Jump to main content.


Termites: How to Identify and Control Them

Does termite damage worry you? If so, you are not alone. Every year termites cause billions of dollars in structural damage, and property owners spend over two billion dollars to treat them. This fact sheet focuses on how you, as a consumer, can identify and help protect your property from termites through effective prevention measures and appropriate use of termite treatments.

On this page:

How do I know if I have termites?

The first step in prevention is to be on the alert for termites. Termites rarely emerge from soil, mud tubes, or food sources through which they are tunneling. Most people are not aware they have termites until they see a swarm or come across damage during construction. Some of the ways to discover if you have termites are listed below:

The most common form of termite in most of the U.S. is the native subterranean termite (PDF) Exit EPA disclaimer. Other, less common, types of termites include the smaller drywood termite Exit EPA disclaimer and the invasive Formosan termite.

Top of page

How can I prevent termite infestation?

Make the structure less attractive to termites

During construction, use a concrete foundation and leave a ventilation space between the soil and wood. Cover exposed wood surfaces with a sealant or metal barrier.

Maintain the termite prevention features

Top of page

What are the different types of termite treatments?

Non-chemical treatments

Some ways to keep termites out do not involve the application of insecticides. For example:

Because these methods do not involve the application of an insecticide, EPA does not regulate them.

Chemical treatments

Before a company can sell or distribute any pesticide, other than certain minimum risk pesticides, in the United States, EPA must review studies on the pesticide to determine that it will not pose unreasonable risks to human health or the environment. Once we have made that determination, we will license or register that pesticide for use in strict accordance with label directions. The pesticides used for the prevention or treatment of termite infestations are called termiticides and must demonstrate the ability to provide structural protection before we register them. In most cases, termiticide application can only be properly performed by a trained pest management professional.

Approved treatments include:

Two common forms of treatment are conventional barrier treatments and termite baits.

Conventional barrier treatments: The most common technique for treating termite infestations is the soil-applied barrier treatment. Termiticides used for barrier treatments must be specifically labeled for that use.

If conducted improperly, these treatments can cause contamination of the home and surrounding drinking water wells and will not protect against termites. For that reason, it is important to hire a pest management professional who is licensed and trained to take proper precautions. The most common active ingredients found in conventional termiticides are:

Also see our Web page on pyrethroids and pyrethrins for general information on the pesticides in this class and our reevaluation process for them.

Termite Baits. In recent years, several bait systems have been introduced to help reduce the overall use of insecticides and their impact on human health and the environment. These systems rely on cellulose baits that contain a slow-acting insecticide.

The most common active ingredients found in termite baits are:

Wood treatment

Top of page

Are pesticides used against termites safe?

As the federal agency responsible for regulating all pesticides, including termiticides, sold, applied, or distributed in the United States EPA must ensure that the pesticide, when used according to label directions, meets current safety standards to protect human health and the environment. To make such determinations, we require more than 100 different scientific studies and tests from applicants. Most states also review the pesticide label to ensure that it complies with federal labeling requirements and any additional state restrictions of use. Many termiticides are highly toxic, making it critical to follow label directions with added care. Pest management professionals have the knowledge, expertise, and equipment as required by the label, which minimizes risks and maximizes effectiveness.

Top of page

How do I handle a termite infestation?

Top of page

What if something goes wrong?

To register a complaint concerning a pesticide misapplication, contact your state pesticide regulatory agency Exit EPA disclaimer. You may also want to call the National Pesticide Information Center’s (NPIC) Exit EPA disclaimer toll-free hotline at 1-800-858-7378. NPIC provides experts who can answer a broad range of questions concerning pesticide-related issues, such as product use and health effects.

Top of page

What is the government’s role in termite control?

Top of page

Where can I get more information?

National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC)
Tel: 1-800-858-7378
E-mail: npic@ace.orst.edu
Web site: http://npic.orst.edu/ Exit EPA disclaimer
Termite Resource Guide: http://npic.orst.edu/pest/termite.html Exit EPA disclaimer
State Pesticide Regulatory Agencies: http://npic.orst.edu/state_agencies.html Exit EPA disclaimer
State Cooperative Extension Service Offices: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/index.html

EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs

Ask a question [http://pesticides.supportportal.com]

Top of page

Publications | Glossary | A-Z Index | Jobs


Local Navigation


Jump to main content.