Early signs of termites

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Early signs of termites
By detecting termites early, you'll avoid extensive repairs to your home. (termites image by Christophe Fouquin from Fotolia.com)

Termites can be a huge problem for homeowners. Determining whether you have termites can be tricky. Subterranean termites live underground in large colonies and come above ground to feed. Drywood, or terrestrial, termites don't live underground but inside your wood, tunnelling along the grain. It's common for termites to be unknowingly moved in wooden crates, boxes and furniture. Knowing how to detect termites early will lower the chances of damage to your home.

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Tubes

Typically an early sign of termites is termite tubes. These are made by subterranean termites which prefer not to venture into open areas. Instead they remain hidden in the dirt and mud underground. When these termites have to go into open spots to feed, they form tubes made of mud. To find these tubes, get a flashlight and check your basement, crawlspace and around the outside of your house. Search for tubes about the diameter of a pencil. These tubes are made of dirt and will disappear into cracks of stonework, around doors and window frames and along your siding.

Wood Damage

Termites eat wood and will tunnel though it as they feed. So look at the wood around your home. Wood damaged by termites will sound hollow, especially as the termites make more tunnels. They can hollow out supporting beams and other wood, making it weak. You'll notice paint that appears bubbled or wood that has started to warp. As termites come through the wood, they will cover the hole they've made with mud, so look for small holes with dirt or mud in them. If you find damaged wood or studs, baseboards or floor sections that sound hollow, break it open. Inside you'll see a honeycombed pattern if you have termites.

Another early sign you may have termites is if you knock on a wood surface and you hear a tapping in reply. This is the termite soldiers alerting the rest to danger by banging their heads on the wood.

Swarmers

Swarmers are king and queen termites which leave their colonies to find mates and begin new colonies. These termites come from existing or established colonies and they leave in large groups. According to Pest Information, termites usually swarm during the day and often after it rains. The swarm might last just a few minutes, so you might not see it. If you do see termite swarmers, it may mean there is a colony around your house or close to it or that you will soon have them.

Wings

King and queen termites drop their wings before burrowing into the wood to lay eggs. If you find tiny wings scattered around window sills, doors, vents, bathtubs or sinks, you may have termites beginning a new colony.

Pellets

Drywood termites will burrow through the surface of the wood which leaves a small hole. They use this hole to get rid of waste from the colony. Beneath these holes small piles of droppings will form that resemble tiny pellets. They are often dismissed as dust but if you see them again and again, it means you have an active colony of termites.

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