How to Get Rid of Termites

Your Definitive DIY Pest Control Guide to Preventing and Getting Rid of Termites

Termites are a type of pest that come in different varieties and share one common purpose: to eat and infest the wooden structures inside of your home. There are no benefits that come with termites and in many ways, they are the most destructive of home pests since they eat the very structures that keep your home intact. 

If termites terrify you, there is a very good reason for this:

Therefore, it is crucial that measures are taken to educate yourself fully on the types of termites that invade homes, their behaviors, and the steps it takes to kill termites and eliminate them completely.

Termites are prevalent in all fifty U.S. states, except for some sections of northern Alaska. Although they may prove to be beneficial in natural environments, once they sense the wood structures of a residential home, they then become one of the most feared and harmful of pests due to their ability to devour a dwelling without ever being seen.

All The Termite Information You Will Ever Need

This guide will serve as a handy reference sheet that will not only educate you on the types of termites, but will also contain all of the information that you need to get rid of termites.

Identification is important to know if the type of termites you have are subterranean or dry wood termites, as is the treatment method you choose, which will need to be perfectly matched to the termite type. Although this guide will provide you with all the information you need to combat termites on your own, never hesitate to contact an exterminator if no progress is being made.

In this termite pest control guide, you will learn:

  1. The types of termites and how to identify them
  2. The signs of an infestation
  3. The best methods and chemicals for killing termites
  4. Tips for killing termites in your property
termite identification

1. Types of Termites and How to Identify Them

There are two main types of termites that manifest as pests in the United States and a third type that is so elusive, you will likely never see it. Although each of these three types all devour wood, there are different types of wood and different structures that you will likely find the three different types infesting. Each of these three species have different methods for infesting a home.

Subterranean termites (also includes formosan termites)

This species is usually the type of termite that is most commonly associated with the name termites. They are dependent on contact with soil and the moisture inside of it, which means that this species will reach your home through the earth below it. 

Subterranean termites will normally appear white to reddish-brown and the soldiers will have two prominent, black pincers at the ends of their mouths, while the workers will have much smaller pincers.

Drywood termites:

This species is a bit more problematic for homeowners as they typically like to infest and devour drier types of wood, such as furniture. These termites nest in the wood on which they feed and do not invade a structure from the soil. Because their colonies are within the structure, they are difficult to control.

Drywood termites are commonly known as flying termites, since their appearance is more in line with a flying ant, with two wings and a much smaller, thinner build than traditional subterranean termites.

Damp wood termites:

This species is a bit more elusive as they typically only prefer damp wood and are most commonly associated with boats. Dampwood termites do not require contact with soil, but that is where they most commonly seek out wood that is high in moisture content. Wood that retains a lot of moisture, such as pine and oak, are most prone to infestation by damp wood termites. 

Dampwood termites are almost identical in appearance to subterranean and formosan termites, and can be distinguished by a slightly darker appearance, but you likely will only know it is a damp wood termite if the wood that is infested is moist.

signs of termite infestation

2. The Signs of an Infestation

Termites have many different ways of leaving signs that they have infested structures within your home. These signs are usually the only signs available to ensure that termites are present. Exit holes are small holes in wood, drywall, sheetrock and any structure that contains cellulose which termites feed on.

termite exit holes in wood
Small exit holes in wood made by alates.

Exit Holes

Exit holes actually come from two termite behaviors: the extraction of cellulose from the wood and paper structures and the need to create an exit from the colony for reproductive termites. Termite exit holes are caused by termite’s annual reproductive flight. Every year mature termite colonies develop a special caste of termites called winged reproductives or “alates”.

These alates normally reach maturity in spring. The colonies then wait for a suitably humid day, often a very hot day with an afternoon thunderstorm to release all their alates through exit holes. The exit holes are typically located high in trees, although sometimes they are located inside your house.

If you find objects or structures that have these tiny holes, it is important to inspect the surrounding area for other signs that verify termite activity, such as frass, pellet droppings, or mud tunnels surrounding the structure. These holes are made by the termites to make a barrier to the outside world where alates can exit the nest to reproduce.

termite wings
You may see tiny termite wings on the floor which is a sign of a termite infestation.

