How Do You Know if You Have Termites?

How to Check for Termites in the Home

In the United States, termites do more damage to homes every year than all reported natural disasters combined. Spotting infestations before they get serious can help homeowners guard their houses against future problems. Through careful inspection, residents are able to catch pest activity early on. Flying swarmers, wood damage, and shelter tubes are all clear signs that termites are present.

Look for Flying Swarmers

Termite colonies’ reproductive members, or swarmers, take flight in large groups during the summer to look for places to start new settlements. Winged insects emerging from soil or wood is the easiest way to tell whether termites are active nearby. Even if residents don’t notice the pests, their cast-off wings are often left on the floor around doors or windowsills. Since they are drawn to light, these are common entry and exit points.

Identify Damaged Wood

The various kinds of termites damage homes differently. Drywood termites live in moist, tropical zones and leave piles of wood powder or pellets where they burrow. They can also cause wood to take on a blistered appearance by tunneling too close to the surface.

Dampwood termite damage comes in the form of wood that feels soft to the touch. Additionally, moisture-damaged wood is most susceptible to dampwood termite infestation. Wood infested by dampwood termites generally shows no external damage because openings in the wood are plugged with fecal material.

Finally, subterranean termites are much more common. They cannot live in the open air, so they build galleries within timber. Wood that looks fine on the outside may be riddled with tunnels on the inside. To check if an area is infested, tap or probe it with a screwdriver. Severely damaged timber sounds hollow and is easy to pierce. Untreated or moist wood that touches the soil is most likely to be affected. Formosan termites are predominantly soil-residing termites but do form aerial nests.

Notice Shelter Tubes

Termites also build shelter tubes (mud tubes) out of dirt and wood particles that are cemented together by their saliva and other liquids. Their mud tubes allow them to move between their nests and feeding sites without dehydrating. The tubes are about the width of a pencil and brown in color. They are commonly found on foundation walls or slabs, crawl space piers, attics, and floor joists. They may run along flat surfaces or hang down vertically.

To tell whether the termites that built these tubes are still around, scrape off a piece of the mud tube. If the pests later repair the tunnel or build a new one, an active colony is present.

Termite Inspection & Removal

Many of these tests are easy for homeowners to do on their own. However, since professional pest control technicians have extensive knowledge about termite biology, habits, and building methods, they can perform more complete and efficient examinations. They also have the best tools to find termite nests, determine the extent of the damage, and provide termite control.