Due to its warm, tropical climate, Hawaii is highly susceptible to infestation damage, and termites are active throughout the year on all of Hawaii’s islands.
If you’re a homeowner living in Hawaii, you’ll need to know the basics of termite identification, when to expect swarms, how to recognize potential infestations, and what to do if termites decide to make their home in your home.
How to tell if you have a termite infestation
Though they’re capable of causing an enormous amount of damage, termite infestations are often hard to spot, and you may not realize there is one until it’s too late. Some of the largest colonies can eat through an astonishing one pound of wood per day and can seriously jeopardize the structural integrity of your house in a short period.
To minimize the risk of lasting termite damage, routinely check your home for these common signs of an infestation:
- Droppings: Referred to as frass, termite droppings will look like tiny piles of sawdust
- Damaged wood: Termite damaged wood often takes on a hexagonal pattern
- Discarded wings: While not every termite in a colony has wings, all colonies have termites with wings. If you start finding discarded wings on or near windowsills, that’s a likely sign you may have an infestation
- Hollow-sounding walls: If you suspect you may have termites, knock on walls and wait to see if an irregular hollow sound is produced. If an area sounds different from the rest, termites have probably eaten away at it.
- Mud tubes: If you start finding mud tubes along the outside of your foundation, call a termite control expert. These are a tell-tale sign you have subterranean termites
Other possible signs of a termite infestation are swollen floors, warped window and door frames, tiny round holes in drywall, and bubbling or peeling paint.
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Are termites a problem in Hawaii?
Thanks to the region’s warm, wet climate, termites are a problem across all of Hawaii, and are active year-round, making the state a hotspot for potential termite damage.
If you own a home on any of Hawaii’s islands, learning about termites is a necessary task, and will likely save you headaches in the future. Here are the two most common types of termites in Hawaii and when to look for them.
As you may have guessed, subterranean termites—including the infamous Formosan subspecies—build sprawling underground colonies in wet, moist soil. From this sunken position, they can worm their way into your home’s foundation practically undetected, making them all the more dangerous.
Subterranean termites, especially the Formosan, are the most destructive type, which means you’ll want to keep a sharp lookout for swarms, particularly if you live on Kauai or Oahu. Formosan termites are active year-round, but the largest swarms take place at night from May to June.
Hawaii is also home to drywood termites. This species—as you might expect—feed primarily on dry hardwood such as that used to construct furniture, but also make their homes in trees, wooden fences, and other outdoor structures. Carefully inspect any wooden furniture you purchase second-hand.
Expect swarms during the summer months. Both the western drywood termite and the Indo-Malaysian drywood termite swarm during the day, while the West Indian drywood termite swarms at dusk or at night.
A third species of termite, the dampwood termite, is also found in Hawaii, but they are less likely to cause structural damage to your home compared to their drywood counterparts. Still, you’ll want to recognize them if they do swarm, so expect them at dusk or night throughout the summer months.
What to do if you have termites
Should you come face to face with a termite infestation, take heart in knowing there is a multitude of ways in which to treat the problem—some of which you can even do yourself.
- Natural remedies: Though they aren’t really recommended for dealing with larger colonies, natural treatment options are available if you’re trying to avoid harsher chemical pesticides. When sprayed on active sites, paraffin oil, clove oil, lemon juice mixed with vinegar, and cayenne pepper have all been observed to effectively deter termites for short periods.
- Bait stations: If you’re looking for a less invasive approach to quelling a termite infestation, bait stations are an option to consider. Exterminators will place a series of small plastic containers around your property to attract and kill termites for a few months.
- Liquid pesticide barrier: When dealing with subterranean termites, a pest control expert will dig a trench of sorts around the perimeter of your home, into which they will apply a chemical termiticide. Any termites who try to cross this moat will succumb to the pesticide before they can enter your foundation.
- Fumigation: For larger infestations, fumigation is the way to go. This process involves exterminators covering your entire house with a tent, into which they’ll pump a gas that kills all termites in the structure. You, your family, and any pets will have to evacuate the premises for at least 24 hours, if not longer.
As a homeowner, your best course of action is to try and prevent infestations before they happen. This can be done in a myriad of ways:
- Fix leaking taps and faulty plumbing.
- Repair or replace screens on windows and doors.
- Trim trees and shrubs back from the house.
- Don’t store scrap wood or mulch near or under the house.
- Install termite bait monitoring stations.
- Seal small gaps and expansion joints.
- Don’t let water accumulate next to the foundation.
- Routinely check for termite droppings and wings.
While these methods aren’t completely foolproof, they’ll give you a better chance of catching a potential infestation before too much damage is done.
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Unless you have a special policy, most
homeowners insurancewill not cover damages caused by termite infestations, so it’s up to you to identify the warning signs before the worst damage is caused.
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Do most homes in Hawaii have termites?
Unfortunately, most homes in Hawaii will have had termites at some point in their history, which is why all homes are required to undergo termite inspection before a sale is finalized. Hawaii’s climate is very conducive to the spread of termite colonies, and even concrete homes may have termites living in the furniture.
How often should I treat for termites if I live in Hawaii?
After purchasing a home in Hawaii, you should have it inspected for termites at least once a year. If there are signs of infestation, the pest control company may fumigate your home or put down a pesticide barrier, depending on the species. If termite presence is minor, or you suspect there may be termites, there are a handful of natural solutions that you can do yourself. In any case, the frequency of treatment depends on your inspection results.