Chapter 3: Signs of Termites | Online Guide from Pestech (2023)

Recognizing a termite infestation is not always easy. Termites sneakily go about their work undetected for years. It usually takes the help of a professional to find and confirm the signs of an infestation.

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Finding winged termites inside the house is almost always evidence of an infestation because it takes years for a colony to get big enough to produce swarmers. Therefore, homeowners typically discover termites during swarm season, or when they are renovating their home and access its structure.

Even though termites are skilled at staying out of view, there are still ways to find them before an infestation causes too much damage. In this chapter, we’ll show you everything to look for when inspecting your property for termites. If you’re not sure whether or not you have an infestation, it’s recommended to reach out to experts immediately. A termite infestation is not something you want to take lightly.

What Attracts Termites Into the House?

Termites will enter a house in search of food. Termites mostly prefer eating wood, and they even like certain types more than others. For example, even though eastern subterranean termites will eat hardwoods without complaint, they especially enjoy pine and other softwoods. In general, termites prefer moist wood.

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Wood is not the only item in a termite’s diet. They are attracted to almost anything that contains cellulose. Cellulose is a type of carbohydrate and gives termites the nutrition they need. Although humans are unable to digest cellulose, termites have special organisms and substances in their guts that allow them to break cellulose down into usable nutrients. Cellulose can be found in household items like:

  • Cardboard
  • Books
  • Paper

Some homeowners may be surprised to find termites infesting a book collection or box of paper. They may also be found in mulch, construction debris and dark, moist, warm areas. They’ll damage a range of materials that they don’t usually eat as they search for food.

(Video) Signs that termites are attacking my house 3 - Termite pest control Sydney

Termites constantly look for more grub and will search hundreds of feet from their colony. They’ll tunnel through the first 6 to 12 inches of soil with the hope of finding wood. If rocks or other hard materials keep them from traveling underground, they’ll build mud tubes above the ground. They’ll forage in random directions from the nest site until they find a food source, and then recruit other workers to help them build tunnels to the supply. If a piece of wood has a large amount of moisture and food, they might even establish a nest in the source itself or nearby.

How to Tell If You Have Termites

It can be hard to know you have termites because subterranean termites form tunnels in wood, which may look completely normal from the outside. Plus, they stay in the soil to keep from drying out, which is why they also build mud tubes to forage above ground. There are still clues you can look for to discover an infestation, such as signs of termite damage. Check for the following:

Mud Tubes

Mud tubes are brown, thin tubes that may be found running along the foundation or exterior walls of a building. These tubes, along with termite nests, are made of mud and carton. Carton is a material consisting of chewed wood, feces and soil packed together. These tubes protect termites from predators and dry air as they search for food.

Drop Tubes

Subterranean termites might also create drop tubes. Drop tubes are another type of mud tube that suspends from a wooden structure and extends to the ground. They may be lighter in color than regular mud tubes because they typically contain more wood fiber from the structure.

Swarming Tubes

Termites build swarming tubes when it’s time for swarmers to take flight. These tubes generally extend 4 to 8 inches above the ground and provide an exit tunnel for winged reproductives to leave the colony.

Discarded Wings

Discarded termite wings are typically found near windows or floors. They are equally sized, thin, papery and about 1/4-inch long. Some termites have wings so swarmers can leave their colony, find a mate and start a new colony. Once they find a mate to settle down and start a new colony with, they discard their wings. Therefore, the presence of discarded termite wings indicates a new colony may have begun nearby.

Rippled Paint or Wallpaper

Termite damage may resemble water damage in wallpaper or paint. Sunken trails underneath a wall’s coating can indicate termite activity and moisture related to their presence.

Hollow Wood

Hollow-sounding wood or wooden surfaces that are easily punctured shows that termites have been feasting there. Subterranean termites form galleries in wood by following the grain, while drywood termites create tunnels that cut against the grain. As an example, one person discovered a termite infestation when their vacuum cleaner smashed right through the baseboard.

