Termites are extremely important to our ecosystem. These tiny critters break down plant matter and release essential nutrients into our soil. However, while termites are great for the environment when it comes to buildings, they can cost billions in structural damage a year.
This is because colonies of termites also feast on foundations, wood, walls, and plastic pipes, among other things. While you can appreciate their importance from a distance, you don’t want to find these guys anywhere near your home.
Luckily there are a few ways to tell if you’ve got a termite infestation. Keep reading for the seven signs to look out for to keep termites at bay.
Termites in the United States
There are tons of termite species, but the most common species in the US, causing a whopping 95% of structural damage, are eastern subterranean termites. This species is prevalent in St. Louis. Subterranean termite colonies can number over 1 million termites. These colonies are also capable of devouring up to 15 pounds of wood in a week!
Other types of termites in the US include drywood and dampwood termites. The names of these types give some indication as to where they like to live. Subterranean termites will inhabit soil and wood that is in contact with soil.
Within the colony, termites vary in size and function. Smaller worker termites make up most of the colony. These insects are about the size of a grain of rice and soft-bodied. Soldier termites are slightly longer, with powerful mandibles or pincers. Soldiers are responsible for defending the colony against ants.
Finally, swarmers are responsible for reproduction. These larger termites have wings and are easy to spot, often drawn to light sources.
Do I Have a Termite Infestation?
In order to avoid massive and costly structural damage, it’s important to keep a close eye on your property. However, if you see a swarm of termite-looking pests, don’t panic! It’s difficult to determine the difference between ants and termites as they look fairly similar. Luckily there are a few other signs that are a clear indication of a termite infestation.
1. Termite Swarms
Swarming termites are winged insects in charge of reproducing and forming new termite colonies. Look out for remnants of dead termites indoors and outdoors and live swarms. These swarmers lose their translucent wings fairly quickly once they start flying. This is why piles of wings are a good indication that you may have an infestation.
Pay particular attention to where the termites are coming from. If they’re emerging near the foundations of the building, this could mean trouble.
However, don’t worry if you see termites far away from building foundations. Remember that termites are integral to the ecosystem as they break down plants and other matter. So if they aren’t close to your home, let them be.
2. Mud Tunnels
Mud tunnels are long, almost cement-like tube structures that termites build to move from one feeding site to another. These tunnels can run along walls and into foundations or higher up on a structure, depending on the type of termite you’re dealing with.
You can tell if an infestation is active by breaking a small part off of one of the tunnels. If live termites emerge, or you come back after a day and notice that the tunnel has been repaired, that’s a sure sign of infestation.
Similar to shelter tubes, pinholes are tiny holes made by termites to get into the wood. These are usually covered in the same mud-like substance that shelter tubes are made from.
Like mud tunnels, you can also use pinholes to check whether your infestation is active or not. Scrape away the mud covering and wait to see if a termite emerges. You can also take note of the location of the pinholes and determine whether or not the hole is repaired after a day or two.
4. Visible Termite Damage
In order to see whether or not termites are wreaking havoc in your home, you may have to look a little deeper. If you remove floorboards or look behind walls and see obvious damage connected by shelter tubes, it’s time to act fast!
While damage will most often begin from the inside of the structure, keep an eye out for any external signs such as sagging in the walls, ceiling or wallpaper, or broken door frames. Wood that has been damaged by termites will be soft and easily breakable.
Once termites are disturbed, they hide pretty quickly, so an infestation may be active even if you don’t actually see one near the damage.
Drywood termites are known to push their fecal matter out of tiny holes. These small six-sided pellets accumulate in piles on floors and countertops. If you see piles of tiny, light-colored pellets smaller than coffee grounds, it’s likely that you have a drywood termite infestation, and you need to act fast.
Get Ahead and Prevent Termites
Even though there are a number of signs, termites aren’t easy to spot. These signs often only become visible when the infestation has been active for some time. This is why it’s important to termite-proof your home from the outset. If you’re in the process of building, a pre-construction treatment is always a good idea to give you extended peace of mind.
Dealing with Termites: The Bottom Line
Termite infestations are common across the United States and can be easily dealt with once they’ve been discovered. If you suspect that you may have a termite infestation, it’s best to call in a trusted professional for an inspection. If your suspicions are confirmed, a professional pest control service will use the best technology on hand to ensure that the entire colony is eliminated. For more information on termites and other pest control, get in touch today!