Some questions about termites and termite control come up fairly often. We will try to address these questions here. If your question isn't answered here, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at (559) 325-9400 and we'll try to answer your question personally.
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Pest Control Service - General Information
Termites - General Information
Price and Payment Options
Real Estate Inspections
We offer one time, monthly, bi-monthly and quarterly services. Target pests may include ants, cockroaches, silverfish, spiders, rats, mice, fleas, ticks, earwigs, scorpions, etc. We also provide some rodent exclusion services.
I’m afraid there isn’t one right answer to this question. The answer depends on several factors including the target pest and primary reason for wanting service, location of the structure, pressure from surrounding pest populations that might lead to re-infestation, etc. If you don’t have a clear idea of how often to service, ask your professional for recommendations.
If you are just trying to get a house cleaned up for sale, or if you are starting to work on a vacant house and don’t want to deal with a bunch of pest problems, a one time service may be just right. If you want long-term control a routine service program might better fit your needs.
As a general rule if you live in an urban environment we suggest monthly service. In rural areas bi-monthly seems to work well. But this is due to the way we do each of these services. A monthly service works well in the confines of a typical city lot, while a bi-monthly service provides treatment of shrub bed areas and a much larger area around the home. We can do either service in either location. And the guarantee is the same – if the bugs persist, so will we! If you need extra service, just give us a call – we’ll be right there!
If you are a regular customer – no problem! If we are servicing your home on a monthly or bi-monthly service agreement, any additional service work for the pests covered in your agreement will be provided promptly and at no cost. We’ll often come out at no charge for pests not covered in the agreement (like flour moths in your kitchen, etc.). Typically, if you are our customer and we can be of help, we’ll try.
If we have serviced your home on a one-time or quarterly contract, extra services are provided on a pay-per-call basis.
Yes you can. Most hardware stores and home improvement centers offer a fairly wide selection of insecticides, traps, baits and pest control tools and application equipment. Information on how to do basic pest control work is available in books, magazines and the internet.
The important thing to keep in mind is that pesticides are just tools. The home center also carries other tools such as welders, electrical testers, etc. Just because you can buy these things doesn’t mean you know how to use them properly.
Although almost all modern pesticides are extremely mild from a toxicity standpoint, improper use can lead to other problems. Staining of surfaces, death to non-target species, and injury to plants are just a few of the results of improper treatments. The most common result, though, is failure to control the pest problem.
If you do choose to do your own pest control work, please do so responsibly. Read the entire product label on every material you buy before you use it. Be sure you completely understand the use directions and follow those directions carefully. Obtain and use all recommended safety equipment and application precautions. Dispose of empty containers properly.
Knowledge is the most important thing a good professional brings to your home or business. If you want to get good control of the target pest, read up on them. Learn their biology and behaviors and learn how this information will help you control their populations. And be sure you understand which formulations of the products you are using will work best. Liquid sprays may work very well in one situation while granules may be far more appropriate in another. Yet in another situation the very best control may be achieved without any pesticide application at all.
Pest control work is usually very affordable. But the prices charged for pest control work are all over the chart. A recent market survey of companies in our area offered one-time services for cockroaches from $35.00 to $250.00. Some companies (like ours) simply won’t do one-time services for German roaches. Monthly services can range from as little as $20 per month to $45 per month for the same 1500 sq. foot home on a standard city lot.
Common sense rules the day here. Just like any other service business, good pest control work requires trained, seasoned employees who understand the products they are working with and the pests they are working to control. Good, properly maintained equipment and good materials are vital to that technician’s work. All of these cost the business money and those costs are reflected in the prices they must charge for their services.
You are usually well advised to stay away from any service business that tries to be the “cheapest company in town”. In our industry these businesses usually hire the most marginal employees (to keep costs down), use as little of the cheapest products as they can get by with (to keep costs down), and defer all maintenance on equipment and vehicles as long as possible (again, to keep costs down). I, personally, would not trust this kind of operation to apply pesticides to my home or business. (Quite frankly, I probably wouldn’t want them on my property for any purpose!)