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Termite Droppings

Termite droppings may be a sign of drywood termites and are usually found near wood surfaces. They may look like piles of sawdust or tiny pellets. Pellets are only about 1 to 2 millimeters in length and have a unique six-sided shape. They range in color from cream to black.

Wood Changes

Dark areas or blisters in wood flooring or paneling may be a sign of a subterranean termite infestation. Just like the walls, termite destruction can look similar to water damage on floors.

Winged Termites

Swarmers emerging from the foundation, porches or anywhere indoors are a pretty strong sign of an infestation. Even swarmers appearing near a house may indicate a problem worth investigating. Check stumps and wood sources in the landscape for signs of swarmers. These termites are attracted to light, so you may find them flying around windows, doors, TVs or light fixtures, and they’ll leave a large number of wings behind.

Subterranean termite colonies typically take five years before they produce swarmers. Thus, the sight of winged termites indicates a mature termite colony is somewhere in the vicinity. For this reason, it is a good idea to call a professional pest control service if you find termite swarmers in or around your home or building. It’s possible the termite colony is located off of your property. However, you are looking at a firmly established termite colony infestation if it is on your property.

Cracks Filled With Soil

Soil packed in crevices and cracks may also show an infestation. It’s not uncommon for termites to enter a home through cracks in concrete or any opening they can find near the ground as they search for wood or other cellulose-containing materials.

Tight-Fitting Doors and Hard-to-Open Windows

As termites tunnel through wood, they cause it to warp. If their tunneling occurs in a door frame or window sill, the warped wood could cause problems with opening and closing doors and windows. If you are experiencing tight-fitting doors and hard-to-open windows, you may be dealing with a termite infestation. Of course, other plausible explanations include excess moisture in the wood or temperature fluctuations. Still, it pays to be on the lookout for termites your doors and windows experience unexplained changes.

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Signs of Termites in the Drywall

Termite feces, called termite frass, is close in appearance to sawdust when seen from a distance, with a similar color and consistency. Considering that termites mostly munch on wood, it makes sense that their feces would resemble sawdust. Termite frass piles also occur near small holes in the drywall, which lends support to assumptions that they are sawdust piles.

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That said, termites create tiny holes in the wall to dump their feces out of. Like humans, they prefer to keep their excrement far from where they sleep, work and play. So if you see a peculiar amount of sawdust or something like it near a tiny hole in the wall, you may have a termite infestation.

Other signs of termites in the drywall include the appearance of faint lines or discoloration. Since drywall is less dense than natural wood, the tunnels subterranean termites create sometimes leave visibly faint lines on the drywall exterior.

If you notice any of the above signs in your home, there’s no need to panic. However, you’ll want to take action as soon as possible and turn to professionals for help. Contact us at Pestech Pest Solutions, and we’ll solve the problem for you. Or, if you’re still not sure what termite damage looks like, we’re here to answer your questions and guide you in the right direction.

What Are the Signs of Termites in the Drywall?

The top two signs of termites in drywall are the appearance of trails under the paint and mud spots on the walls.

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Although termites will not eat the gypsum in drywall, they will consume the paper coverings. As much as 10% of a drywall panel may be composed of cellulose — a termite’s favorite ingredient. If termites are working underneath your walls, you might find narrow, sunken trails beneath the paint. You might also find tiny mud spots covering small holes in the walls. These pinholes appear by accident, and termites quickly repair them with mud to prevent exposure to the outside air. If you find mud covering a hole you recently scraped away, you can assume a termite worker patched it up. You might even see a termite investigating a newly uncovered hole. By this point, it’s time to call a pro.

What Do Termites Sound Like?

Soil is an excellent insulator, so it can be challenging to hear termites at work. However, if you have an infestation and listen carefully, you might hear a rustling sound as workers chew their way through the wood. Soldier termites are the loudest of all because they headbang. Headbanging is when soldiers quickly and repeatedly slam their heads against a surface, causing it to vibrate. This sends a message to workers that a threat is nearby. Humans can detect a rattling sound when this occurs, but termites will react to the vibration.