Tiny Wings

Additionally, you may find lots of tiny wings on the floor. After termites pair up to reproduce, they shed their wings and settle down to start a new colony. Even if you didn’t see the actual swarm of flying termites, you might find evidence of their reproductive frenzy in a pile of little termite wings on the floor.
termite mud tunnels in wooden house
Termite mud tunnels below wooden floor.

Mud Tunnels

In addition to exit holes, you may also see little tunnels made of mud along your home’s walls. Termites travel in these mud tunnels from their nest to the food source within your wood structures and back. If you find tunnels that appear to be the diameter of a straw, you might be looking at termites

Although it will likely give you a sinking feeling, if you see a termite, you have a termite problem. Termites appear similar to ants, but have straight, elongated antennae; evenly sized wings; and a broad midsection which is different from the ant’s narrower midsection. If you’re not sure whether you’re looking at an ant or a termite, again, we recommend you call a pest control expert to identify what you’ve got.

best ways to kill termites

3. Best Methods and Chemicals for Killing Termites

When it comes to eliminating termites from your home, there are no easy answers or solutions. Termites are problematic to kill because they live inside of the structures that they are eating. There are many possible DIY solutions, but the standard tool for your arsenal is going to be strong and effective termiticides.

Termiticide Sprays

This is going to without a doubt be your single best arsenal when combating termites on your own. Termiticide sprays are so universal, that they can even be used to treat your boat, which can also become infested by termites. 

Termiticides use a special class of chemicals that specifically targets termites and takes great effort in destroying an entire colony by having the termites who contact the poison spread the rest of the chemical to the colony, including the queen.

Termiticide Liquids

We recommend Taurus SC and Tengard SFR – two of the best liquid termiticides on the market for killing termite colonies and repelling any new colonies from forming. The application process of these insecticides is crucial to ensure that a colony is eliminated.

Once you have identified infected wood, or if you decide to just begin treating all the wood, you can begin spraying the structures. The best method to utilize to kill termites on your own is to utilize a powerful spray insecticide with a long-lasting residual.

Using a lawn and garden sprayer, be sure and coat the soil around your home and the wooden structures inside of the home to kill the active termites and the termites that reach your home from the soil underneath. The strength of the residual in these products will keep the killing active for months if the chemical is left undisturbed.

If you have the time and patience to attempt to kill termites on your own, these two powerful sprays are your best bet to ensure that the termites are killed and repelled from attempting to reenter your home.

kill termites with bait stations

Termite Baits

Although all of the other types of products designed to kill and repel termites are very effective, termite bait stations are a type of product that can trap and kill termites with an alluring bait. These contraptions are designed to trap entering termites into a container below the bait where they cannot escape. 

Advance Termite Bait Stations are some of the best designed termites baits on the market and work by using cellulose-rich bait that draws underground termites into the trap.

It is important to remember to frequently change the bait in this traps, especially if you decide to place them underground. Termite bait traps can also be placed in areas inside the home where mud holes or exit holes are present. Although monitoring the traps will require a bit of continued observation, these products cut the work in half by trapping the termites with alluring bait, reducing your need to continue spraying or dusting wood.

Foggers / Bug Bombs

The trusted, yet controversial bug bombs, or “foggers” are sometimes effective for killing certain types of pests, but many household pests prefer to hide as opposed to wondering out in the open. What works for one type of pest will often prove ineffective for another and the only true merit with bug bombers is that the process can save a lot of time for busy people, who simply cannot spend hours on end fighting against household pests. 

The chemicals inside of different termite foggers can vary from the highly toxic to the generally mild, yet the poison is distributed so widely and to virtually every item inside of a room that saturation becomes an issue if proper tenting and prepping is not followed.

The poison coats all the surrounding surfaces of a room and makes the room a toxic environment for any present pests. Structural difficulties are the main problem with using foggers to kill termites, as the very nature of the gas can cause termites to scatter to get away from the poison, or burrow deeper into structures to escape it. Although foggers will certainly kill worker termites that are constantly exposed to the outside world, the soldiers, kings and the queen will likely never encounter the gas and thus the colony will not be destroyed.


