How to Know if Your Home is Infested with Termites

dirt tubes
dirt tubes

Termites cause more monetary damage to homes than any other terrestrial creature on the planet. It’s pests like termites that cause homeowner’s to stress and worry. You usually don’t see them and you don’t know if they are busy destroying your home in places where you can’t see. While it is not always possible to detect them, there are some things to look for so you can detect them early and decrease the cost or repairs.

What is a termite? A termite is a social insect that feeds on cellulose (wood). It's not that simple though. Termites by themselves are unable to digest cellulose, which is their food of choice. They rely on both protozoa and bacteria to digest the cellulose. The protozoa have bacteria on their exterior that also aid in the digestion of cellulose. This a  good example of mutualism where all organisms benefit without any adverse effects.

First, just because you see swarmers does not necessarily mean you have a problem, but you may want to have your home checked. It usually takes around three years for termite colonies to produce swarms, so you may have a problem nearby. You can usually start seeing swarms from January through June. In my home I was actually finding dead termites in my kitchen, but after a termite inspection, my home was deemed termite free.

Walk around your home and press on any exterior wood. It it feels spongy it could mean two things. One, the wood is just rotten from the weather. Or two, termites have been feasting on the buffet you have offered them. The first problem could also lead to termites since they love moisture and wood. I guess you could say it’s like peas and carrots to them. If you feel spongy wood, remove it and check for termite signs. Termites leave a telltale mark of channels in the wood.

Other things to look for are dirt tubes. Dirt tubes usually have a diameter of a pencil and usually smaller. Since termites hate light (they are little wood eating vampires) they construct tunnels. These tunnels are made with their own feces (filthy little creatures aren’t they) and they provide a termite highway where the sun never shines and humidity stays high. Dirt tubes are a pretty compelling bit of data that you have a termite problem.

Another sign to look for is sawdust. Homeowners will often find a sawdust type material and not give it a second thought. What they are actually seeing are termite droppings and it can vary in color depending on the type of wood they have been enjoying.


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