When you have built your dream home and furnished it beautifully, the last thing you need is an army of tiny invaders undermining your structure and damaging your possessions. Every year, about 600,000 American homes suffer a termite (or white ant) infestation, resulting in a cost of more than $5 billion. That’s a hefty bill for an avoidable problem. However, anyone can solve and prevent termite infestations by following some simple guidelines. Here’s how:

Locate the Problem and Let Battle Commence

The first thing to do if you suspect a termite infestation is to find out where the problem lies. The places to look are any parts of your home with large amounts of wood. Prime candidates include the attic, where beams and struts could be exposed, as well as flooring and columns downstairs.

Take a hammer and gently tap the wooden surface, listening closely as you go. If it sounds hollow, that may well be an indication that white ants have burrowed into the wood, weakening it from the inside. In some extreme cases, the wood may be flaking and the whole structure could be in jeopardy.

Ninety percent of termites in the United States are of the “subterranean” variety. These guys give you a sign of their presence by leaving dark trails wherever they tunnel. Look for pencil-thick lines streaking across your wood. They aren’t part of the natural grain. Instead, they are an indicator that urgent action is required.

Use Biological Tools To Combat Termites

The most effective way to deal with subterranean termites is by using the power of nature. Although it might seem strange at first, most pest control experts recommend using beneficial nematode worms to hunt down and consume the termites. These microscopic worms will not harm you or your family, but they will target white ants, which are their preferred host. In two days, they should have made a huge dent in your infestation problems.

You can buy nematodes in packages, available in sizes for home and garden use, and spray them in the yard or your interiors. Subterranean termites tend to thrive in compost and garden soil, so├é┬áconcentrate your efforts there. However, remember to use nematodes properly. They don’t tolerate UV light well, so apply them in the evening and let them work their magic overnight.

Burn Your White Ant Blues Away With Boric Acid

If you don’t think the nematodes are working, don’t worry; there are plenty of other weapons at your disposal. One of the most effective is boric acid, a natural mild acid that will break down the bodies of insect pests. Simply spraying boric acid onto your wooden pillars or beams will provide long-lasting protection. It’s a good idea to check all structural elements regularly and give them a refresher coat every few months.

If you suspect termite infestation in your yard, boric acid “traps” can be set outside as well. The best material to use is ordinary cardboard, which termites adore. Just apply boric acid to sheets of cardboard and pile some layers in your yard; the critters will not be able to resist. Always take care to keep the acid away from pets and children, as it can be toxic. Wear gloves and a mask as well, to be extra safe.

Take the Organic Route to A Termite-Free Home

If you aren’t comfortable with acid or nematodes, there are other natural solutions to try. Essential oils can be applied to vulnerable wooden surfaces. Clove oil is particularly effective. Just take a generous helping of clove oil and use a rag to apply it evenly across the wood, or use a mist sprayer to do the job more quickly.

If you can, grow aloe vera plants on a windowsill or in your yard. In addition to their medicinal uses, these cacti are natural pest killers. You can apply aloe sap directly to surfaces, or you can also use powdered aloes in a sprayer. Making powder at home is possible, but time consuming, so you may want to use store-bought aloe vera powder instead.

Only Choose Wood That Has Been Chemically Treated

One of the best ways to prevent a termite infestation is to use wood that has been pre-treated to repel tiny invaders. This may not be applicable to homeowners, but if you are building new features for your home or building from scratch, it makes sense to use the right materials.

Use wood coatings containing borate salts, which are linked to boric acid and have a low toxicity level (although again, keep them away from children and pets). Used properly, the substance will permeate the wood and keep every square inch safe from termite invasion.

Avoid the stress, property damage, and cost of a large-scale termite infestation by following these suggestions. If you survey your property regularly and know what to look for, you will be able to deal with termites before they take over. If they do appear, with the right countermeasures, you can prevent serious damage, and with some foresight, you can prevent future infestations as well.