Termites: The Silent Invaders
Termites: The Silent Invaders
These wood-chomping insects can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage and render properties unsellable. Here’s how to identify and prevent termite infestation.
Termites can cause problems for houses throughout the continental United States. In many instances, home owners are unaware that termites are attacking their property until the damage is already severe. Sadly, most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover termite treatment or damage repair. As you prepare to spruce up your living space this spring, here are some tips to help identify and prevent termites from enjoying the comforts of your home.
There are more than 2,000 species of termites. The three types you would find around your home are drywood, dampwood, and subterranean. Dampwood and subterranean termites are found throughout much of North America, and drywood termites are more common in very warm areas. Drywood and dampwood termites live entirely in wood, while subterranean termites tunnel through the ground to obtain their cellulose food.
Patterns in Damaged Wood
Subterranean termites cause the majority of all termite damage in North America. These cellulose-loving pests leave a distinctive pattern in wood (shown), with most wood consumed parallel with the wood grain. Formosan subterranean termites, a subterranean species found in several states across the United States, create “carton” patterns of mud — a maze of tunnel-like galleries.
Swarm of Winged Insects
When temperatures spike during the spring, reproductive termites leave their nests to start new colonies. These winged insects are commonly mistaken for flying ants. While swarms can begin as early as March in some areas, they can also occur in seasons other than spring. The most damaging termites, subterranean termites, swarm from early spring through the summer, depending on the species.
Many swarmers shed their wings after landing from a flight to find a mate, forming large piles in and around homes. Piles of discarded wings on windowsills, in spider webs, and on the ground are key signs of a termite infestation.
Mud Tubes on Exterior, Interior Walls
Also known as “shelter tubes,” these tiny tunnels built by subterranean termites serve as protective passages between their colonies and the wood they eat. The tubes are typically the color of the soil through which the termites crawl.
Shrubbery and Landscaping
Reduce sources of shelter and moisture to make your home less attractive to termites. Trim back shrubbery and landscaping at least six inches from siding to allow air movement, and store firewood and any other cellulose substance away from your home’s foundation.
Termites can enter your home through cracks as tiny as 1/32 of an inch. Seal all cracks and crevices around your home’s foundation, attic vents, window joints, and eaves to eliminate places where termites could crawl or build tubes into your home. Avoid earth-to-wood contact, reduce moisture around your home’s foundation by directing rain water away from the foundation, and make sure not to overwater plants.
Termite activity and damage can be difficult to spot since these pests eat wood from the inside out. Pay attention to warning signs, and schedule an annual inspection of your home by a licensed professional. Check the exterior of your home — including outdoor patios, decks, and wooden fences — for signs of termite activity or damage. Also, clean gutters and downspouts to remove debris that can provide shelter for termites.