The big companies seem to occupy the other end of the price spectrum. Although the work done by the larger companies is usually good to very good, their higher advertising and other overhead costs show up in higher prices. And, all too often with the larger companies, the customer becomes just another account number to them.
At Morse Termite and Pest Control we strive to provide the best possible service work at the most reasonable prices. Although we are rarely the cheapest company you might call, we will never be the most expensive one, either. We take the time to do our work properly, promptly and with a minimum of hassle for you. And we are always ready to answer any questions you may have about the pests we are working on or the services we are providing.
Termites are small insects that are capable of eating and digesting wood and wood products. Termites are very beneficial in Nature. These insects are part of God's recycling program for dead wood. A dead tree in the woods becomes new organic material in the soil thanks to termites.
They will eat almost anything containing cellulose including wood, paper products, leather, etc. As a result they also can be very destructive to the things we build out of wood. They do millions of dollars in damage to buildings in the United States every year.
(To learn more about termites and other wood destroying organisms, go to the Termites page and click on the names of the different pests we deal with.)
Termites are social insects and live in colonies much like ants and bees. They have a highly developed caste system within the colony. The three castes are reproductives, soldiers and workers.
The queen and king produce eggs. The queen and king start their lives as winged reproductives. When they were young they flew away from their parent's colony to start their own.
The soldier caste provides defense of the colony.
The workers (the most numerous members of the colony) forage for food, care for the young, and feed and groom the other members of the colony.
Termites are native to this area (the central San Joaquin Valley of California).
Yes. Scientists have identified over 2000 species worldwide. Generally, though all termites will fall within one of three major groups: subterranean termites, drywood termites or dampwood termites.
In the central San Joaquin Valley we have two kinds of termites that might attack a structure. Both are native species.
Western Subterranean Termites (Reticulitermes hesperus) build large nests underground. A mature colony may contain hundreds of thousands of individuals and the colony's foraging area may approach the size of a football field. They attack the structure from below. Treatment usually involves injecting long-lasting materials into the soil or the use of baiting systems. (For more information click the termites)
Western Drywood Termites (Incisitermes minor) build their nests inside the wood. They occur naturally in this area in the "dead arm" of a tree, in fences and woodpiles, etc. When they establish colonies in buildings their control requires that we locate the colony and then eliminate it. This may require simply replacing the infested wood members, or it may require a localized treatment. Older homes and situations where there are multiple colonies in the building often require a structural fumigation (covering the house with tarps). (For more information click the termite)
Periodic inspections and early detection can save you a lot of money in the long-term.
Annually is best. If your home is new (less than ten years old) and there has been no incidence of termites in your neighborhood so far, you probably can get by with bi-annual inspections. (Once every two years.) Keep in mind that a good inspector will also alert you to conditions in or around your home that might lead to a problem later.
To learn more about inspections click this link: Inspections
Subterranean termite control involves one of three strategies:
- Mechanical barriers
- Traditional treatments
Barriers - A mechanical barrier might be metal flashing, concrete, or another material placed in the path of the termites. The purpose of the barrier is the exclude the insects. Since termites are known to be persistent, mechanical barriers don't necessarily provide long term control. Some barriers installed prior to construction (such as Termi-Mesh and special sand barriers) can provide excellent long term control, but they can't be installed once the building has been built.
Baits - Subterranean termite baiting has become very popular (especially with the larger companies) in recent years. Our experience with these products has shown that although a baiting program CAN be effective, they don't always work. And when they do work they tend to be very slow. Coupled with the expense of installing and maintaining one of these systems we simply don't believe they give the customer the best value for their money.
Traditional Treatments - The termite control industry has had about 75 years to develop and perfect methods of treating buildings to control subterranean termites. When you take all that knowledge and couple it with the latest advances in termite management products you end up with the best of both worlds. Traditional treatments provide very rapid control of the insects with a minimum of disruption to your schedule. Traditional treatments are almost always much less expensive to do and to maintain than any baiting system.
