy growing on exterior walls also provide access for carpenter ants. Termites also may tube up shrubs and other plants and gain direct entry into a structure if the plants are in contact with the wall.
4. Dense Vegetation. Thick groundcover plants and other heavy vegetation at the foundation wall traps moisture next to the foundation and can provide termites and other pests with protected and hidden access to the house.
5. Wood Under/Around the Structure. Form boards, grade stakes, wood debris, tree stumps and branches, and paper products in crawlspaces, under porches, and near the foundation attract and support termite populations and can sometimes provide direct entry to the structure. Other wood that can contribute to wood-infesting pests around the home includes the following:
- Firewood stored in the home, on the deck or patio, especially if against the foundation wall.
- Lumber stacked against the foundation or inside a crawlspace.
- Landscape timbers or railroad ties in contact with the foundation or other structural elements of the house.
- Wooden flower bed borders or fencing (like tiny pickets) that touch the structure.
The authors are well-known industry consultants and co-owners of Pinto & Associates.