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How Long Does It Take for Termites to Destroy a House?

It usually takes several months or years for subterranean termites to cause significant damage in a home, but this also depends on factors such as the weather. For example, in northern regions, termite activity declines in the winter but may continue year-round if the insects find protection from cold temperatures. Regardless, prevention is key to protecting a house from severe termite damage and is the reason why homeowners should take immediate action if they suspect an infestation.

How to Inspect for Termites

Most homeowners are unaware that an infestation exists until they find a visible sign.

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There are three main things to look for when inspecting your home for a termite infestation, which are:

  • Swarmers
  • Mud tubes
  • Damaged wood

Any of the above may indicate a termite problem. Pay special attention to wood mulch and any areas where wooden structures in the home contact the ground. Also, make sure to inspect any cracks or openings in your home and look for mud tubes or packed soil. Even though termites cannot eat through a concrete foundation, they can enter through the cracks. Termites can also get in the home through sewage lines and electric conduits, which must also be inspected.

If you notice any signs of termites, make sure to hire a professional to conduct a thorough inspection. A professional examination should be conducted before treating the issue. A professional will make sure you have termites and not another type of pest so they can handle the infestation properly. They’ll also know where to look and can take steps to prevent future infestations.

FAQs

What are the most common entry points for termites? ›

One of the most common ways termites get in your home is through wood-to-ground contact, including doorframes, deck posts, and porch steps or supports. Subterranean termites also enter homes through cracks in the foundation and cracks in brick mortar.

What are the stages of termites? ›

The Termite Life Cycle

In an incomplete metamorphosis, the termite progresses through three different life stages: egg, nymph, and adult. Depending on the colony's needs, young termites can molt several times over the span of their lives—including into reproductive alates.

What are termites good for? ›

Termites help to decompose dead trees and turn them back into fertile soil, which can help forests regrow faster. In addition to that, they also help aerate the soil which can help water and nutrients reach the plants and trees better, therefore increasing soil quality even more.

What are the two types of termites? ›

The Three Main Types of Termites

Subterranean. Drywood. Dampwood.

What chemical kills termites? ›

There are two main chemicals used to kill termites—fipronil and hexaflumuron. Fipronil is the specially designed chemical used as an active ingredient in many different liquid termiticides. In high enough concentrations, it can kill termites on contact. Pest control specialists apply it around the perimeter of homes.

What all do termites eat? ›

Termites eat cellulose material including the following:
  • wood.
  • plants.
  • carpet.
  • insulation.
  • cardboard.
  • sheetrock paper.
  • fabric.
  • animal feces.

How big is a termite? ›

They typically measure between 1/4 and 1/2 of an inch long and have soft bodies with straight antennae. The queens and kings are larger, capable of reaching over one inch long. Colors range from white to light brown where worker termites often appear lighter, while swarming termites darker.

Do termites hurt you? ›

Although termites cause serious damage to homes around the country, they are not known to attack or bite people and pets, and do not pose any serious health risks. Although termites can cause significant destruction to structures, they do not pose a direct threat to humans.

Can we eat termite? ›

Termites are eaten around the world, including in Africa, Asia, and South America. Usually, these insects are eaten to increase protein and fat consumption in rural areas or areas that experience higher rates of malnutrition. This is because they are high in amino acids and can be found somewhat easily.

Where do termites live? ›

Some termites live in and need contact with soil to thrive, while others prefer to live in dry wood above ground level. These wood-boring insects have been found living in walls, support beams, bathrooms, furniture, logs, and other wood sources found in or near the home.

What causes termite? ›

Leaky pipes, improper drainage, and poor airflow all create moisture issues that attract termites. Dampwood and subterranean termites in particular thrive in humid environments. While dampwood termites prefer water-damaged wood, subterranean termites are unable to live unless surrounded by enough moisture.