Drywood termite control requires two things:
- Locate the infestation
- Exterminate the colony
When an infestation of drywood termites is discovered it is necessary to exterminate the colony to get control. This may be accomplished by one or more of the following methods:
- Remove the infested wood and replace it with new materials
- Locally treat the infested wood members
- Structural fumigation
I asked Dr. Vernard Lewis from U.C Berkeley once about his opinion concerning the best drywood termite control product available. His answer was, "There are a lot of products that will kill drywood termites. The trick is finding them."
This brings out the main issue in dealing with drywood termites. We don't have diagnostic tools available that will allow us to look inside the walls to find the termites that might be there. Often this concern about "what might be there" prompts termite companies to recommend structural fumigation any time they find evidence of drywood termites. The problem with this is that the infestation you found might have been the only one in the building. While a fumigation gives everyone involved some peace of mind, in some cases it may be massive overkill.
Localized treatments can provide excellent control but they, too, have their disadvantages. A localized treatment of one colony will not kill any hidden colonies. If they are discovered later they will need to be treated. This additional cost is usually still offset by the fact that two or three local treatments are usually still far less expensive than one fumigation. And the areas treated remain treated for a number of years because of the residual effectiveness of the materials injected.
Fumigation is often the most cost-effective control measure available. The age of the building, the nature of construction, extent of naturally occurring termite pressure in that geographical area, and many other factors might make fumigation the most logical control strategy. If we know the building has multiple colonies of drywood termites fumigation may be the only appropriate recommendation. In these cases a localized treatment may be a very poor choice.
The key is to approach the problem with an open mind. If your termite company only uses one approach (be it local treatments or fumigation) it might indicate a "cookie-cutter" approach to termite control.
In almost all situations, if you have a termite problem, it will be necessary to hire a professional. We've seen very few successful do-it-yourself termite control jobs.
Termite control isn't as simple as having an untrained person spray some chemical purchased at the hardware store. But if you want to try it anyway, go for it! This is still America and it is your house! But if you do try to do-it-yourself termite control please remember to read and carefully follow all label instructions. Purchase and use all recommended safety equipment and dispose of your empty containers responsibly and according to label instructions and local ordinances.
A successful termite control program must begin with a well established strategy. The steps in this strategy will be based on a positive identification of the target species, a thorough understanding of the nature of construction of the structure as it relates to controlling the termites, and a thorough understanding of the tools and materials required to control the infestation. Simply spraying a pesticide labeled for termites on the affected wood members will probably do no good at all.
A termite control professional possesses an understanding of the insects and their behavior, a thorough understanding of building construction and treatment techniques, and access to the very best materials and the knowledge to make a proper selection. He/she also has the necessary tools which are often highly specialized and very expensive. In California that professional must demonstrate the required skills through successfully passing the license exam given by the Structural Pest Control Board and then must maintain that license through on-going continuing education. And, for your protection, state law requires that a professional termite control operator is bonded and insured.
Even with all our training, experience and professional tools and products working for us, termite control pros don't always stop termites with the first treatment. We all do callbacks on jobs occasionally. That's why a professional job should always include a solid guarantee with follow-up inspections with additional treatment at no cost whenever needed.
Keep in mind that professionalism and quality of work is never determined by a company's size or it's advertising budget. You will often get more personalized service at a better price by selecting a reputable local independent operator.
The best way to choose any professional is to check his/her credentials. You should ask at least these questions:
- How long have you been doing this kind of work?
- Is termite control your specialty or is it a sideline?
- Are you licensed, bonded and insured?
- How is your record with the Department of Consumer Affairs? (You can check this out at the Structural Pest Control Board's website on our Links page.)
- Do you belong to the local Better Business Bureau?
- Are you a member of any other trade organizations?
