I jut recently purchased a house that came with a long running termite bond and termite trap program installed outside. When painting the living room, I noticed some soft spots in the drywall. After poking it a little with my finger, a whole section of the drywall crumbled away. Termites. Luckily for me they are no longer active but I’m going to have to do a lot of replacement of studs and sheet rock as they have been found in at least three areas in the living room.
It reminded me of an instance of termites in an RV we had that came into our shop here at Coach Specialists in Dallas Texas. This particular owner was a full-time RV’er and left his unit parked in various areas of the country for extended periods of time. So I thought it was timely to write a new post about termites in RV’s as the summer months wind down, and some RV’s begin to get parked for longer periods of time.
First of all the answer is YES, you can get termites in an RV.
No matter what your RV is made of, whether it is fiberglass composite or old-fashioned aluminum like a vintage Winnebago, your RV is constructed of wood in some fashion. You subflooring, interior walls and even some areas of laminated panels in the belly of the RV, motor coach or 5th wheel camper has wood construction and could get a termite infestation.
There are two major “types” of termites in the U.S.
1. Subterranean Termites. To survive, these termites require a water source and constant contact with the soil. The colony is buried in the soil, and the workers will invade a structure to feed on wood and then return to the ground. These colonies can be very far away, even across the street.
Subterranean termites need water to keep from drying out, and they need shelter to protect themselves from temperature extremes and attack by such natural enemies as ants and other insects. Termites can breach your RV structure above ground and protect themselves with shelter tubes that they create often called, mud tubes. Worker termites build the tubes from particles of soil or wood and bits of debris held together by salivary secretions. The tubes may be thinly constructed or large and thick-walled to accommodate many termites moving vertically between the soil and the food source.
In my house, the termites built these mud tubes behind the sheet rock and all through the insulation, so they were not seen at all until I pulled the sheet rock down. However, they did eat through and build tunnels inside the sheetrock. This is how they can go unnoticed in a home or even an RV.
Shelter tubes often are used to bridge masonry or other objects, allowing termites’ access to a food source above ground.
2. Drywood Termites: These pests do not require contact with the soil and will live and continue to do damage even if the RV is moved. They are normally found in a 50-100-mile band around costal areas from South Carolina around the southern U.S. up to California. They are also very prevalent in Hawaii. They are seldom found in other states but can show up in wooden items such as in furniture, or even RV’s as they traveled from an area where they are prevalent. If you have been camping in your RV in one of these coastal areas such as Florida, this is likely how these termites found their way into your RV.
The bottom line is, termites are everywhere, not just in Florida. There are termites in Texas too.
How to remedy an RV termite invasion
The first thing to determine is the actual “type” of termites. The easiest way is to take some sample insects to the local agricultural office. They can I.D. them for you.
IF you have dry wood termites, you will need a professional pest control service. The RV will need to be tented with a large trap and a fumigated, usually for 24 hours, to kill the termites. You cannot legally or safely do this yourself. Professional exterminators, using the proper equipment, must perform this fumigation, as it can be deadly to humans
If you have subterranean termites, you might not need an exterminator, because of the termites constant need to be connected with the colony in the soil. Breaking this contact by moving the RV or camper, will stop them from entering, and the workers in the trailer will die. You can easily do this by moving the trailer a few miles down the road. If you cannot move the unit, a professional can treat the soil around it to prevent the termites from entering.
If you want to determine the extent of the damage from an active colony, you can get an exterminator to perform an infrared scan of the RV unit to look for heat maps of activity.
Repairing a termite damaged RV
The first thing you will want to do is check your insurance policy and specifically the check out your comprehensive “named perils and exclusions.”
While I can’t speak for all policies out there, the bad news is that damage by pests and vermin are not a covered loss. To the insurance company, this is considered a maintenance issue and the Insurance company expects you to keep your RV clear of any pollution, vice, or infestation that will damage it.
No insurance company in the world offers coverage for every conceivable physical risk to the RV.
If you have subterranean termites in your RV, you also have another problem: Termites require a water source, therefore you have, or have had, a leak.
The bottom line is if your RV has had a termite infestation, you really need to bring the RV into a reputable RV repair shop to give it a thorough inspection. Unlike homes where pressure treated lumber is used, and masonry can prevent the spread, once termites are inside your RV, they can make fast work of the unit. This could even compromise the structural integrity. On one of the studs under the window in my home, and the entire stud was merely thin paper, which was all that was left holding up my window.
A qualified RV repair shop will be able to check your structure, search for any leaks, and give you an estimate to repair the RV back to the safe and useable condition.