Signs of a Termite Infestation

Written by tami parrington
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Signs of a Termite Infestation
(Polinator from Wikimedia Commons above, Jim Conrad Wikimedia Commons below)

For such small creatures, termites causes a tremendous amount of damage. While the damage is horrible, it is slow moving. Learning how to spot the signs of a termite infestation can alert homeowners early on to a pending problem. If caught early enough, it is possible to get rid of the pint-sized pests with a minimal amount of damage and save one of your most valuable assets---your home.

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How Termites Live

Termites live in colonies, which is how they can cause such tremendous destruction in spite of being so small individually. Swarms of termites can be as large as 2 million individuals in a single colony. They are flying insects with antlike bodies and long thin wings. While they live underground or inside wood, they can be seen flying around at times.

Piles of Wings

Termites shed their wings at a certain stage of life and when there are large numbers of termites present, you may find piles of wings.

What Termite Mud Tubes Look Like on the Surface

One of the most prominent signs of a termite infestation is mud tunnels. The way termites move about in a home is by building mud tunnels to limit their exposure to the outside, and protect their wood tunnels. As termites burrow through the wood, they eventually break through the outer surface and then cover it up with a mud-like substance. This mud is really a mix of termite saliva, faeces and organic matter from surrounding areas such as wood and soil. Other signs of termite infestations include bubbling paint that is covering wood surfaces, cracks and grooves in wood.

Signs of a Termite Infestation

How to Tell if a Mud Tunnel is Active

When you find termite tubes (the mud tunnels) you can test to see if they are active or dead. Breaking up a tube will show live activity inside if there is an active swarm. An older mud tube will crumble easily where a live one will have more moisture in it and be harder to break apart. Live mud tunnels will also be rebuilt after it has been destroyed. While that may take a few days, it is a good sign of continued presence of termites.

Other Mud Tube Locations and Hollow Wood

Tubes can also travel up and down concrete block as a means of getting from the outside up to the wood interior. Tapping on the exterior of a wood beam suspected to be inhabited by termites will produce a hollow sounding thud because of the inner damage caused by the termites.

Where To Look

Look closely at any ground level wood support beams, wood steps leading up to porches, or from lower levels of the home, hollow concrete blocks, cracks in cement or cement block walls, wood frames of basement windows. While not all termite damage is under the home, it is usually where the first signs of a termite infestation will be.

How to Treat Termite Infestations

The first thing to do is not panic. Finding termites is not a death sentence for your home. Early detection is best to prevent extensive repairs but since termites take a long time to cause serious destruction, you have time to take the appropriate steps. Calling an exterminator is the best way to treat a termite infestation because while home remedies are available, doing it wrong or not killing off the entire colony will only allow the infestation to continue and regrow. Thoroughly spray all surfaces where an infestation is suspected with a commercial insecticide containing chlorpyrifos.

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