- Is this work going to be guaranteed? What are the terms of the guarantee? Is this guarantee renewable?
- How will I know if you've controlled the termites? Will you do a no charge follow-up inspection at the end of the guarantee period?
- Is the price you are giving me a firm quote or a ballpark estimate?
A good termite pro should be willing to address these questions for you squarely and honestly. If his answers to any of these questions leave you feeling uncomfortable or uncertain, keep shopping.
Ask yourself if the procedures that the professional is recommending make sense to you. If they don't make sense, don't sign a contract. If you don't understand what you are buying you may be in store for disappointment or hard feelings.
If the company does not include a follow-up service (at least an inspection at the end of the guarantee period) it may be difficult to know if their work actually controlled the termites. (See our Pictures from the Field page.)
The best way to protect yourself is to do exactly what you are doing right now. The fact that you are doing research about termites and termite control indicates that you are becoming an informed consumer. Keep it up!
Before you sign any contract ask the operator some hard questions about how he plans to do his work. He should be honest and frank with you. (If not, beware! Call someone else.) I look for several key points when deciding if a competitor knows what he's doing or not. Here they are:
- Hole spacing - This is the very first clue. Most termiticide labels call for drill holes to be 12" on center. This can be stretched or tightened up for differing soil conditions but generally 12" means the operator is following the label and taking the time to do a good job.
- Product choice - Termiticides may be repellant or non-repellant in their action. Repellant products are cheaper to use but they don't really kill very many of the termites. Instead they force the termites to change their feeding patterns into areas where the soil has not been treated. I've seen a lot of "call-backs" on these jobs. Non-repellant materials (such as Termidor®) actually kill the termites and the product doesn't disrupt their feeding patterns. Although more expensive to use, Termidor® has a devastating impact on the termite colony. As a result we have almost no call-backs with this product.
- Clean-up and patching - A professional termite treatment should not create more problems than it solves. When finished your home should look almost exactly the same as it did before the job (with the noted exception of the drill patches in the concrete abutting the exterior). Drop cloths should be put down over your carpets to protect them while work is being done inside the home. Interior drilling should be minimized and only done where there is a good reason to drill. Then the operator should plan the work so the drill holes are difficult (or impossible) to detect. Carpets that have been lifted should be reinstalled in a neat and professional manner following treatment.
- Beware of stand-alone baiting - This approach is heavily marketed by some major termite operations. It looks very attractive because it is done without disruption of your schedule. However, the results we have seen with this approach have left a lot to be desired. (Click this link to read our comments on baiting programs.) Stand-alone baiting programs can be very effective when dealing with Eastern Subterranean termites (r. flavipes) or Formosan subterranean termites (coptotermes). But for Western subs (r. hesperus) we rarely recommend stand-alone baiting programs.
This is the good news about termite control today. Modern chemistry has provided our industry with products to control subterranean termites that are a quantum leap ahead of the materials commonly used just 10 or 20 years ago. These products have extremely low odor (or no odor at all in some cases). The active ingredient in Termidor is used in some flea control products that are applied directly to the pet's skin! And, at Morse Termite and Pest Control, we've selected only the very best of these new materials for our work.
Fumigations for drywood termites are done using a product with a very long, well established history.
All of these products have been through extensive government supervised tests after many years of development. And all of the products we use are registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as well as the California Department of Pesticide Registration.
No, we can't quote termite work on the phone. If you believe you have a termite problem we'll need to make an appointment to look at your building. We'll want to look at what you are concerned about, determine the nature of construction of the building and take a few measurements. We need this information to figure out what work is required. With this information we can usually give you a firm price quote.
Yes, in most cases. The cost for a termite treatment or fumigation can usually be calculated based on a Limited Inspection. If you live within our service territory (eastern Fresno County) we will be happy to stop by at no charge and discuss your options with you.
If appropriate we'll do a Limited Inspection and provide you with a quote for termite control treatment. If we do a Limited Inspection you will receive a written report in the mail a few days after our visit. There will be no charge and you will be under no obligation of any kind.
