Termite Pest Control | All About Termites, Mud Tubes, Damage & Protection

As one of the most discreet, yet destructive pests, termites can wreak serious havoc on a home when not taken care of quickly and efficiently. Successfully eliminating and preventing these wood-eating pests can be challenging and requires the expertise of a professional.

If you suspect termites in your home, reach out to Preferred Pest Control for help. To learn more about these destructive pests, click on one of the quick links or continue exploring the page.

Quick Links: Termite Facts & Information

Termite Appearance & Habits Warning Signs & Termite Damage Termite Mud Tubes Termite Inspections Prevent Termites Termite Protection & Treatment Plans

Termite Appearance

It can be difficult to identify termites since they lurk in the interior sections of homes and are rarely seen. Termites are also extremely small, so even when they’re out and about, which isn’t often, you’ll likely miss them or potentially mistake them for another pest. When it comes to termite control, our experts look for a few specific signs.

What do termites look like?

Termites average anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 inch in length, however, the king and queen termites can grow as big as 1 inch long. A termite's body is typically soft and if it is a flying termite (swarmer) it will have two sets of wings that are equal length. The color of a termite can range from pale to light brown, but this depends on the species.

size and stages of termites

Why do termites eat wood?

Termites are considered detritivores because they feed on trees and plants. They get most of their nutrients from cellulose, an organic fiber found in plant and wood material. These insects can also feed on paper, drywall and plastic, but termites prefer to eat wood. Since their main food source is wood, termites are known for wreaking havoc inside homes and can lead to costly destruction.

Worker termites in particular never stop feeding on soft or weakened wood and will target any place it’s available in a home. Not only do termites feed on wood, but they use wooden structures such as window sills, door frames, structural siding, floors, etc. to build tunneling chambers within. This helps them travel from one food source to another from the inside of the home, staying out of sight and undetected by homeowners.

Bugs Mistaken For Termites

Simply knowing what a termite looks like will not make identifying these pests easier. While it might help some, termites are still often mistaken for other common household pests. Even though most of these pests don’t have a strong resemblance to termites, they share many of the same behaviors, like eating wood. Bugs often mistaken for termites include:

  • Swarming Ants - In the spring, termite colonies and ant colonies produce "swarmers", which are winged adults that fly away to form their own colonies. Swarming usually occurs during the daytime and is simply nature's way of reminding you that pests are nearby. Homeowners may see these swarmers or come across discarded wings, but many don’t know the difference between termite swarmers and ant swarmers. They often assume they have an ant problem when in fact, termites might be lurking within the walls of their home. Common differences between termite swarmers and ant swarmers include the shape of their antennae, body and wings. Termite antennae are straight while ant antennae have an elbow-like bend in them. Termites have a broad waist while ants have a pinched waist. Lastly, termites have wings of equal length while ants have two sets of unequal length wings.
  • Carpenter Ants - If you spot wood damage inside your home, it may be difficult to tell whether it was inflicted by a termite infestation, or if you’ve suffered carpenter ant damage. These pests have many similarities, but the primary difference between termites and carpenter ants is their appearances. While termites are very small, pale in color and have a rectangular-shaped body, carpenter ants are much larger, have a pinched waist and are reddish or dark-colored. You can also tell which pest you have by what they leave behind. There is often a coarse sawdust material mixed with dead ant parts when carpenter ants are excavating their nest. Termites consume the wood they damage for food and will not leave sawdust piles behind.
  • Carpenter Bee - Carpenter bees also cause wood damage to homes, but you’ll typically find these pests around the exterior instead of hiding inside the walls like termites. One major difference between the wood damage caused by carpenter bees and termite damage is that carpenter bees don’t actually eat wood. They carve out perfectly-round holes in the exterior of a home to create a safe nesting place, leaving wood shavings and dust behind typically on a patio or deck. If you instead encounter weakened, chipped wood or shavings beneath window sills, door frames, etc. you likely have a termite or carpenter ant problem on your hands.
  • Powder Post Beetle - There are many differences in appearance between powder post beetles and termites - the main one being their body shapes. Powder post beetles have a rectangular-shaped abdomen and are much wider than termites. Powder post beetles typically breed in dead and dried hardwoods, such as dead tree branches and limbs, but sometimes they make their way into new homes. If you notice tiny burrow holes with a dusty powder left behind, then you probably are noticing powder post beetle damage rather than a problem from a termite infestation.

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How to Tell If You Have Termites

Unfortunately for many homeowners termite infestations do occur and oftentimes aren’t discovered until extensive damage has been caused. Termites multiply quickly, so if you spot any termites, or have suspicions of wood damage, make sure you contact an exterminator immediately! If you’re unsure if you’re dealing with a termite problem, read on to learn some of the signs our experts look for when they first arrive to diagnose a problem.

