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Termites 101 - Everything You Need To Know To Protect Your Home!

As homeowners, we often find ourselves fully aware of the things going on around us, particularly in our own neighborhoods. We see the moving vans, service trucks, and even the utility repair crew as they move about among the neighboring houses. Despite this awareness, it can be very surprising to learn that most homes suffering from termite infestations have owners with no idea that a problem exists. 

What Is A Termite? 

In the United States, the most commonly found termite is the native subterranean termite. Dry-wood termites and damp-wood termites are the most dominant types that occupy this region, but there are also a smaller contingency of Formosan termites.

Although each type of termite will have a slightly different appearance, all of them are small insects with a characteristically soft body feeding primarily on wood. Living in large colonies, termites utilize a caste system that is highly organized and capable of doing extensive damage to wooden structures, lumber, and trees. Even more troubling is the fact that termites can be destroying our homes for years before detection. 

Are Termites A Common Problem?

A problem in every state except Alaska, termites are estimated to do as much as 5 billion dollars in 

damage each year, and the number is growing. While that number seems astronomical, it becomes easier to fathom when homeowners discover that a single colony can have a million termites and colonies can ultimately affect entire neighborhoods, as the termite colony moves underground from home to home. 

What Are The Signs Of A Termite Infestation?

In some cases, the actual termites may be visible near the foundations of homes especially in areas where mulch, firewood, or other materials provide proper habitat for them. Most termites, however, are found in one of these four ways:

  • Noticing a termite swarm, which usually occurs in the spring time, and appears as some termites leave the colony to start a new one. 
  • Discovering the existences of pencil-like mud tubes on foundations, or walls, near the ground. These tubes are called shelter tubes and are a very strong sign of termite activity.
  • Discovering soft wood and areas where the wood seems fragile or sounds hollow is a probable sign of termite activity. 
  • The discovery of dirt particles in and near wood in the home where dirt should not collect. Termites bring this dirt up as they travel from the colony to their food source. 

If you see any signs of termite activity, it is wise to contact a professional for a complete termite inspection. Many homeowners consider periodic testing to be a good part of their overall home maintenance plan. 

Learn how to eliminate termites next week, in part two of our blog series: Termites 102!

Image Source: Grassi B., Sandias A. (1893). Costituzione e sviluppo della società dei termitidi. Atti della Accademia gioenia di scienze naturali in Catania Series 4*6*: XIII. Reprint in the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

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