Concerned you may have termites? Wondering how to tell?

Here are some basic facts about termites and infestation.


We know: How to Tell if You Have Termites

What are termites?

There are many kinds of termites. Here are two of the most common:

  • Subterranean termites are insects that live in the ground in colonies or nests and are found throughout the United States. These termites swarm or fly in groups in spring and fall, especially after a rain. Termites look very similar to flying ants when they swarm. Both have two sets of wings; in termites all four wings are about the same size, while ants have a set of large wings and a set of smaller wings.
  • Drywood termites are found in dry, undecayed wood, such as structural lumber, dead tree limbs, utility poles, posts, and lumber in storage. They migrate seasonally to nearby buildings on sunny days during fall months and mostly are found in Southern California.

What problems are caused by termites?

Termites can infest buildings and damage wood, flooring, sheetrock, wallpaper, furniture and even plastic.

How can I tell if I have termites in my home?

Signs of subterranean termites ---

  • Flying winged termites are often visible in your home when they swarm, or you may find wings they have shed.
  • Damaged wood has the remains of mud tubes attached to wood tunnels in irregular patterns. White termites are also often found in the infested wood.
  • Mud tubes extending from the ground to the woodwork or foundation walls are also a sign of termites. Each tube is about the diameter of a lead pencil.

Signs of drywood termites ---

  • Salt and pepper-like fecal pellets with six longitudinal ridges are often evident.
  • Larger than subterranean termites, drywood termites are dark brown with black wings and a reddish brown head and thorax.

Where should I inspect for damage?

Look for evidence of termites by using a screwdriver to probe wood in your basement or crawl space to see if its been damaged. Check for damage along the exterior and interior surfaces of the house foundation. Also, look at window sills, joists, support posts, basement window frames, wood porches, cracks in cement, expansion joints, scrap wood piles, tree stumps, fence posts and exterior frames of basement windows.


If you suspect there is termite damage, you can call an inspector to be sure.

How quickly can termites cause appreciable damage?

It takes from 3-5 years. If you suspect there is termite damage, you can call an inspector to be sure.

What can be done to control termites?

In the case of both types of termites, you will probably need professional help. Each type requires a different approach:

  1. Subterranean termites are controlled primarily with insecticides and baiting programs.
  2. Drywood termites are treated by fumigation, heat and localized or spot treatments of chemicals. They also can be treated with heat, freezing, microwaves or electricity.

What should I remember before hiring a pest control professional?

Be sure to get the following:

  • Two or more estimates
  • A warranty or guarantee of the work for a specified period of time - note that the "standard" 2-year warranty offered by termite companies is practically worthless - as termites don't come around for more than 2 years after removal! Try to get a 3 or more year warranty.
  • A plan of work listing the sites of termite activity and treatment procedures
  • Written information on they type of treatment being used, any chemicals or hazardous materials, and any precautions you should take
  • A copy of liability insurance from the company doing the termite work


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