Diatomaceous earth and other types of dusts like Delta Dust are the third part of possible do-it-yourself solutions to kill termites. Some consumers choose not to opt for dusts due to the mess that can no doubt occur from utilizing them. 

But, dusts are an effective method for killing termites and the residual component of dusts make them just as useful as spray termiticides with less of an odor to contend with.

termite tenting treatment
Professional tenting is a good option for severe termite infestations.


Tenting, or fumigation, is not absolutely necessary for getting rid of termites. As you have seen with this guide, there are many DIY solutions that can destroy and prevent termites from devouring your home and property. 

With that being said, tenting is a powerful option for termites and certainly a strong possibility if you are dealing with a large infestation. We recommend consulting a pest control professional to find the best fumigation option for your situation.

tips for killing termites in your property

4. Tips For Killing Termites In Your Property

In the house:

Termites are generally attracted to wood inside of your home that has no repellents on its outer surface and is plentiful with cellulose. Termites are attracted to as natural and unaltered a wood source as possible. If the wood in your home is unaltered and unprocessed, termites will generally be attracted to it and eat it.

There are many factors that affect how quickly termites eat wood. The type and size of the wood structure in question, the type of termite–dry wood termites take much longer to eat their preferred type of wood–and the overall size of the termite colony in question. Generally, per six-month period, termites can eat about a foot of wood.

To kill termites within your home, using a termiticide of your choice, thoroughly spray all of the infected wood to the point of run-off. It is important to saturate the wood to reach deep inside of the structure where the termites are dwelling. Alternatively, you can use either diatomaceous earth or another powerful insecticide dust, such as delta dust, and dust all of the infected wood with a liberal, yet light coating of dust, paying particular attention to exit holes.

A house that has become infested with termites can certainly be saved, but there are some considerations to take into account if the damage already caused is extensive. The first line of defense is obviously to eradicate termites from your home and safeguard your home from future infestations. If you choose to address the problem on your own, it will take a lot of work, but it is certainly feasible.

It is also important to remember that the structural damage caused by the termites will also need to be addressed. This is especially true if you are deciding to sell your home. Eliminate, repair, and prevent is the process you want to follow.

termite damage in sheetrock
Signs of a termite infestation in a wall.

In Dry Walls and SheetRock:

Termites are industrious creatures, and wood can take many different forms inside of your home. Termites in the drywall are usually as a result of tunneling to reach other more attractive substances for food and colonization. Actually, termites really don’t like to eat through drywall; they do, however, love the paper and glue that covers the drywall board – especially if it gets damp from some sort of flooding.

When the wall becomes wet, the paper soaks up water and invites them in; they will burrow between your painted wall surface and the drywall as they eat their way across. When it comes to dry wood, dry wood termites are the most likely culprit for any visible damage. Dry wood termites differ from the other two common types – subterranean and damp wood – due to their preference for wood that is drier and harder; they also require much less moisture to survive in comparison to the other two species.

Dry wood termites take much longer to eat drywood due to the effort it takes to eat through the compounds. To treat termites in dry wood, you can use either spray or dust termiticides. Spray is the most recommended treatment for drywall since it absorbs and you will simply want to coat the drywall with a termiticide and allow the residual components of the chemical to take effect.

Sheetrock is similar, but sheetrock is not a natural food source for termites, but the product is more prone to termite damage due to the burrowing termites undertake to reach a more viable food source.

Sheetrock also contains moisture which is essential for termite survival, meaning that termites can and sometimes do eat sheetrock to extract moisture. For the most part, sheetrock is just a barrier standing in the way of termite nutrients, so damage from burrowing is usually the main type of termite destruction with this product and a coating with a powerful liquid termiticide will usually address the problem adequately.

In Ceilings:

Ceilings are a bit trickier, since run-off of chemicals is problematic for your dwelling. First and foremost, inspect the ceiling for signs of tunnels leading up from the ground to the ceiling, which allows the termites to freely crawl to their destination. Additionally, you can inspect the ground below for termites droppings either as small pellets or frass, which resembles sawdust.

