How to Know if You Have Termites
None of the above tactics are a magic bullet for keeping termites out. “There’s not a failsafe prevention,” Fredericks says. That means it’s important to be vigilant about checking for signs of an infestation. Here are some things to look for.
Mud Shelter Tubes
These tunnels are quite thin—about the diameter of a pencil. Look for these around the foundation of your home. “The important places to look are where the structure is in contact with the soil,” Fredericks says.
A swarm of insects inside is a likely sign that you have a colony within, but a swarm outside doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem. If you see a swarm, first confirm that what you’re seeing is termites, not flying ants. The two insects resemble each other, but termites have straight antennae and a broad waist, where ants have angled antennae and a pinched waist. Both swarm in the spring or early summer when it’s warm.
You can sometimes see the signs that termites have been hard at work without removing drywall or siding. Wood may appear dark, blistered, or layered when damaged by termites, and mud or soil may be present. Your hearing can help you detect damage too: If you tap on wood and it sounds hollow, that could mean termites have eaten the hidden insides. This wood will be so damaged that digging in with a screwdriver will puncture it.
Wings and Feces
It’s possible you’ll spot wings from subterranean termites on your home’s entry points (doors and window sills), which indicate that termites that swarmed outside your home have now made their way inside. Another sign of an infestation: fecal pellets. “Drywood termite pellets are tiny, and might look like salt and pepper [or grains of sand] along the windowsill,” says Fredericks.
While you may be able to spot major signs and infestations on your own, a pest-control professional can ensure you don’t miss anything. “A professional is trained to look for these signs,” Fredericks says. “We recommend that on an annual basis, you have someone come to do an inspection of your home to determine if termites or their evidence is present.” You want to catch termites as early as possible to prevent expensive—and potentially dangerous—damage.