Regular termite inspections to prevent any issues or termite extermination to eliminate and protect your home
There are two main species of termites that affect U.S. homes: termites that live underground (subterranean termites) and those that live entirely in wood (drywood termites). Subterranean termites build colonies in the soil, whereas drywood termites can be found in the framing, furniture and hardwood flooring of homes. Both species of termites tend to be most active in areas with warmer climates, although subterranean termites can be found in every state in the U.S., except Alaska. While you likely aren’t concerned with differentiating between the two species of termites – as termite damage of any kind is a threat to your home – a termite specialist will need to identify the species to effectively treat an infestation.
Although many people believe that termites are only active in the spring, termites are actually active throughout the year. Swarms, the most visible sign of termite activity, occur most often in the spring, but detecting the less obvious signs of an infestation could save you a lot of money and stress. Be sure to partner with a trusted professional and watch for signs of termite damage, including:• Hollow-sounding wood: Termites prefer to be in dark, humid environments, so they do not typically feed on the surface of wood, where they would be visible to the human eye. In fact, the wood’s surface might appear smooth, even if termites are inflicting damage. If wood sounds hollow when tapped, it may be because termites are eating the wood from the inside out.• Groups of winged insects (“swarmers”) or discarded wings: Reproductive termites called swarmers take flight to create new colonies. Subterranean termites typically swarm in the spring, whereas drywood swarms are less predictable. If you see a swarm of insects or groups of discarded wings, call a termite specialist to inspect.• Cracked or distorted paint on wood surfaces: Swarming drywood termites can enter through openings smaller than the edge of a dime, so monitor and seal any cracks in the home’s foundation and near roof siding, vents and windows.• Mud tubes on exterior walls: Subterranean termites build mud tubes on surfaces, such as a home’s foundation, to provide moisture while they are searching for food. Store mulch, firewood and wood chips away from the home to avoid creating moisture-rich habitats for termites to survive and thrive.• Frass: Drywood termites produce wood-colored droppings called frass as they eat their way through infested wood. Keep gutters, downspouts and crawl spaces free of debris and cellulose materials to prevent food sources for termites.
Termites pose a serious threat to your biggest investment – your home. If you suspect termite activity, first call a licensed pest management company to complete an inspection. A termite specialist can recommend a customized treatment and prevention plan that may involve liquid repellants, wood treatments, baits and if necessary bariar treatments.
Termite swarms occur when mature, winged adult termites, called alates, emerge from their colony via exits called flight slits in an effort to find a place to reproduce and establish a new colony. These alates generally only fly about 600-900 feet from their nest. Basically, they don’t get very far before they fall to the ground, shedding their wings.
Termite swarms can happen at any time of the year and day depending on the termite species. A lot of subterranean termites swarm in the spring following a rain. Many subterranean species like the Eastern Subterranean Termite and the Western Subterranean Termite swarm during daylight hours. Formosan Subterranean Termites often swarm during warm evenings in late Spring or early Summer.
While a swarm doesn’t necessarily mean you have an infestion, it can mean an established colony is nearby. Also, it is not uncommon to find several dead termite swarmers in your house. However, be cautious when you find hundreds of termite swarmers, as it could mean the swarm emerged from inside your home. Regardless, swarms are definitely one of the six signs of termites.
Discarded Termite Wings
Termites discard their wings after swarming.
Discarded termite wings are another obvious sign of a potential termite infestation. Following a termite swarm, alates that have fallen to the ground after leaving their original colony shed their wings. They do this before moving into small crevices or other potential nest locations to mate and begin a new colony. Often, discarded termite wings are the only sign you may have that a swarm occurred nearby. You might expect to see several near windows or doors and light fixtures.
Termite Shelter Tubes
Termite Shelter Tube
Termite build shelter tubes out of saliva, mud, wood and feces in order to protect them from the elements as they forage for food.
Because subterranean termites require a moist environment, they will build mud shelter tubes to enclose their trails. This is to protect them from the elements and predation as workers move to and from a food source. Mud shelter tubes are built using a combination of saliva, soil, feces, and maybe even bits of drywall.
Homeowners will generally find termite shelter tubes along the external walls of their home or in crawl spaces. Sometimes, a long-established termite infestation can result in mud shelter tubes being constructed along internal walls.
When a homeowner or pest management professional encounters termite shelter tubes, they can be sure it is one of the sings of termites. These tubes will fall into three different categories, with a fourth that serves a very specif purpose:
Flight Slits or Swarming Tubes
Working shelter tubes connect the termite nest to a wooden structure. These indicate a food source was identified and serve as the termite highway. These can travel up concrete or stone foundations.
Exploratory termite shelter tubes, or migratory tubes, will rise from soil but generally don’t connect to a wood structure. Basically, termite workers are foraging for food sources and these shelter tubes keep those search parties safe. If a source of wood is found, the termites will build more permanent working tubes.
Sometimes termites don’t return to the nest via their entry point. Instead, they will build drop tubes extending down from the structural wood to the soil. These termite shelter tubes can resemble stalactites hanging from the ceiling of a cave. Drop shelter tubes will usually be lighter in color than working tubes because they will be constructed using more of the wood from the structure they are exiting, rather than from soil.
Flight slits are built seasonally for a very specific purpose. Also known as swarming tubes, these allow exit of winged reproductives during a swarm leaving the colony to establish new nests. Swarming tubes generally extend only 4 – 8 inches above ground, though there can be unique characteristics in these depending on the species of termites.