It can be a devastating experience to find termite holes in a beloved tree. Your heart will drop into your stomach as you worry that your favorite backyard fixture is now damaged beyond repair. What’s even worse, of course, is the thought that the termites won’t stop there. They’ll spread to neighboring trees and may even move into your house, causing thousands of dollars in property damage.
But is this seemingly unstoppable termite rampage a foregone conclusion? Or is there a way you can save your trees, even after you’ve already discovered the tell-tale signs of a termite colony chewing their way through the wood? Read on for our thoughts on the subject.
How to Identify the Presence of Termites
Of course, simply finding holes in a tree doesn’t necessarily indicate the presence of termites. Plenty of other things can bore into the trunk of a tree without causing catastrophic damage. That’s why it’s important to be able to identify the exact signs that indicate the presence of a termite colony. First, termites are very small, and so the holes they leave will only be around 1/8 of an inch in diameter. Larger holes than that are most likely caused by something else. If there are indeed termites in your tree, you may also notice their familiar, sawdust-like droppings scattered around the base of your tree trunk.
You might occasionally see termites themselves as well. They look similar to ants and are around the same size, although there are a few key differences in their appearance. Instead of being black or red, like an ant is, termites are more of a transparent, creamy color. Their antennae are straighter than those of ants, and they lack the narrow “waist” area that ants have. Like some species of ants, termites often have wings.
Termites are also capable of making noises to communicate with each other. They will actually bang their heads up against the tunnels they have made, creating a distinctive clicking sound. You may be able to hear this noise if you put your ear up to your tree trunk.
Getting Rid of an Infestation
Of course, the first step in rescuing your tree from termite damage is to get rid of the termites themselves. This should be done quickly and without hesitation because, as we’ve already mentioned, termites can spread very easily into the surrounding area. This will put other trees as well as your home itself at risk.
If you don’t want to risk harming your tree, your best option is to contact a tree service such as Mr. Tree and ask them to handle the job for you. Of course, it’s also possible to DIY your termite removal, but you must do so with great care.
Your first step will be to prune away any infested branches and limbs. This can be a big job in and of itself. Make sure you have the proper equipment when climbing into a tree, and take extra care not to put any weight on limbs that may have been weakened by termite damage. Once again, if you’re not certain you can do this job yourself safely, contact a professional.
A chemical termiticide will be your next step. Start by spraying it in the termite holes in the tree, before moving on to the surrounding area. Spread the pesticide around the base of the tree, and if you’re worried that the infestation has spread, don’t forget to check the other trees in the area as well.
After spreading your pesticide, make sure to check back on the tree regularly. Chances are, you managed to kill off the infestation the first time. However, if you did not, the nest can rebound fast, so act quickly to eliminate any signs of the termite population recovering.
Act Quickly to Save Your Tree
It’s not always possible to save a tree that has termite holes in it. The fact is that termites often only move in once the wood is already dead. If this is the case, the termite holes in your tree are just a sign and your tree is already beyond repair. This isn’t necessarily an inevitability, though. Termites will occasionally move into an otherwise healthy, living tree. One of the most common, and feared, termite varieties are Formosan termites, which are responsible for devastating many different tree populations across the country.
If you can get rid of the termites in time, you’ll find that your tree has a remarkable ability to heal itself and bounce back from the damage. However, it’s critical that you work to make sure your tree stays healthy so that it can heal effectively as well as avoid becoming susceptible to another infestation, whether from termites, bacteria, fungus, or other insects.
It’s possible to buy wound dressing, often a specialized type of paint, to protect damaged areas of your tree. Placing this around the termite holes in tree limbs and branches can prevent further decay. You’ll also want to prune away limbs and branches that are damaged beyond repair.
Where to Go for Further Questions
If you need assistance with pest control, tree pruning, or other tree-related problems, it’s a good idea to have a quality arborist on speed dial. In the Portland area, Mr. Tree is the best option, with highly experienced, licensed professionals who will help keep your trees healthy and in good condition for many years.
If the worst occurs and you are unable to save your tree, a good arborist can also help you remove the dead tree and plant a new one in its place. They will then help to care for your new tree from its first days as a sapling. They will also be able to help you avoid termite damage to surrounding plants and keep the infestation from spreading into your home or other nearby buildings.