10 Warning Signs of Termites

Termite infestations are rarely seen, but there are a few signs to look out for:

  1. Bubbled paint
  2. Termite mud tubes
  3. Damaged wood
  4. Wood that sounds hollow when tapped
  5. Small holes in drywall
  6. Loose floor or wall tiles
  7. Squeaky floor boards
  8. Sagging or blistered wood
  9. Piles of wings left behind from swarm season
  10. Vein-like patterns in walls, floors or furniture

If you happen to notice one of these warning signs of termites in your home we encourage you to seek professional help.

What does termite damage look like?

As termites continue eating through wooden structures in your home, the structures will begin to bend, sag, blister, darken, or even crumble under the strain of supporting weight they can no longer bear. To make matters worse, most homeowners don’t even realize they have a termite problem until damage is extensive.

Once a termite colony has invaded a home, it will typically take up to three years before the damage becomes noticeable. Luckily, there are a few ways to tell if damage in your home is caused by termites or not. Looking for these signs might just help you catch an infestation early and prevent costly damage to your home.

  • Bubbled or Peeling Paint - wood that looks like it’s suffered severe water damage or the paint has bubbled. If you see any areas where the paint has bubbled, you may have or have had a hidden termite problem beneath it. Tap on any damage you notice with a hammer or screwdriver handle. If the noise sounds hollow, then it’s probably termite damage. Also pay attention to where this damage is located. If it’s by a water source then it could likely be water damage. If it isn’t, then you might have termites.
  • Damaged Wood - is the most obvious sign of a termite infestation. Subterranean termites damage wood in a distinctive pattern. These cellulose loving insects can leave nothing behind but the wood grain and their damage may be hidden inside the walls of a home since this species destroys wood from the inside out. Termites and rot both attack the cellulose in wood but they do so in different ways and for different reasons. To determine if wood damage in your home is from rot or termites, simply feel it with your hand or a screwdriver. If it feels spongy, has fungus growing inside of it, or crumbles away easily as you hit it then you probably have a rot issue. If the wood is dry and firm, check for tunnels inside of it. This is a dead giveaway that you have termites in your home.


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Termite Mud Tubes

Termites build shelter tubes made out of tiny bits of soil they glue together to connect their underground colony to a cellulose source. Cellulose is contained in paper, cardboard, furniture, picture frames, plywood, floor joists, windows, wall studs and a variety of other products found in a home. Inside of these termite mud tubes, termites can travel to their food source while maintaining a perfect environment for their soft bodies. Termite mud tubes may be visible on foundation walls, floor joists, floors and subfloors, siding, wall studs and drywall. Stumbling upon a mud tube in your home is a sign that you may have a termite infestation on your hands.

What do termite mud tubes look like?

Termite mud tubes are usually dark in color, have a sand-like texture and usually follow a straight vertical line. They are often compared to a tree branch without its leaves. Termite tunnels are always closed to protect the termites as they travel to and from a food source.

termite mud tube

How to Tell If Termite Tubes Are Active

The color of the mud can sometimes help determine whether or not the termites are still active within the tunnels - if it’s light and brittle, there’s probably no termite inside. Removing a small piece of a termite shelter tube is another way to determine whether or not you have an active termite infestation on your hands. By breaking away part of the shelter tube, you may be able to see live termites, or you may have to wait to see if there are signs of termites in the home. If in a few days the termite tube is repaired, that is an indicator you have an active termite infestation on your hands and you should contact a termite pest control professional.

Should I knock down termite tubes?

There are different opinions as to whether termite tunnels should be knocked down if seen around a home. Because termite mud tubes are crucial to the behavior of the colony, knocking down an active one can make locating their food source much more difficult for you and professional exterminators. Visibly seeing a termite shelter tube is the quickest way for an exterminator to determine if it’s active or inactive. As soon as a professional is able to make a determination and has all the information on the status of the termite colony, then the termite mud tubes can be knocked down and removed.

How long does it take termites to build mud tubes?

Termites are very productive and with access to food and water, basic termite mud tubes can be formed within just a few days. At first, the mud tube will be used to explore the area. If the area isn’t suitable, the termites will seal it off and move to another location. If the area does prove to be valuable, it can take many weeks for the mud tube to be strengthened and adapted for regular use.

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Is it worth paying for a termite inspection?

Many people question whether or not to schedule a termite inspection, but we believe having the peace of mind it provides is worth it. While termite damage can cost a homeowner thousands of dollars, treatments and inspections are much cheaper.

The average cost of termite damage depends on a lot of factors. According to Bob Vila, trusted home renovation and repair expert, repairing the damaged framing on your home costs, on average, around $1,050. The average cost to install attic insulation is $1,900. The average price to repair and clean a crawl space is $6,000. And lastly, drywall repair can cost more than $500 depending on the scale of the destruction. Keep in mind that these costs are based on averages. The actual cost of termite damage in your home will depend on your unique circumstances and can be determined by a professional inspection.

Although the extent of the damage caused in your home depends on how established a termite colony is and how long they’ve been there, if you’re lucky, you may spot the infestation early and avoid costly damage. A great way to get ahead of termite damage is to understand what exactly causes a termite infestation in the first place so that you can avoid them.