Check any wood either on or around and even leading up to the ceiling for damage–but termites in the ceiling is usually rare and means that your home is likely undergoing a severe infestation. To treat a ceiling, you would need to address the problem from the attic with a termiticide spray or dust, but calling a pest control professional is your best bet for this sort of problem.

In Yard and Garden:

Treating for termites in your yard and garden is one of the best preventative measures that you can take in ensuring termites stay away from your home. The best method for treating the outside of your home is with a strong and durable termiticide. 

For optimal efficiency, you may want to invest in termite stakes, such as Spectracide 96116, which are implanted into areas of soil around your house and will pop up when termites are present and release powerful chemicals into the soil to kill present termites.

signs of termite damage on wooden stump
Signs of termite damage on a wooden stump.

In trees and stumps:

Dampwood termites are the most likely culprit for termite damage noticed in trees and stumps. If you have ever been a victim of a termite infestation, you will likely also want to take measures to treat surrounding trees and stumps to ensure they remain termite free. 

You can do this with a liquid termiticide and simply spray the trees and stumps in question periodically to keep termites from infesting.

In an apartment:

Apartments and condos are tricky when treating for any pest, let alone termites. There are some minor treatment procedures you can undertake if you live in a rental property, such as periodic dusting and even some light spraying of the wood structures.

Of course, it goes without saying, you need to alert the property management immediately if you notice signs of termites in your apartment, as this needs to be addressed according to their pest control specifications.

Related Termite Questions:

There are natural ways to kill termites and certainly to repel them and many of these options are probably already inside of your home.

Bleach, salt, vinegar, lemon, and rubbing alcohol all work to repel and kill termites if you are able to spray these products directly onto live termites.

Additionally, you can also mix these solutions into a sprayer and attempt to coat the wood inside of your home with the products, but be careful not to put any corrosive natural products on sensitive wood.

Termites are generally attracted to moisture as well as wood; although dry wood termites are attracted to wood with very little moisture, so it depends on the particular type of termite when figuring out what attracts them.

It is important to remember that termites do not just eat wood, they will actually eat any items that have cellulose, including paper products, sheetrock, dry wood and plaster. Even if they do not eat some of these materials, they can still burrow through it to reach a food source. They are attracted to moist, dark places that contain their food source and dry wood termites are generally attracted to drier forms of wood.

The primary goals of termites are to find a suitable habitat for a colony and then begin burrowing and sensing out food sources, preferably nearby. When termites find their way into our homes, they prefer to set their colony inside of their food source to limit exposure as much as possible. The key thing to remember is that moist soil attracts termites and cellulose products are what keeps them alive.

It may be hard to believe, but termites can actually serve beneficial ecological purposes to our surrounding environment.

The problem that comes with termites in our surroundings is that these insects can degrade a house from the inside out, costing people potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs.

There are also health risks that could potentially arise from ignoring a termite infestation.

Termites usually consist of thousands of members inside of one colony – a colony that resides inside of the wood structures of your home. The insects feed on cellulose that is found inside of wood and workers spend hours each day harvesting this compound from wood with shredding mandibles that extract the substance from wood.

During this process, tiny particles of wood are released into the atmosphere of the home that appears as common dust. This can be problematic for individuals who suffer from asthma or any other bronchial or respiratory ailments. HVAC and heating systems can also aggregate the dust and spread it evenly throughout your home. Allergic reactions from termite waste and saliva are also possible and can make you sick or unwell.

Apart from respiratory or allergic reactions, termites do not carry diseases and termites alone are not specifically harmful to humans or pets. If you do get bitten by a termite, wash the bite and apply an ointment. Apart from minimal treatment, the bite should subside in a few days. Although this fact may have you thinking it is okay to ignore termites, you may regret that when your home starts to literally fall apart.

Bottom Line

We hope that this comprehensive guide has given you a broad overview of how termites operate, what their behaviors are, and most importantly, how to kill and prevent them. Termites can be devastating, and it is important to have guides such as this to know exactly how to battle these destructive insects.

As you can see, termites can infest a wide range of wood types and dwellings, and they also exist in a multitude of environments and regions. Killing termites does not have to be overwhelming and with a few steps in the right direction, you can have your home termite free in no time. 

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