Tips to stop termite infestations

(NewsUSA) - While you're trying to find every available reason to be outside this spring, termites are doing the exact opposite -- trying to worm their way indoors and devour your walls and floors. And they certainly aren't feasting for free.

"Termites have an insatiable appetite for cellulose found in wood, eating 24-hours a day, seven days a week. They cause serious and costly damage and can compromise the structural stability of a home," said Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). "NPMA advises homeowners to have their homes inspected annually, especially if they've noticed swarmers."

Swarmers are winged termites that arrive in early spring, eagerly looking to set up a new colony. Although they appear similar to flying ants, it's important that homeowners do not mistake the two species, since termite infestations that are left untreated can quickly damage the structural integrity homes. To make matters worse, damages caused by wood-destroying insects, such as termites, are typically not covered by homeowners' insurance policies -- leaving you to foot the bill.

The "silent destroyers" and their saw-toothed jaws can significantly reduce the long-term property value and financial investment of a house. The NPMA estimates that termites cause at least $5 billion in property losses each year in the U.S.

Termite season usually begins in early March and lasts through June. The NPMA recommends these tips to prevent termite infestations:

* Inspect the perimeter of a home for rotting wood, mud tubes or a visible termite presence. Pay particular attention to doors and windowsills, looking for shed wings.

* Avoid water accumulation near a home's foundation by diverting water away with downspouts and gutters.

* Never bury wood scraps in the yard. If your home is newly built, remove any remaining grade stakes or tree stumps on your property.

* Maintain a one-inch gap between soil and wood portions of a building.

* Keep mulch at least 15 inches from the foundation.

* Do not stack firewood or lumber near home, and inspect it carefully before bringing indoors.

* If you suspect you have an infestation, contact a licensed pest professional. Termites cannot be controlled on your own.