Alibi V.24 No.24 • June 11-17, 2015 

The Bugman

This “Mite” Save You

I have talked about termites in the past, and I will again in this column because all the recent rain has really got them activated. I turned over several pieces of wood in my yard recently, and there was a lot of termite activity. First, I want to focus on the species of termites we have in New Mexico. The eastern subterranean termite (Reticulitermes flavipes) is found in most of the eastern and central United States and as far west as eastern New Mexico. I have found them in Moriarty, and there is a single area in Albuquerque where they are found, and that is the Princess Jeanne neighborhood. This termite is very destructive. The pest industry likes to say that termites do more damage than all the hurricanes, tornadoes and fires combined. That may be close with the eastern termite. The most common termite in New Mexico is the arid-land termites (Reticulitermes tibialis), and it’s not very destructive at all compared to other species. They will get in homes, eat the back of Sheetrock and do minor damage to wall studs and sill plates, but rarely do substantial damage to a home. Nobody wants termites in their home, and they should get them removed, but it is not something that you have to drop everything to do. If you are planning on selling your home, then you need to act as soon as possible because nobody wants to buy a house with any kind of termite in it.

When I do real estate WDO (Wood Destroying Organisms) inspections and find termite activity, I always put the specific name of the termite on the report, including the scientific name. I want the seller, buyer and realtors to know that this should be taken care of, but it isn't an emergency, and major damage isn't likely. If the home is in the Princess Jeanne area, then it probably has eastern termites, and that is serious. I would recommend identifying the species that is found. I also put the scientific name of any woodboring beetles I find, so anyone involved in the sale of the house can find more information about the pest and what should be done. Of course I also recommend that when you get a termite inspection, especially for a real estate sale, you get an inspector who doesn't work for a termite company and who doesn't have a vested interest in finding termites or beetles. If you have a company you like servicing your home, then there is no problem letting them inspect for termites. Hopefully, they won't try to scare you into doing something right away because it is an “emergency.” There is also a species of drywood termite found in the Albuquerque area, and I have seen two cases of it on the West Mesa. If you get your home inspected for termites, make sure they know how to find drywood termites.

Also, if you are buying a home, make sure you get a real estate WDO report done. This will include dry rot. Decay fungi (dry rot) can cause severe structural damage to any wood member. If the conditions are ideal, fungi will feed on wood and anything made from wood or natural cellulose fibers. All that is needed is a source of moisture and having the wood reach about a 20-percent moisture saturation level. Dry rot is a serious problem in parts of the country that are much more humid than we are here, and is not very common in New Mexico. There can be wood decay if some piece of wood was exposed to a lot of moisture, but normally, it won't spread and become a decay fungi. When I do WDOs for a realtor, I will point out areas of wood decay, but I won't list it as dry rot unless there is a steady source of moisture. If there is a steady source of moisture, then a preservative should be used to get the moisture problem fixed.

How common are termites in the Albuquerque area? Very common. I would suspect that if every yard in Albuquerque had wood laying on the ground, almost all of them will show signs of termite activity. Termites are attracted to slab homes because of the moisture under the slab. The arid-land subterranean termite normally lives in dry areas, but they need moisture, and homes are a source of moisture. Once under a house, they will look for sources of food, and if they find their way into a house via an expansion joint, they will normally start feeding on the Sheetrock and the lower portions of a stud or sill plate. You will see soft spots in the Sheetrock where there may be termite activity. In some cases there is enough buried wood or dead stumps in an area to keep the termites from entering a home. If a slab home has a monolithic slab (no expansion joints), that is also helpful.

Basically, because of the weather activity, it would be a good idea to get a termite inspection, but just make sure that who you call is knowledgeable. If you have termites, there is no reason to panic. It is not an emergency. If you have any pest questions, you can contact me at askthebugman2013@gmail.com or call me at 385-2820.