Every year, the average American home faces an onslaught of attacks from a variety of pests. Ants creep in under doors or through tiny cracks to forage for food in your kitchen or pantry. While carpenter bees don’t necessarily sting, they do drill holes in your home’s overhangs, decks and other wooden structures. Carpenter ants are commonly confused for termites due to the damage they can do to your home. In the fall, mice are driven inside by falling temperatures and on the lookout for food and a warm place to spend the winter.
These pests are both frustrating and destructive, of course, but it’s termites homeowners should worry about the most. Termite colonies, once inside your home, can literally destroy it in a matter of a few years. The National Pest Management Association estimates that termites do $5 billion worth of damage in the United States every year. Worse, this damage is not always covered by homeowner’s insurance.
How to Keep Termites Away From Your Home
In many cases, you’ll need the help of professionals in order to rid your home of any termite infestation. There are things that you can do, however, to reduce your chances of ever having a termite infestation. The key to protecting your home from termites is to avoid giving them a reason to visit you in the first place.
1. Remove Dead Wood and Other Debris
First, you’ll want to remove the source of food for termites, including wood.
You should remove rotting tree stumps, along with dead trees. Don’t leave yard waste lying around. Get rid of any wood debris that doesn’t need to remain in your yard.
Firewood should be stored off the ground and away from your property. If possible, keep it 20 feet or more away from your foundation.
2. Keep Plants and Vegetation Away From Your Home
Plants can help beautify the exterior of your property, while also providing more food for termites. You should limit the use of plants along the foundation of your home. Keep plants several feet away.
If you want to place flowers and plants along your foundation, you should consider using planters or window boxes made from composite materials.
3. Avoid the Use of Mulch Near Your Property
Mulch is often used as ground cover near flower beds and to help disperse rainwater. Its ability to retain moisture also makes it another prime food source for termites.
If you keep plants away from your property, you shouldn’t need to use mulch near your home – other than to protect your basement from rain damage. If this is the case, you should think about replacing the mulch with river rock or gravel.
The rock or gravel won’t attract termites, offers the same rain-dispersing benefits, and lasts forever.
4. Keep Your Trees and Shrubs Trimmed
If you have trees, shrubs, or bushes growing near your home, you should keep them trimmed back. With shrubs and bushes that grow near the foundation, trim the back 2 to 3 feet from your property.
The same is true with your trees. If there are branches extending toward your home, trim the away from the property.
5. Eliminate Moisture Around Your Property
Along with eliminating the food sources of termites, you should limit excess moisture around your property. This requires proper drainage.
Keeping your plants and vegetable gardens away from the home should eliminate the need for irrigation near your property.
You should also make sure that your downspouts and gutters are clear of debris. Use downspout extenders to direct rainwater away from the property.
6. Keep Your Water Features Clean
Water features, such as ponds and fountains, are often used in landscaping. While these features look great, they can also help attract termites and other pests – including mosquitoes.
If you have a birdbath, change the water frequently. Ponds and fountains should use pumps to ensure regular circulation. Also, you might want to keep these water features further away from your home.
7. Place Wooden Structures Several Inches From Your Home
The final landscaping tip for helping you keep termites out is to avoid placing wooden structures directly against your home.
Decks and porches should be placed at least 2 inches from the house. This is close enough to the home that the gap doesn’t create a tripping hazard and far enough to keep pests away.
Plants That Keep Termites Away
Yet another way you can reduce your chances of termite infestation in your home is by using plants that repel termites while attracting their natural predators.
Garlic not only deters termites (and vampires!), but if you plant it in a garden or around fruit trees, it also repels aphids, moles and fruit tree borers.
A shrub that originates from India, Vetivergrass can often be found in gardens due to its pleasant scent. Similar to sugarcane or lemongrass, it has a very deep root system and so is often used in places where erosion is a problem. This deep root system, however, is also what repels termites. It contains a chemical known as nootkatone. It’s this chemical that deters termites.
Another plant that scientists have studied to determine what kind of vegetation will deter termites is catnip. Scientists at the USDA Forest Service have mixed essential catnip oil with sandy soil to see what effect it had on termites. Their study showed that when used in the right concentrations, catnip oil mixed with sand not only prevents termite tunneling, but in high enough concentrations, killed termites as well.
Catnip oil breaks down in soil more quickly than other kinds of pesticides, so if you decide to use this method you’ll probably need to do it two or three times over the summer.
These beautiful annual plans are a common feature in any flower garden. Yet you will also notice them planted in and around vegetable gardens. That’s because the bright yellow and orange blossoms are a reliable insect deterrent. They not only protect crops from vegetation-destroying insects like stink bugs, but also deter termites, cockroaches, spiders and ants.
5. Hot Chili Peppers
This is a great natural deterrent if you live in an apartment. Placed in pots on an outside balcony or in a more traditional garden with other vegetables, they are a great deterrent for termites, ants and other crawling insects. Just a word of warning — if you have young children, make sure you tell them not to touch the chili peppers and then rub their eyes. On that note, it’s a good tip to follow for more experienced gardeners as well.
If you are reluctant to use pesticides that you believe may be harmful to the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency has recommended mint as a natural pesticide. An herb that repels termites and many other insects, you should plant mint around your yard in a place where it will get full sunlight. It will help prevent termites from infesting your home and lawn. Also, plant mint near doors to keep termites from entering in through any cracks.
7. Plants That Attract Termite Predators
A good way to deter termites is to grow plants that attract their predators. Termites’ natural predators include ladybugs, praying mantises, centipedes and spiders. Catnip plants work well for this, as do geraniums, daisies, flowering herbs or sunflowers. These plants don’t deter termites so much as attract the bugs that eat termites.
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