Keep in mind that in some cases a Limited Inspection simply doesn't provide enough information for us to give you an accurate and complete quote. This is common when dealing with old houses, houses that have had a lot of remodeling done, or where there are construction related issues to be addressed. In these cases it is necessary to do a Complete Original Inspection before we can give a quote for all the work needed. If we need to do a Complete Original Inspection there will probably be a charge of $50.00 to $95.00 for that service. But you will never be charged any fees unless you have authorized them.
The cost of any work is determined by the size and complexity of the job. While a high price certainly doesn't guarantee a good job, a "too cheap" price usually indicates that some corners have been cut. I hate to see situtions where a homeowner has had to buy a second termite treatment for the same problem.
- Subterranean termite treatment costs can vary widely. The control measures needed may range from something as simple as a change in storage practices or other no cost solution to complex jobs that cost thousands of dollars. A spot treatment may cost $150 or more. A complete treatment of a typical, 1500 square foot, single family home on a slab floor might be between $650 and $1800 depending on who you hire. Assuming normal construction and floor coverings our jobs on homes this size typically run between $550 and $1100.
- Drywood Termite localized treatments can range from $150 and up depending on what needs to be done. Sometimes the customer can save some money by doing the removal and reinstallation of the siding or wallboard to provide our technician with the necessary access for treatment.
- Fumigations for Drywood termite control are based on the volume to be covered. Fumigations typically start at around $650 and go up from there based on size of the job. A house with a steeply pitched roof, patio covers and large eaves will have more volume than a low roofed house with no patio covers attached. Even with the same square footage the tall house will be more expensive to fumigate than the low roofed house.
Keep in mind that there may be other issues that are contributing to the termite problem. These are called "conducive conditions" and might include earth to wood contacts, excessive moisture conditions, inaccessible areas, etc. These conditions must also be considered as part of an overall termite control strategy and may add to the expense of controlling the problem.
It is customary to pay for services at the time they are done. We accept cash, check or any of the four major credit cards. If you own the property and your work is being done for an escrow transaction we normally offer 30 days free credit and bill your escrow account for the work.
I don't know of any law that requires a seller to get any inspections prior to the sale of a home. However, most home sales do involve various inspections. That is because these sales almost always involve a lender. The lending institutions are really the ones who are putting up the money for the purchase of the real property. The lenders want to protect their investments. To do this they generally want to know the condition of the properties for which they are lending money. As a result most residential real estate transactions end up getting an inspection, but not because the law requires it. Rather the inspection is done because the buyer or the buyer's lender requires it.
Many real estate transactions take place without any inspections at all. Often commercial or industrial properties are sold without inspections. Large properties, such as farms, etc. are frequently sold without inspections because the value of the house (or houses) on the property is simply incidental to the much larger value of the property as a whole. Additionally, cash residential sales when no lender is involved very frequently take place without inspections (or with an inspection but without the requirement that any work be done).
First, please understand that in the state of California there is really is no such thing as a "termite" inspection. The inspections done by Structural Pest Control Operators (like us) are actually Structural Pest Control Inspections. Our inspections are closely regulated by the Department of Consumer Affairs. The scope of the inspection is defined by the state law.
Our inspections involve all wood destroying pests and organisms and the conditions known to be conducive to the development of these pests and organisms. Basically that means we must inspect and report on the presence of termites (all three types), wood destroying beetles, carpenter ants, carpenter bees, and wood destroying fungi (such as brown rot, etc.). We must also report on excessive moisture conditions, cellulose debris, earth wood contacts, faulty grade levels, inaccessible areas, etc. To a limited extent our inspections may also include the general condition of the foundations and other parts of the structure.
