Homes in Phoenix, Arizona have little to worry about in terms of natural disasters. While Oklahoma residents are at risk for tornadoes, Florida residents have to keep an eye on the weather for hurricane watches, and Californians might get devastating earthquakes, Phoenix gets little more than extreme heat. Of course the occasional summer storm might blow a few roofs off of houses, but the damage rarely costs lives the way Midwestern storms do.

What Phoenix does have are termites. While a fast, catastrophic natural disaster will destroy a home in a manner of minutes, termites can do the same thing over several years, without the homeowner know that it is happening. While spraying for termites is a good way to prevent and kill their colonies, doing this often is expensive and bad for the environment. Furthermore, because of regulations on pesticides, it is not always possible to deal with the problem fully. A much better solution is to prevent the problem from occurring in the first place by discouraging termites.

Termites in Phoenix are subterranean. This means that they primarily live in underground burrow like ants. Deep under the desert soil, termites have a queen, who lays thousands of eggs per day. These eggs hatch and become workers or soldiers who must then eat. Termites are able to eat wood because of a certain bacteria that grows in their gut, and to find wood, they build exploratory tunnels. These tunnels, when venturing above ground, become mud tubes. A clue that a house may be invested with termites is a series of mud tubes leading from the ground, up the foundation of a home and disappearing into the walls. Scrape this tube away, and often a flurry of termites will appear. Soldiers will attempt to attack whatever disturbed the peace, and workers will begin repairing the damage.

To discourage termites, it’s important to remove any food source that they might be attracted to. Don’t store wood in contact with the ground. Clean up any leaf litter, especially near the house. Avoid planting trees and shrubs immediately adjacent to the home, since when these plants die, their roots become food for the termites. It’s also important to keep water away from the house for two reasons. One is that the water will encourage weed growth, which as mentioned eventually translates to underground wood. The second reason is that termites will tend to seek out any water or moisture in the ground. While they live comfortably in the desert, they prefer moist soil to build their nests in.

It’s also a good idea to keep wicker outdoor furniture on patios. If kept in grass or on dirt, wicker furniture may attract termites, since it is similar to wood in composition. This is doubly true if the feet of the furniture is allowed to get wet.