Homeowners rank termites as their most concerning pest with good reason. They are responsible for more than $5 billion in damage to homes in the U.S. every year according to the National Pest Management Association, and more than 10 percent of homeowners have a problem with them annually. Termites are difficult and expensive to treat, and their treatment is not typically covered by home insurance policies. They can affect the structure and value of your home, and spring is an important time to check for them and take action if needed.
Termites remain active all year, even during winter months. During cold, they move deeper into the ground to access the warmth they need to survive. Subterranean and drywood termites seek shelter and food in your home’s foundation and walls, which keeps them protected from the outdoor temperatures. As spring approaches and brings rising temperatures and rain, swarming or winged termites begin to emerge and set out to start new colonies.
Swarming termites may appear as early as February in warm and moist areas like Florida. One question we are often asked is how to tell the difference between a winged ant and a termite. Here is a link to our previous blog on that topic.
February is a great time to inspect your home for signs of a termite infestation. Some key things you should look for are:
Swarming Termites: Massive swarms are usually the first sign of termite infestation, and they can be very alarming with tens of thousands of termites in the swarm. Winged termites are attracted to light and will fly towards windows and light fixtures. If you find piles of small insect wings near your windows, doors, light fixtures, or in spider webs, there is a good chance that a swarm of termites is near and a termite colony may be nesting in your home.
Mud Tubes: Termites use these tunnels to travel from their homes in the soil to feed on the wood in your house. The tubes are usually brown and the width of a pencil, and are made of soil and partially digested plant material stuck together. Mud tubes run along concrete, drywall, or any other type of surface that extends upward. Even if you are have not seen evidence of a termite swarm, you should always check around your house for mud tubes, which are often the most visible sign of termite infestation.
Damaged Wood: Although it can be hard to spot, look for damaged wood around your home’s foundation. Termites feed on soft wood, like doorframes and window trim. Because termites hollow out the underlying wood, thin painted surfaces may be left intact. Termites can also feed on wood for several years before they swarm. Heavily infested wood typically has soil and mud tubes in it, causing the wood to be brittle and break apart easily.
Trained termite inspectors can inspect your home at any time of year to identify active or previous termite colonies. Should you see signs of termites yourself, we recommend you contact a trained pest professional for further inspection and treatment.
For more information on termites, visit pestworld.org.