If you haven’t been a victim of termite infestation, you are a few of the lucky ones. Unfortunately, these pesky insects are not only hard to get rid of, but the damage caused by them can burn a massive hole in your pocket.
The other challenging aspect of handling them is they usually remain hidden during the initial outbreak. So if you have seen termites around your garden or backyard, it is wise to act now then to be sorry later.
Termites In The Garden: Subterranean Termite
Termites found in the garden beds or mulch belong to the class subterranean termites. They live in underground colonies and scavenge for woody material present in the ground. They may also go after your wooden patio decks, beams, or other structures.
The other two species you may come across are Drywood Termite and Dampwood Termite. However, subterranean ones are the most destructive of all.
Can Termites Damage Your Garden Crops Or Vegetables?
You may come across a termite nest during routine gardening work.
However, can they also affect your garden plants and vegetable? The short answer is a yes.
Garden termites usually feed on dead and decaying twigs, branches, and roots present in the soil. They are good recyclers of nutrients in this aspect.
However, they will go after your vegetable roots if they don’t find anything else to feed on. They grow and multiply rapidly and can ruin your whole harvest if left unchecked.
The biggest risk is them spreading to your house and causing unprecedented damage.
Garden Termite Control: Identifying Signs
The first step toward a successful termite treatment is correctly identifying an infestation. There will be visible and non-visible signs that you need to look for.
Mud Tubes And Tunnels
Termites use a network of highways or roads, if we may call them made using mud, wood, saliva, and feces. These tubes and tunnels provide them a pathway to travel between their nests and the infestation site and protect them from predators and harsh environmental conditions.
Termite Wings And Droppings
If you see minute grain like termite droppings littered all over the place near tree stumps or a ground opening, rest assured you have a big headache coming your way. These droppings indicate the presence of a large termite colony.
Termite colonies produce large packs of flying termites that leave the nest during late spring or fall. These swarms lose their wings on mating. If you see a stockpile of wings resembling scales of a fish lying around your backyard, brace for an all-out termite infestation.
Signs Of Damage On Trees And Wooden Surfaces
You may inspect tree stumps and other wooden surfaces by knocking. However, if you hear a hollow sound, chances are there is nothing left inside.
Also, check the base of trees for exit holes with wooden shavings around them. Take a spade and dig up some soil around the base. If you see termites moving around in the soil, their next target could be your house or garden.
You may also spot entire termite nests high up on tree trunks. These typically look like the ones shown above. Burning down the whole nest could be the only viable option here.
Identify The Insects Correctly
You must be wondering what is left to confirm if the signs mentioned above are apparent enough. However, the final step involves the correct identification of the insect itself.
Termites undergo a drastic transformation from the larval stage to adulthood. Also, you are most likely to spot a worker termite rather than a queen and a king, which remain hidden deep inside the nest.
Look at the below chart for correct identification during various stages.
Secondly, you may confuse termites with similar insects such as flying ants or woodworms. Both categories are quite different from the subterranean termites you are likely to deal with.
Flying ants have sharply bent antennae and unidentical front and rear wings. On the other hand, Termites have relatively straight antennae and identical pairs of front and rear wings.
The second identical insects are woodworms belonging to the classification beetles. They lay their eggs inside wooden surfaces where they hatch and produce larvae. These larvae feed on the wood creating characteristic pores on the surface. On reaching adulthood, woodworms abandon the infested surface.
Termites, in contrast, eat away the wooden surfaces from inside, leaving the superficial layer intact.
Termite Control Dont’s
After correctly identifying the culprits, you might be tempted to go after them straightaway. However, let common sense prevail and do not do the following.
Avoid Using Pesticides
Do not flood them with gazillions of spray pesticides or insecticides. This can have a two-pronged negative effect:
1. Truckloads of pesticides or insecticides could damage or poison your garden harvest.
2. Termites nestled deep inside could quickly get away. What’s worst is that they could relocate to a new location such as your house.
Avoid Relocating Them Physically
Think twice if you are thinking about relocating them elsewhere using a shovel and your garden cart.
Again, this is because you would only be relocating the top layer, leaving the large colony located deep in the ground.
