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How to Tell if Termites are in Your Home

The most feared insect for many homeowners is the small but fearsome termite. No other insect can have quite the same structural impact. Terrible termite infestations have been known to make whole buildings unlivable.

However, if you are attentive, then you can spot the signs of termites early and deal with the problem before it gets too bad.

Types of termites

Before we discuss warning signs, it's important to discuss the types of termites you might have in your home. In order to properly treat for termites, you want to make sure you know exactly what you're dealing with. The two most common types are:

  • Drywood Termites: These termites infest dry wood primarily, true to their name. They make small colonies in dry wood, including those materials found in your home. This is the easiest type of termite to fight since they are so localized to the piece of wood where their home is located.
  • Subterranean Termites: These termites are more difficult to fight since they live in large underground colonies. While dry wood termites could infest almost any piece of wood in your home, subterranean termites need access to moisture and the soil. Nonetheless, subterranean termites are actually more dangerous since they travel far from their colonies, making locating them difficult and can severely damage the very wood supporting your entire home.

What are the signs of termites?

Regardless of which type of termite you have, the signs are very similar with only slight differences that indicate which type you're dealing with. We'll note those differences for you so that you can determine the species and take the right action. If you can find living termites or in tact termite corpses then that is obviously best, but there are 4 other signs you can look for:

1. Swarms: This is one of the more obvious signs of termites. While termites are normally quite sneaky, during some early summer mornings a swarm of winged termites will fly from their colony to mate and search for new colonies.

If you see a swarm then you know for a fact that you have termites. However, even if you miss the swarm itself, there will still be traces of what occurred. Most notably termite swarmers shed their wings. You may be able to see the discarded wings near your window sills or near water sources.

In the event that you see a swarm, you can try to identify the species of termite by analyzing where they emerged from. If they're flying out of a hole in your wall then they are dry wood termites. If they are flying out of the ground then they are likely subterranean termites.

You can also analyze where you find the wings. Drywood termite wings are far more likely to be found on window or door sills while subterranean termites will favor water sources.

2. Frass & Mud Tubes: Termites are not the cleanest of insects. Luckily, that messiness provides us plenty of clues. Dry wood termites leave droppings in areas of high activity. These droppings are called Frass and look a lot like sawdust. However, with a bit of Sherlock Holmes style deduction, it should be easy to determine if there should be sawdust in this area. If there's no logical reason for it then it's likely Frass. A professional could also inspect the debris with a magnifying glass to see if your deduction is correct.

Subterranean termites don't leave Frass, but they do leave droppings which they use to build small tunnels and tubes. These mud tubes generally link the soil with the wood. You can try to confirm if these tubes are active by breaking through them, using something other than your bare hands preferably, and seeing if you can spot workers inside.

3. Hollow Wood: If you can't find evidence of the termites themselves or their debris then you might be able to see signs of the actual wood damage. Any kind of noticeable damage to the wood could indicate that termites have been chewing on it. Buckling paint, tiny holes, ripples in the wall coverings, and more can all indicate problems. You might also be able to hear if the wood is hollow by rapping on it.

4. Blisters: Similar to hollow wood, you might notice blisters on wood flooring that can indicate the presence of termites. Sometimes this damage might resemble water damage. If there's no reason for this part of your floor to have water damage then termites are quite likely the cause.

Make sure you don't miss anything with the help of a pest control professional!

Looking for these signs should help you to figure out if you have a termite infestation. If you notice any of these signs then contact a pest control contractor to confirm the problem and develop a strategy to remove the termites for good. The last thing you want to do is ignore a problem like this.

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