Termites are nasty little things that love to burrow into your wood and eat away. The beams and timbers of your house are a veritable Golden Corral for the suckers. They burrow through and tuck in for a long-term feast. And while it does no good to take their snacking personally (they are just doing their job, after all), you also don’t need to feel obligated to lay out the welcome mat and invite them to stick around.
While you might not have time to set up a 24-hour surveillance crew to catch them on their first landing, some signs will make their presence known, and then you can drive them out before they get too comfortable. We are here to help you spot them early and act fast!
One early sign of termites can be heard, so keep your ears open. While they are little, they are not quiet eaters. Not only do they have the audacity to gnaw your wood, they do it with their mouths open. (Gasp!) They are also headbangers. The soldier termites warn the colony of danger by knocking their heads against the wood. So, if your walls start making noises, it might be time to call an expert and see if there is a large picnic happening in your walls.
Flying Termites (aka “Swarmers”)
Yes. That is a thing. We hope that image doesn’t stay in your mind forever. They do less damage than flying monkeys, but they are harder to spot. Plus, they can’t pick you up out of the forest and take you to an evil witch. See, the termites aren’t so bad, right?
One of the first signs of a termite infestation is the appearance of the swarmers. These are males and females that have left a nest to mate and establish a new colony. They could be coming or going from your home, but either way, they spell trouble. If you don’t spot them in action, you might also see their discarded wings, which means they’ve found a nice place to settle. Don’t worry about bringing them a housewarming gift, the hope is they won’t be staying long.
White ants are sort of like unicorns: they are special, magical… and they don’t exist. If you see a unicorn in your living room, you might want to consider calling a doctor. If you see a white ant in your living room, you probably want to call an exterminator, because you are really seeing a termite.
It probably isn’t a surprise to you that termites weaken the wood. Generally, eating tunnels through a substance will weaken it. And this weakness is easier to hear than see sometimes. They eat it from the inside out, so while it might look perfectly normal from the outside, a quick knock on your wall, wood decking, or door frames might give you a heads up on termite damage. The sound will have a hollow or echoing sound, and it could be worth looking inside the wood to see if your hunch is right. An expert will know how to do this most effectively, but you can do the knocking part yourself!
Stiffness in the Joints
While warped doors and stuck windows are often attributed to damp weather, the buggy munchers can also be the reason that the window suddenly won’t open as easily. As the termites chew and create their colonies, they slowly expand the wood, creating warped doors or swollen windows. If there is a particular window that is giving you trouble and the weather hasn’t been noticeably damp, then you might want to think about looking inside for the telltale sign of tunnels. The termites might be expanding their colony and it is time for you to make some zoning restrictions!
Even termites. You didn’t think you’d read about poop in a lumber blog, did you? Well, poop is everywhere, and termites don’t incorporate plumbing into their colony plans. They are thoughtless that way. That means that their “mess” will be left right where they dropped it. It is called “frass” and it is a sure sign of an infestation. And like every other creature’s poop—it doesn’t smell good. Termite colonies can create a mild but definite odor as they grow.
Last but not Least
Life is busy, and we often don’t notice things that happen incrementally over time. If all these subtle signs slip past you, then the sure sign of termites will eventually make itself known. A piece of wood will crumble away, whether it be in your window frame, deck, or door, but you might get lucky and see it in a piece of wood that is near your house. If you have a pile of lumber or firewood near your home and you see any tunneling in that wood, then termites have been in the house. They might even be in YOUR house. Time to take a look around.
There are a wide variety of chemical treatments available that will bid farewell to the bugs in your walls. Ask around for references for pest control companies, especially those that specialize in termites. Real estate agents can be a wonderful reference for these kinds of referrals. They deal with termite inspections and damage all the time. They will point you towards someone they trust.
Termites are not wicked by nature, they are just doing what nature tells them to do: eat wood, lots and lots of wood. Still, there are other places they can find wood besides in your walls and deck, so you can have a clean conscience about sending them packing. Keep a sharp eye out for these signs and get regular inspections. Save the welcome mat for the guests that don’t eat your walls. They’ll just want plenty of chips and dip.