This could also cause this colony to relocate to a place where they will likely cause more damage, such as your vegetable bed or your multi-dollar patio.
Avoid Using Treated Pine Sleepers For Making Raised Beds
You might wonder if using treated pine sleepers to make raised garden beds would be a good idea. It might be a good termite control measure but has disadvantages.
Firstly, the treatment process loads them up with arsenic, a highly poisonous metal. It can leech to the ground surface with constant watering and poison the entire underground water table.
This water can then be taken up by your garden plants, leading to the poisoning of your harvest.
How To Get Rid Of Termites In The Garden? Prevention Is Better Than Cure
This section provides you with easy-to-follow measures that can prevent termites in the first place, saving you a lot of money and headache in the long run.
Identify And Treat Moisture Sources
Moisture and softwood are the bread and butter of the termites. So what else do you need in life as a termite apart from tasty, moist wood to chew upon.
Immediately identify and treat all places where water is dripping, accumulating, or seeping through. Some of the common ones are:
Check Clogged Drains, Gutters, Or Pipes
Drains or gutters clogged with dead and decaying leaves are a perfect breeding ground for termites. Therefore, ensure they are regularly cleaned and unclogged once a month.
Stop Overwatering Your Plants
If you frequently overwater your plants to save yourself the trouble of watering them again and again, you are inviting loads of termite trouble.
Overwatering creates swampy and damp conditions in your backyard, inviting large swarms of termite population.
Never Plant Too Close To Your House
Always ensure that there is sufficient ground cover between your garden and the foundation of your house.
Planting too close to the foundation reduces the friction points for termites trying to cross over.
Treat The Soil if Required
You could also use a liquid termite barrier to treat the ground and other wooden structures between the house foundation and the garden. It is far more effective than using termite bait.
Some Home Remedies And Natural Ways To Stop Termite Damage
These remedies and natural pest control methods are your last resort.
Use Beneficial Nematodes
It is often said that “Enemy of my enemy is my best friend.” In this scenario, beneficial nematodes such as the Steinernema Carpocapse Nematodes (S.C.) could prove to be your best friends.
These parasitic worms consume the larvae and pupae of termites for a feisty lunch. What’s best is that they do not cause any collateral damage and pose no health risk to you or your pets and children.
Apply Borax Powder
Borax powder is a proven insect repellent and termiticide. In addition, it is far less toxic than other pesticides and is readily available.
The borax powder works by interfering with the digestive systems of insects and worms. You can sprinkle it around the affected areas and in cracks and crevices.
You can also make a potent spray by mixing three cups of water with two tablespoons of borax. Then, spray it around the infested areas regularly to kill termites.
Use Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth is a naturally occurring powdery white substance derived from sedimentary rocks. It works by absorbing fats and oils from the cuticle of insects’ and bugs’ exoskeleton.
Like borax, D.A. (abbreviated) is relatively safer than most insecticides and pesticides. It is also environmentally friendly to a great extent and is found in abundance in oceans.
Use Termite Resistant Mulch
If you plan to add mulch to your garden bed, ensure that it is treated to provide termite resistance.
Regular mulch provides an ideal breeding ground for termites, fulfilling their water and dietary requirements.
Use Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar never fails to find a mention. Apart from being a very effective preservative, it is an equally good natural pesticide.
Just add 1 part of apple cider vinegar to 3 parts of water and mix. You can then spray it around areas with termite activity.
Use Neem Oil
Neem oil is quite effective in eradicating termites and other bugs. However, it is highly unlikely to destroy the whole termite colony.
Use it for areas that are not heavily invested. It is also very safe to use in a pet environment.
Use Baits To Attract Termites
You can sprinkle water on a cardboard sheet which acts as bait for termites. You can then burn the entire sheet off. However, this technique requires frequent repetitions.
Seek Professional Help
Always know that a home remedy will never be a substitute for professional pest control advice. These services typically involve a thorough termite inspection and treatment plan.
Seek such services when you have exhausted all the options and nothing seems to be solving the termite problem.
I have found gardening to be my calling since being restricted to my apartment. I love studying rare species of plants and giving them a mention on my blog. I also love growing organic vegetables in my backyard.