What causes termites?

In addition to wood inside the home, termites are drawn inside by moisture, wood in contact with house foundations and cracks in building exteriors.

Checking for high levels of moisture and reducing humidity in the home, as well as treating and covering any exposed wood in contact with soil, helps prevent termite encounters. Examining the exterior of your home as well for any broken window screens, imperfectly sealed plumbing lines and cracked shingles, clogged gutters and fascia boards will significantly limit termites’ chances of entering your home.

When are termites most active?

Termites are most active in the spring during, what’s known as, “swarming season.” This is when they will couple off, lose their wings and then create new colonies as kings and queens.

A common misconception is that termites cannot survive in the winter and will die off. This may be true for many common household pests, but termites are active throughout the year. They nest underground and are kept warm by their termite mud tubes and your home.

How to Prevent Termites: Top 5 Ways to Keep Termites Away

There are steps homeowners can take both in and around the home to avoid a termite infestation. We discuss a few things you can do to make your home as unattractive as possible to termites.

  1. Install a preventative termite treatment around the outside of your home. An active termite control system can be installed anytime after your home has been built. There are two options for preventative treatments: a Sentricon™ bait station (see below for more information) or a liquid chemical barrier. Both treatments are very effective in preventing termites, ensuring the longevity of your home and preventing costly termite damage.
  2. Keep excess moisture to a minimum. Moisture is a huge attraction for termites. It’s what allows them to thrive as a colony. We encourage homeowners to regularly check for any leaks that need fixing inside and to be mindful of sprinkler usage outdoors to eliminate any areas where termites could easily survive. It’s also a good idea to make sure your gutters are in good working condition and able to drain the water far away from your foundation.
  3. Keep your yard free of debris. Termites don’t just eat wood, so be sure to clear any tree stumps, leaves and other materials off of your yard.
  4. Avoid using mulch in your home’s landscaping. Mulch and wood chips can hold excess moisture and attract pests, especially when it’s by the foundation of a home. Rocks and pebbles are a much better option to avoid termites and other pests. If you do mulch, do not layer it more than four inches deep and keep at least six inches between your home and where the mulch begins.
  5. Keep firewood off of the ground. Instead place it on racks and as far away from the house or garage as possible. To be extra cautious, you can even cover firewood with a tarp. Termites are attracted to moist wood so keeping it dry will help ward them off.

Even though there are steps homeowners can take to fend off termites, professional termite pest control technicians will be able to provide the best residential termite protection for your home.

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Residential Termite Protection and Prevention Treatments

If you’re dealing with a current termite infestation in your home, the best thing you can do is contact professional help. While there are a few at-home termite prevention treatments, they are often ineffective.

When you call Preferred Pest Control, you can expect quick and efficient treatments along with great customer service. It is our mission to provide a smooth process for homeowners and treatment they can count on. Our termite treatment prevention is designed so termites never consider your home as a viable dwelling place again. termite service review

Des Moines Sentricon Treatment

Preferred Pest Control’s termite service plan provides Des Moines homeowners the highest protection against termites. Our technicians have become Certified Sentricon® Specialists, and our new and improved treatment method is minimally invasive and requires no trenching around your foundation.

The Des Moines Sentricon® treatment system with Always Active™ technology eliminates and prevents termites. Subterranean termites form their colonies deep underground, and Sentricon® bait stations work to attack them before they get inside the home.

We will place Sentricon® stations containing Recruit® HD termite bait around the perimeter of your home and in places conducive to termite activity. Termites will encounter the stations thanks to their naturally random foraging behavior. If termite activity has been spotted inside your home, we will install Sentricon® Recruit® AG (above ground) stations directly on any existing mud tubes. Termites inside the mud tubes will have immediate access to the bait, thus beginning the termite colony elimination process.

The way the Sentricon® method works is by attacking the termite colony from the inside - from the lowest level of the termite hierarchy, “workers,” to the highest, the “Queen,” exterminating the colony entirely. Worker termites are in charge of finding and distributing food to the rest of the colony, and they will dig tunnels extending from the center of the colony in search of food.

Although termites feed on wood, they find the active ingredient in the Sentricon® stations more palatable – and actually prefer it 10 times to wood! Even better, they enjoy sharing it with their nestmates back in the colony.

Once a termite ingests the bait, it cannot molt, and termites that cannot molt will die. The workers feed on the bait first and bring it back to share with the rest of the colony. Once the workers die, there is no one left to feed the others, including the queen. Once the queen dies, the colony has been completely eliminated.

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Preferred Pest Control: Best Termite Pest Control Company in Des Moines

Termites are silent invaders that can cause quite a bit of damage over time. If you notice any signs of termites in your home or you think you’re in need of a termite inspection, don’t hesitate to call our experts at Preferred Pest Control! Schedule an appointment with us online for assistance with a termite infestation or give us a call at (515) 276-7277 today!


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