What is the common name of termites? ›

The insects of Isoptera are commonly called termites in English. Due to their poor abdominal sclerotization and white appearance, they are often called “white ants” in many temperate regions.

Which insect is called termites? ›

termite, (order Isoptera), any of a group of cellulose-eating insects, the social system of which shows remarkable parallels with those of ants and bees, although it has evolved independently. Even though termites are not closely related to ants, they are sometimes referred to as white ants.

What kills termite instantly? ›

Orange and neem oils are very effective for wood termite treatment. The former contains a compound called d-limonene and can easily kill termites when they come in contact with it. On the other hand, neem oil takes effect once ingested by the termites.

What smell keep termites away? ›

Clemson University scientists reported that 'Termites hate smells of cedarwood, geranium, and tea tree oil. It has also been found that clove bud, cinnamon, and garlic oils can also repel termites.

What kills termite naturally? ›

Boric acid is often recommended for the elimination of termites. Boric acid is a natural pesticide and usually comes in the powder form. You can sprinkle it in the area of infestation or mix it with water to spray in the area. It might be best to use goggles, masks and gloves while spraying the acid.

What color are termites? ›

Drywood termites typically have red or brown bodies. Dampwood termites tend to be light yellow or tan. Similarly, Formosan termites are yellow-bodied, though they are distinguishable thanks to their slightly hairy wings.

Can you see termites with your eyes? ›

Termites can be seen by the naked eye, particularly the larger alate swarmers that are most often seen outside the colony. In fact, one identifying factor in a termite infestation is finding discarded wings from an alate termite near openings like doors and windows.

Do termites like wet or dry? ›

Termites are attracted to wood, especially wet or moist wood. If you want to learn how to prevent a termite infestation, you first must understand how water damage plays a role.

Can termites fly? ›

Can all termites fly? No, not all of them. Only a small set of termites can fly and they only do so for a short period of time before they shed their wings. Out of the termite castes, it is only the winged Alates that can fly.

Where do termites sleep? ›

2. Termites Don't Sleep. Not only are termites numerous, they are simple organisms that don't require sleep. They run through tunnels in the ground, work their way up through tunnels in the wood of your home, and take nibble after nibble without ever taking a break.

What do termites drink? ›

Termites & Water

Dampwood termites get water from the wood they consume and have very high moisture requirements. This termite species nests only in wood with a high moisture content.

Are termites scary? ›

Termites are scary pests. They are not scary in the way that spiders or cockroaches are scary. It is very unlikely that you will see a termite scuttling across the floor of your kitchen. These pests will not send you running and screaming, but the impact that they can have on your home should strike fear in your heart.

How deep do termites live? ›

The colony may be 18-20 feet deep in the ground. The ground serves as a protection against extreme temperatures and provides a moisture reservoir. Termites reach wood or cellulose materials above ground by constructing and travelling through earthen (mud) tubes.

What do termite eggs look like? ›

Individual termite eggs are shaped like small, white pellets or tiny jelly beans with a shiny, translucent exterior. Unlike bed bug eggs or other insect eggs, termite eggs have no defining dips or dents on their shells.

Are termites blind? ›

Unlike many pests, termites rely on other senses more than eyesight to interact with the world around them. In fact, termites use their eyes so little that some are even born without them. While termite kings, queens, and reproductives have small, weak eyes, workers and soldiers are entirely blind.

Do termites make noise? ›

When disturbed or threatened, soldier termites create rattling noises by hitting their heads against the walls of tunnels. The pests use the vibrations caused by these movements to warn their colonies of danger. Worker termites also make clicking and rustling sounds with their mouths as they tunnel through wood.

Can termites go in your ear? ›

Animate foreign body in the ear canal or in the middle ear usually results in otalgia and hearing loss. We present a rare case of a living mature termite in the middle ear of a 9-year-old girl complaining of intermittent attacks of otalgia associated with a loud cracking sound in the left ear.

