Los Angeles homeowners have more than a few reasons to knock on wood.
The City of Angels topped the list of the country’s most termite-infested metropolitan areas, according to a recent report by pest control company Orkin. LA defeated perennial champion Miami to take the dubious honor for the first time with Washington, DC; Tampa, Florida; and Chicago round out the top five.
Termite infestations can cause dangerous — and expensive to repair — structural damage to homes if the problem isn’t treated.
The list was based on metropolitan areas (that’s the city and surrounding towns and suburbs) where Orkin performed the most first termite treatments between February 1, 2021 and January 31, 2022.
The “winners” of this year’s list all shared a similar climate that made them ideal homes for both underground (in the ground) and drywood termite species.
“Miami and Los Angeles are very similar as coastal cities,” says entomologist Orkin Glen Ramsey. “Both have underground and dry wood [termites]so that termite activity is increased. High humidity, high soil moisture, will increase the ability of termites to survive in larger numbers.”
Termites are attracted to sources of cellulose, including the wood in houses. They range from 1/16th of an inch to about an inch in length. However, this small size does not mean that they pose a completely hidden threat. Termite infestations show telltale signs that can be spotted with a little vigilance.
Drywood termites create holes in the wood they eat and dump a pile of pellets through the hole. Subterranean termites build burrows of mud from the ground to the wood that can be spotted along the foundation of a house.
Even well-hidden termites will show signs of their presence such as warped floors, wavy paint, and hollow-sounding wood in the areas where they feed.
Fortunately, there are steps homeowners can take to make even the hidden parts of their home less appetizing to these pests. Ensuring that moisture doesn’t collect around your home’s foundation is a good way to repel termite species that need moist soil to thrive.
Regular inspections of a home’s exterior can help catch termites before they become a scourge.
“One good thing homeowners can do is just inspect their yard,” says Truly Nolen Pest Control branch manager Ed Baker. He lives in Pompano Beach, FL. “Especially in my garden, I noticed that my fence was starting to crumble. When I looked very closely, I saw that there were termites in there. If you have stumps around the property you can drill into them and see as well [if there are] termites inside.
Discovering termites in your home is not the end of the world. Termites consume wood relatively slowly. It takes about five months for 60,000 termites to eat two feet off a two by four cylinder. A few days difference between detection and treatment won’t hurt much.
“You don’t have to do anything today to prevent further damage,” says Ramsey. “The best thing you can do is write down where you’ve seen termite activity, for when pest control comes around.”