Detect Termites Signs & Symptoms

Scientists estimate that Americans spend millions of dollars every year treating termites and repairing the damage that they cause. Because of the amount of money involved, most homeowners want to find termites and stop them before they have a chance to cause any damage.

Since termites are soft-bodied insects, they try to stay hidden. If termites are exposed to sunshine and fresh air, they will dry out and die. Even though the termites are often out-of-sight, they can leave signs to show that they have been busy.

There are several types of termites – drywood, dampwood, and subterranean. The subterranean termites are the ones that can be found in every state except Alaska. They attack more homes than the other types of termites and they cause more damage.

In the springtime, many people see flying insects swarming out of cracks in the floor or holes in the wall. These insects fool many people. They may look like ants, but they are often flying termites. There are two or three things to look at in order to figure out whether they are ants or termites. It helps to have a magnifying glass for the identification.

Ants have pinched bodies with three distinct segments. If the insects that swarm have slender bodies that look like one segment, they may be termites.  Ants have antennae that have a bend or “elbow”. If the swarmers have straight antennae, they are likely to be termites.

Winged ants have large front wings and small back wings. If the swarmers have four wings that all seem to be the same, the insects are termites. Homeowners often find abandoned wings on windowsills. Sometimes people find insect wings in spider webs in basements and attics. If all of the wings are the same size, it can mean that flying termites have been there.

Swarmers can be important. They only appear when a termite colony has been growing for four or five years. If swarmers are inside the house, it means the colony could be inside the house or underneath it.

Many people discover termites accidentally. Tubes of dirt on the side of the foundation are usually hiding subterranean termites. They travel inside the tubes from the ground to the wood inside the home. Many times the termites are not so obvious.

If the vacuum cleaner knocks a hole in the baseboard, it might be important. Stop and take a close look. If the windowsill cracks when you set something on it, take a close look. It may help to have a flashlight for the inspection.  If the wood is hollowed-out and there seems to be dirt inside, subterranean termites may have been active.

When termites attack a wall, they eat the paper covering of the sheetrock and leave the gypsum. When this happens the wallpaper or paint have nothing to stick to. Shining a flashlight along the wall – instead of straight at the wall – will reveal any irregularities in the wallpaper or sheetrock. Any suspicious areas should be investigated further.

If there has been a plumbing problem for an extended time, check the area carefully. Termites thrive in those environments. They can survive in damp areas without returning to the underground nest. The plumbing trap at the head of the bathtub should be checked too. This area is often a termite target because it is humid.

Check the yard and the flowerbeds too. Termites often attack firewood. Put the wood on a rack and store it as far from the house as possible.  Rake mulch at least 12” away from the foundation. Make sure that the soil in the flowerbeds is not higher than the level of the slab of the house. Make sure landscape timbers are not attached to the house.

Check the exterior and the crawl space. Make sure there is no wood that extends from the house into the soil. Termites could go through the wood and into the house without being seen. Check the siding to be sure that it doesn’t extend into the soil. Termites could travel behind the siding and go directly into the walls of the house.

Homeowners can also find termites around the property. If they can be stopped outside, they will be less likely to damage the home. Check patios, decks, wood fences, carports, sheds, doghouses, and garages for signs of termites. Many homeowners call a pest control professional for a proper identification when they find something suspicious.