Termites: Signs They've Moved In
April 21, 2014
Causing approximately $5 billion in property damage in the U.S. every year, these silent but deadly destroyers of homes and buildings across the nation are a veritable force of nature. Termites can chew through anything made of wood from flooring to fences and utility poles, and even wallpaper, and their destruction can go undetected for years because the wood is hidden behind insulation and walls, but even exposed wood can seem unharmed. However, termites hollow out the insides of the wood they eat-making any piece of wood they feed on look intact from the outside.
A colony can range from hundreds of thousands to more than a million termites, depending on the type. With a team that size, you want to stop them before they take over your home or office. Although termites have a stealth attack, they do leave behind some signs that can help you stop them in their tracks and get them out the door.
Around spring each year, it is normal for some termites of a large and well-established colony to break away from the group to form a new colony. The formation is led by winged adults who molt and shed their wings as they take flight. Signs of swarming include discarded wings and even dead termite bodies as they try to leave an area. Swarming also is an indicator of a termite infestation already in your home or work and requires professional services as soon as possible to evaluate the situation.
Shelter tubes, or also known as mud tubes, are specific to the subterranean termites, which are the most common type of termites in Iowa. Subterranean termites build their homes underground with different networks and rooms, similar to an ant colony. They build tunnels out of soil and debris to retain moisture for their soft bodies and get inside the buildings to reach their food source-wood and various other items made of cellulose. These shelter tubes may be found along drywall, foundation walls, floor joists, siding, and even wall studs.
If you suspect termite activity along a wall or exposed wood in your home, you can look for distinctive patterns. The subterranean termites are the most voracious and largest of the colonies, and they leave behind honeycomb-like patterns in the wood or bits of dirt in the wood. You can also inspect the area by knocking on the wood to check for hollow sounds. This could mean termites have already been eating through the framework.
Although their activity is hard to detect due to the nature of where they live and how they eat, they are still insects that eat, digest and excrete. Some types of termites leave behind droppings as they eat through the wood, so keep an eye out for small piles of tiny pellets.
You can help mitigate the chances of a termite infestation with simple housekeeping, such as proper ventilation to avoid humidity in crawl spaces and preventing water accumulation around the foundation. It is also important you don't have any wooden parts of your home or office infrastructure directly in contact with soil in the ground.