Termites: What You Need to Know
Termites… the very name strikes terror into any homeowner. These silent destroyers cost homeowners across the U.S. millions of dollars annually, and homeowner’s insurance won’t cover termite damage.
As a homeowner, you need to know about termites and the signs of a termite infestation before your home is damaged.
What are the Signs of Termites in Your Home?
Very often, the first sign of termites is when they swarm. Termites will swarm to breed and establish new colonies. When this happens, hundreds of Termites come out of the ground, fly around in an attempt to breed and find their way back into the ground. When they get back into the ground, they will begin to build a new colony or a satellite of the original colony.
Seeing the “swarmers”, as they are called, is a “red alert!” that termites are in the vicinity.
You may have termites when you find insect wings at a sunny window sill or on the floor. Termites have four wings – two wings on each side of their bodies which they shed while swarming. If there are a lot of wings, then that is one of the easier signs that you have termites in the house.
When You See the Termite Damage
Once termites have done their damage, you will eventually see the results. Termites feed constantly.
If Pennsylvania homes have termites, it will be subterranean termites that live hidden away. You may not realize that you have a termite problem until you discover “frass” or termite poop. Frass looks like sawdust.
You can also look for mud tubes that termites make. Termites need moisture to live and mud tubes provide moisture in dry areas. The mud tubes make it possible for termites to travel over dry areas such as the foundation of your house, along a basement foundation and other areas that would otherwise be exposed to the air.
How to prevent termites
Subterranean termites are the most destructive termites; their pincer-like mouthparts chew on wood 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Subterranean termites never rest from their non-stop eating.
A telltale sign of termites is wood damage. By that time, termites have hollowed out the wood that they have chewed, so you’ll notice the damage after the fact. Termites start inside the wood and eat outward.
If you notice any bubbling or uneven paint, it could be water damage or it could be a sign of termites. Termites love moisture, so what started as moisture damage, may also be what attracted the ferocious termites to finish the job.
Termites are Bad News
In nature, termites have a useful purpose. They are considered “nature’s exfoliant”. If it wasn’t for termites, trees that die in the forest would just pile up. Most of the decomposition of dead trees is done by termites. This is a good thing… However, in Pennsylvania, we see a lot of damage to buildings from termites.
In early spring, when the ground starts to warm up, swarmers go hunting for their next place to live for the summer. Homes that sustained a lot of rain or snow damage over the winter make the perfect place to move a termite colony.
If your house didn’t sustain any damage over the winter, you could still get termites if you have tree branches that are close to your home, rotting wood in your yard or a woodpile close to your house.
Remember, you need to be aware of how termites can get into your home. Otherwise, you risk your home being damaged. For example, some homeowners don’t know if they have termite damage until they tear apart a room for a home remodeling project.
Termites stay hidden because any exposure to air will kill them. They’ll eat your house from the inside out, costing you thousands of dollars in repairs.
You can find out that you have termite damage at the worst of times. For example, if your house is on the market and there’s an interested buyer, their home inspector will be looking for termite damage.
If the home inspector finds evidence of termites—whether it’s structural damage, mud tubes along the foundation of the house, or frass—it will stop the sale of your house, pronto! You’ll need to fix the damage before putting your home back on the market.
Fortunately, termites won’t eat their way through pressure-treated wood. Your deck is safe, for instance, if it’s built with pressure-treated lumber.
Why? In the process of making pressure-treated wood, manufacturers add a preservative into the wood pores that creates a chemical barrier to keep termites out.
Getting Rid of Termites Isn’t a DIY Project
DIY termite treatments often fail to rid your home of termites. Instead, let the professionals handle the job for you. Entomologists (insect experts) from the University of Kentucky explain that getting rid of termites is not a DIY project.
Also, if you hire a pest management technician, they should provide a guarantee of their work as well as an on-going termite protection plan which can help prevent future termite damage.
Plus, pest management companies use different techniques that homeowners typically don’t have on hand. For example, your pest control technician can treat behind walls or into floor joists. They will also use heavy-duty drills to treat under concrete slabs and large capacity tanks to apply treatment materials.
To get rid of termites in your house, you need to contact your local pest management company. They’ll inspect your home for termite damage and then get rid of these harmful insects.
You can avoid termites from moving in this spring by using these preventative methods:
- Move firewood and woodpiles away from your home. You should keep the woodpile 20 ft. or more away from your home. Also, raise your woodpile five inches off the ground.
- Clean your gutters. Clogged gutters create puddles in your rain spout, attracting termites to your home because of the moisture.
- Water should be moving away from your house, not toward it. Again, termites love moisture, so you want to eliminate any moisture going near your home, including your home’s foundation. Add more extended downspouts and splash blocks to keep water moving away from the house.
- If there are any stumps or other rotten wood on your property, clear it away. Termites love rotten wood, and it makes it easy for swarmers to be attracted to your house in spring.
- If you use wood or bark mulch, don’t apply it up along your home’s foundation. Again, mulch is moist and wood, so termites are attracted to it. If you’re checking for termites in your mulched areas, you’ll need to look underneath the mulch.
- Trim tree branches away from your house—especially if the branches rest against your home. Termites have easy access to your home through tree branches.