Termite Detection and Signs
Detecting Termite Damage in Your Home
Termite treatment and repairs for damage cost billions of dollars in the U.S. every year, by some estimates, more than $5 billion. Despite the fact that termite colonies can grow quite large, it can be difficult for homeowners to detect termite infestations without professional help.
Subterranean termite colonies may nest close to your home or as far away as 18 inches below your home's foundation, while drywood termite colonies can thrive undetected inside your home's walls. Qualified termite experts are trained to identify signs of a termite infestation and provide treatment to control these pests.
How to Detect Termites
Homeowners should partner with their termite specialist to regularly monitor for termite activity and use control methods, when necessary. Regular termite inspections are crucial for your specialist to detect termite warning signs and apply treatment, if needed.
Pile of dead termites on a kitchen floor.
Termite experts understand the biology and behavior of each termite species, and know where termites are likely to nest and feed in and around your home. Qualified specialists also understand the latest termite control methods and have access to inspection and treatment equipment that can help protect your home.
During an inspection, your termite professional will review common termite entry points and look for signs of an infestation. After your inspection, you should receive a report highlighting what activity was found (if any) and recommendations to prevent termite infestations. Implementing the right prevention program on the front-end can save you time and money versus dealing with an infestation and termite damage after the colony has grown.
Many termite experts also are knowledgeable about home construction and can provide suggestions for how you can help reduce conditions that allow termites to thrive. Two key home maintenance issues you can focus on include reducing excess moisture that can build up around your home (e.g. near the foundation, A/C units, etc.) and reducing wood-to-ground contact (e.g. mulch too close to the home, debris in crawl spaces).
Signs of Termites
Termite inspectors will look for warning signs of termites, including mud tubes, termite droppings, exit or kick out holes, bubbling or peeling paint, and wood damage. A pest control expert also can distinguish between swarming termites and flying ants, and accurately identify damage from termites versus other wood-destroying insects.
Termite swarms may take place inside or outside of a home as mature termites leave the nest to start new colonies. Soon after swarmers take flight, they shed their wings. You may find small piles of wings in spider webs and on surfaces around your home’s foundation, like window sills.
Swarmers from mature colonies typically leave the nest at one of two times per year – during the spring or during the fall. The exact timing of the swarms varies based on the species and weather conditions. Swarms on the exterior of a home may be missed by homeowners, as they are typically a brief event during the morning or afternoon – a time when many people are not at home. Formosan termites also can swarm at dusk.
Subterranean termites build mud tubes (also known as shelter tubes) to serve as bridges between their colony and the wood they consume. These tubes are made of tiny pieces of soil, wood and debris, and are used to protect the colony from predators and conserve moisture.
While termites in the United States cause billions of dollars in damage every year, no North American termite species is known to build mounds. Termites that construct their colonies above ground live primarily in Africa and Australia.
After consuming wood, drywood termites often leave behind frass or droppings. These tiny fecal mounds often indicate a nearby termite infestation.
Termite Damage: Subterranean Termites
Subterranean termites create a distinctive honeycomb pattern in damaged wood, forming tunnels inside the softer spring wood and leaving the external grain intact. Seriously damaged wood breaks easily to show the inside of mud- or soil-filled termite galleries.
Subterranean termites damage wood according to a distinctive pattern. These cellulose-loving insects can leave nothing behind but the wood grain.
Subterranean termite damage may be hidden inside the walls of a home since this species destroys wood from the inside out.
Termite Damage: Drywood Termites
With their smaller colony size, drywood termites typically cause slower, less severe damage than subterranean termites. Drywood termite damage often is first identified by the piles of small, hard fecal pellets the termites leave behind, called frass.
Termite Damage: Dampwood Termites
Dampwood termites rarely attack structures. When these termites do attack a structure, little damage is visible to the eye.