What termites taste like? ›

Insect Flavors of the Month

Raw termites taste like pineapple and cooked termites have a delicate, vegetable flavor. Grubs (which are larvae) of palm weevils taste like beef bone marrow. Fried agave worms (canned in Mexico) taste like sunflower seeds.

Do termites eat sugar? ›

So, we could argue that termites primarily eat sugar, not wood. Worker termites pass on the cellulose-turned sugar substance through a mouth-to-mouth feeding process.

Do termites eat skin? ›

For instance: Do termites bite? The answer is pretty straightforward: Termites do not have a reputation for biting humans, as their mandibles are not meant to penetrate skin. Now, termites do indeed bite wood, and they can certainly take a bite from your wallet.

Who eat termites? ›

Once grounded, a termite also becomes a treat for small animals, including certain types of mongooses, aardvarks and anteaters. They are also sought out as a meal by other small mammals, some reptiles and certain species of spiders and ants.

Are termites in soil? ›

Termites are naturally occurring in soils. Once you've found termites in the garden, that means they've found a food source. Termites feed on cellulose existent in wood and plant roots. Termites will stay hidden when first spreading.

Why do termites eat wood? ›

Termites' diets are primarily made up of cellulose, an organic fiber plentiful in wood and other plants such as grass. When digested, cellulose provides termites with the nutrients they need to survive.

Where are you most likely to find termites? ›

Here are the top 5 places to look for termites and termite damages: Outside on concrete walls, painted wood trim, siding, and wood piles. Storage areas like basements, garages, attics, and crawl spaces. Around leaky pipes and moist areas in kitchens and bathrooms.

Where are termites found most? ›

Some termites live in and need contact with soil to thrive, while others prefer to live in dry wood above ground level. These wood-boring insects have been found living in walls, support beams, bathrooms, furniture, logs, and other wood sources found in or near the home.

How do you find the source of termite infestation? ›

Termites sometimes bore little holes through drywall or plaster walls to get to their food source, so you can inspect any drywall or plaster around your property to confirm the presence of a termite infestation. Holes that are caused by termites will have dirt around the edges.

Where are termites attracted to? ›

Termites are attracted to any food source that contains cellulose, primarily wood. However, some termites prefer damp, soft wood, or live in the ground near your home's foundation.

Where do termites go at night? ›

Termites never sleep. Ever. Termites might slow down, or even stop, for a time if the temperature drops low enough. This is a state called diapause, which some insects go into if their body temperature gets down to a certain point.

Can termites bite you? ›

A termite bite is rare and would be very mild because of the size and biting ability of the insect. You are susceptible to infection with any bug bite or opening of the skin. Keep an eye on the bite area and call a doctor if you develop a fever or if the bite area looks or feels worse over time.

What is the cause of termites? ›

Leaky pipes, improper drainage, and poor airflow all create moisture issues that attract termites. Dampwood and subterranean termites in particular thrive in humid environments. While dampwood termites prefer water-damaged wood, subterranean termites are unable to live unless surrounded by enough moisture.

Where termites live is called? ›

A termite nest is also known as a termitary or termitarium (plural termitaria or termitariums).

How do termites spread? ›

Termites spread in two main ways:

The female then seeks out a suitable environment, lands and sheds her wings, and starts a brand new colony. Other termites, whose sole duty is to hunt for food, forage for food in wooden structures and homes. They build tunnels made of mud in order to gain access to the wood.

Where do termites hide? ›

Where Termites Hide. Simply put, termites can be found in any place that has wood. They commonly make their homes in wooden buildings and structures.

What are termites afraid of? ›

Sunlight. Termites hate sunlight. In fact, they can die from too much sunlight and heat exposure. If you suspect that a piece of furniture has termites, drag it to the yard to bake in the sun for a bit.

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