Inspecting Your Home for Termites

April 11, 2016

It is normal to call an exterminator if you hear the sound of chewing in your walls or you discover a winged ant in your basement. Termites, after all, are destructive pests, and they are found in 49 of the 50 states in U. S with Alaska the only state that has been spared this scourge of termites. According to studies in the United States, termites cause about $50 billion damage to buildings every year.

 Termites are scary as they can cause substantial damage to before an individual ever realizes he/she has a pest problem at home. Termites usually feed on wood from the inside out; that is why their presence is difficult to detect except if you know where to look and what to look for. Everything will appear sturdy and stable until your porch starts shifting to the left and collapses completely. Termites work at a relatively slowly rate, as some nests can accommodate hundreds of thousands of these pests.

termites in a mud tube

What you should look out for when inspecting for termites

It is usually easy to spot a termite infestation before termites can do damage to your home’s foundation. Termites are sneaky, and they work in the secret areas of your home and in areas that you rarely inspect carefully. The list below indicates the typical signs of a subterranean termite infestation. It is recommended that you hire a pest control professional that is trained to detect the subtle signs of termites to inspect your house thoroughly.

  • The presence of a mud-like substance that lines the galleries in an irregular pattern.
  • Termites usually excavate wood so that only a thin layer of wood remains on the outside and surface of the cavity. If the layer is broken, the termites will cover the holes with mud like material. This material is a mixture of feces, soil, and saliva.
  • Swarmers: This is the appearance of a swarm flying ants, especially near light sources. This usually indicates that there is a nest nearby. A swarm is a group of male and female adult ants that leave their original nest to form a new colony. Swarming usually occurs when a colony gets to a certain size. Swarming is most common during the spring (April, March, May, and June) and occasionally during the autumn (September and October).
  • Most swarmers emerge in the day, frequently on warm days and mostly after the rain. If swarmers are found outdoors or near tree stumps and railroad ties is not an indication that your home is on the verge of an infestation, rather it means these pests are present only outside your home. On the other hand, discovering swarmers indoors often indicates that your home has been infested with termites. At first glance, ants and swarmers look similar, but they can be distinguished by their physical features.
  • Mud tunnels: These Subterranean termites usually maintain their headquarters on the ground and build pencil-sized mud tubes that connects their nests to their food source (wood). The tunnels might contain some broken mud particles along with fecal materials. Notice of shelter tubes or mud tubes are proof of a termite infestation, but their absence does not mean that a building is free of termites. The insects can reach sills and other parts of the wood through voids or cracks in the foundation wall, from earth-filled porches or under the outside stucco, and the steps, terraces, or patios. You can break tubes so as to determine if termites are active inside them. Termites can rebuild damaged tubes, which is another sign of continued activity. While old tubes are dry and can easily crumble.
  • Subterranean termites usually construct four different types of tubes or tunnels. Working tubes are built from the nests in the soil to the wooden structure, and they can travel through stone foundations or concrete. Exploratory and migratory tubes are constructed from the soil, but they do not connect to wooden structures. While, drop tubes extend from wood back to the ground.
  • Piles of wings: The wings shed by swarmers indicate that the termites have entered the next phase of their development.
  • Live termites: Reproductive kings and queens are usually 1/2″ long, winged and brown or black in color. The workers are sterile and are often hidden in infested wood. They are 1/4″ long and are wingless and white in color. However, if live termites are absent is not a guarantee that they are not in the structure.
  • Tiny holes or buckling paint on the wood.
  • Damaged wood: The wood will appear crushed at certain structural bearing points. Termite damaged wood reproduces a dull thud or a hollow sound when it is tapped with a hammer. If probe and pick the surface of a termite infested wood with a small knife, and you will discover tunnels that run parallel to the wood.
  • The discovery of termites in your home does not mean you have an emergency as the rate at which the damage occurs slowly.

How to inspect your home for termite activity by yourself

You need a good flashlight, a pocket knife or screwdriver, and coveralls. You should look at potential trouble spots closely, which means creeping in crawl spaces. The presence of swarmers almost often indicates signs of termite activity. Conducting a complete termite inspection means locating damaged wood and exposed shelter tubes.

Subterranean termites are typically found at ground level. However, in the warmer regions of the country, they can occur at the first-floor level. A termite damage can be located by poking the wood with a screwdriver, pen knife or ice pick. The inspection should be focused on the interior and exterior surfaces of the foundation, particularly when it's a construction where the wood is in the soil.

Start your inspection from the basement using a bright flashlight. Look for mud tubes and swarmers activity. If necessary, seek the help of a professional pest control officer.

Alliance Pest Services offers complete termite control programs and termite monitoring systems for your home or office in Monmouth County.

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