An inspection may be a full inspection (where all accessible parts of the structure are inspected), or it may be a limited inspection. To learn about the different inspections and their scope and the fees associated with them, click this link: Inspections
The termite control industry is regulated by the State of California (just like contractors, mechanics, beauty parlors, etc.) Under the law a termite control professional must make an inspection and give you a written report before he/she can start any termite work on your property. There should be an inspection tag posted in the garage, attic or subarea.
Any contract you enter with a termite operator must be in writing and the terms of any guarantees clearly stated.
The company should post a completion tag following completion of the work. And you should receive a Standard Notice of Work Completed and Not Completed. This is not a bill, but rather a legal disclosure stating which items on your inspection report were completed and which were not completed by the termite control operator. We recommend that you keep all this documentation with your other important papers.
The Section I/Section II system is simply a way of sorting out the recommendations on an inspection report. The Structural Pest Control Act and the Rules and Regulations require that an inspection report be separated this way if the person who requested the report asks the pest control operator to issue a separated report. Many PCO's simply separate all the reports they issue. It is our policy that all the reports we issue are separated reports.
Section I conditions are conditions where there is an active infestation or infection of wood destroying organisms. Section I items also include damage done by active infestations/infections and the conducive conditions which lead to the active infestation or infection.
A Section II item is a condition that is conducive to wood decay, but where there was no evidence of an active infestation or infection present. A patio support post in direct earth contact, for example, is conducive to both termites and wood decay fungus, but if there is no wood decay in the wood, the earth contact is considered a Section II condition.
For further information on this subject you may go to our Helpful Links page and contact the Structural Pest Control Board.
Most termite operators are honest, hard working folks who genuinely want to do a good job for their customers. However, as in every industry, there will always be some who are better trained and/or more experienced than others. And, regrettably, as in every industry, there will always be that element of individuals with questionable ethics.
If you don't agree with the report a pest control operator issues you should make every effort to have those concerns addressed. Our first advice is that you contact the operator who did the inspection and ask him/her to show you the conditions you are questioning. If you need to get under the house to look at it, it might be worth your while to get (or borrow) a pair of coveralls. If you're not physically able to go under the house, get a relative or trusted friend to be a set of eyes for you.
Additionally, the conditions we (PCO's) must report are clearly defined in the Structural Pest Control Act and the Rules and Regulations adopted by the Structural Pest Control Board. Ask the inspector to show you the reference in the Rules and Regulations on which he is basing his findings and recommendations. If he can't do it, I would consider it a serious "red flag".
If you want to get a second opinion or a second quotation for work you are absolutely entitled to do so. Keep in mind that if you are selling the property the full disclosure requirements of the law may require you to provide a copy of both reports to the buyer. (Be sure to discuss the full disclosure requirement with your attorney and/or realtor.)
For specific information about your rights you should consult an attorney with expertise in real estate law. Generally, though, as a buyer you are entitled to obtain second opinions related to any reports related to a property you are considering purchasing. You will probably be required to pay for those second opinions yourself, but, considering what is at stake, an inspection fee is usually pretty insignificant.
While you are considering your options there are a couple of things you may want to keep in mind. First, understand that a real estate agent is a salesperson who depends on commissions for their living. The seller and the seller’s real estate agent have a financial interest in minimizing the costs associated with the sale of the property. And most real estate agents know which companies to recommend to their clients, and which ones to avoid. Some termite control companies have the reputation of “working with” the realtor so they can get their deals done; while other companies are “The company to call only if you have a dispute or a fussy buyer”.
Even when dealing with honest people, there can be big differences in competency between inspectors. I have seen many situations where there were thousands of dollars difference in the work recommended on a property between two company’s reports. If you are considering paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a property, do you want to simply rely on a company that the seller’s realtor recommended?
If you are buying an older property it might be wise to obtain a second opinion from a company with a reputation for doing tough inspections. Even if you have to pay $75 - $125 for another report, that small investment may save you thousands of dollars in the end. Your company’s report may end up looking just like the seller’s company’s report. Or, it may look significantly different. In the first case you have gained some peace of mind. In the second case, you may save yourself some major financial grief.
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