Safely Cutting Down and Disposing of a Tree With Termites

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When a tree is infested with pests, you must act to save it as quickly as possible before the damage becomes irreversible. In some cases, however, the tree will be a lost cause, and you must then act to have it removed before the infestation—be it of fungus, bacteria, or harmful insects—spreads to surrounding plants.

One of the biggest challenges you can face, however, is cutting down a tree with termites. This is because the very act of cutting the tree down can cause the termites to flee, where they’ll take refuge not only in other nearby trees but possibly in your house itself.

In this article, we’ll discuss the steps you need to take to safely cut down and dispose of a tree that has become infested by termites.

Termites: How to Recognize Them

If you have a tree that’s under attack by termites, chances are you might not see the insects themselves but only the telltale signs of their presence. You might see the fecal pellets they deposit in an area, which are small, white, and seed-like in appearance. If you see these scattered around your tree, it can indeed mean that a colony of termites has moved in. Termite holes in the tree are another warning sign, as they will indicate that these pests are boring through the wood of your tree.

Other signs to watch out for include discarded wings lying around anywhere—termites grow wings temporarily when they are establishing a new colony—or mud tubes built near trees or other sources of wood. Of course, it’s also possible you may notice the insects themselves as they go about their damaging work.

At first glance, termites are similar in appearance to ants, being about the same size and similar in structure. Unlike ants, however, termites do not have a thin waste. Their thorax and abdomen connect without narrowing. Termites also have straight antennae, while those of an ant with be segmented and angled.

There are several different types of termites that you’ll see when they’ve moved into your property. The ones that appear similar to ants are winged termites. These are red or black in color. Worker termites do not have wings and are a creamy white color. Soldier termites are similar to workers but larger and with large mandibles on their heads. Finally, you may see a massive queen termite or king termite, which grows as large as an inch long.

Can My Tree Be Saved?

In some cases, you may be able to save a tree that’s come under attack by termites if you act fast. The bark serves as a layer of protection for the tree, and the termites will have to get through that as they make their way toward the heartwood of the tree. Once they reach the heartwood, the tree will be irreparably damaged and will likely die. At that point, the only thing to do is to prevent the spread of termites further.

Note that termites usually won’t bother with a tree that’s healthy and strong. They much prefer to nest in trees that are already decaying and dying. Even if you remove the termites from your tree, it may have other problems that you’ll need to address if you are to save the tree.

If you do notice the early stages of a termite attack, your best bet is to apply a pesticide designed for use on trees. This usually comes as a liquid termiticide spray but may also come in the form of traps or other pesticides. Apply it around the base of the tree and in other parts of the yard that you feel are at risk, and this should help to eliminate any pest insects that have moved in.

If You Need to Remove the Tree

If you do decide that the tree cannot be saved or that the risk of the termites spreading is too great, you can begin the process of removing the tree. Cutting down a tree with termites is a task that must be undertaken with great care because, if the termites are able to, they will move into other surrounding trees or even your home.

Before you remove the tree, apply pesticide as needed to the area and then prepare to cut the tree down. Make sure that you have appropriate safety equipment to get the job done: long sleeves, closed-toe shoes, long pants, and hearing and eye protection are a must. If you need to climb, a ladder or climbing harness is of equal importance.

You may need to prune the branches from the tree before making any cuts. If that’s the case, make sure that you take extra care, as they may have been weakened due to the termite activity. Always have an escape route or two planned for when the tree finally comes down.

When the tree falls, make sure that you minimize the amount of time it is in contact with the ground. The longer it sits, the more likely it is that termites will escape and move into another area in your yard. The stump should be removed as quickly as possible as well—saturate it with termiticide first—and never, ever burn the stump to remove it. Not only will burning it not kill the termites within, but it will force them to seek shelter elsewhere, which means somewhere in the surrounding area.

Getting the Tree Disposed of Quickly

Cutting down a tree with termites has to be done quickly, before the infestation can spread. The same is true of the disposal process. It should be done swiftly. You will need to cut the body of the tree up and have it placed in a dumpster and removed from your yard.

Often, it’s a good idea to call in a tree service for the disposal portion of the job. Companies such as Mr. Tree can perform every element of the task, including disposal and stump removal. They can also apply pesticides to help to prevent the infestation from spreading into other areas.

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