5 Early Signs of Termites and What They Look Like

What are termites?

Termites are a common problem in South Florida, known for infesting many homes across the state. Their primary nutrition sources are wood and plant matter, which makes them a significant nuisance, as they can affect the wood inside and around your dwelling.

Most homeowners regard termites as one of the most threatening pests. With their aversion to direct light and small size, they often remain unseen until their nests are disturbed.

Consequently, termite infestations may go undetected for months or even years. The presence of swarmers or their wings may indicate a termite problem.

How Can I Identify a Termite Infestation?

The eastern subterranean termite, Florida dampwood termite, Formosan termite, and drywood termite are the most common termite species in Florida. Termite swarming is prevalent during Florida’s Spring and Summer months. Detecting subterranean termites is more challenging than drywood termites because they primarily dwell in the soil.

To detect signs of termites, it is recommended to regularly inspect your property. Additionally, consulting a pest control company annually can help determine the need for termite treatment.

Here are five signs of termite infestation:

1. Stuck Doors or Windows

If you observe that your door or window is challenging to open or close, it could signal an early termite infestation. Termites are attracted to exposed wood, such as those around windows and door frames, causing these structures to be difficult to manipulate as termites consume the wood.

Termite-induced damage can compromise your home’s structural integrity, leading to sagging ceilings and deteriorating baseboards.

2. Damage Under Paint or Wallpaper

Termites may feed on cardboard and wood paneling concealed beneath your walls, creating tunnels (termite galleries) and tiny pinholes (exit holes). This damage type might be undetectable unless the wallpaper/paint is removed, often discovered during home renovations and repairs.

On painted or wallpapered surfaces, early termite infestations can be discerned by their unique appearance. Signs include:

  • Pinholes in the paint where termites have consumed the material
  • Bubbling paint
  • Peeling or discolored wallpaper
  • Buckling wood
  • Dented or sunken areas

3. Flying Termites & Discarded Wings

One of the earliest indicators of an active termite infestation is the emergence of termite swarmers, the reproductive members of a termite colony.

Swarmers, or alates, can be distinguished by their pale-colored wings, about 1/4 to 1/2 inches long. A swarmer that has found a mate and exited the colony will shed its wings.

In Florida, termite swarms are common during spring, as insects seek mates and establish new colonies. Swarmers are attracted to light from windows and doors, and you may find swarmers and discarded wings in these areas, as they cannot survive indoors for long.

Swarmers are often mistaken for flying ants. However, flying ants have pinched waists and two different-sized wings, whereas termites have straight bodies and two similar-sized wings. Additionally, ants have elbowed or bent antennae, while termites possess straight antennae without any noticeable bends or elbows.

4. Mud Tubes

Watch out for mud tubes on your property. These tubes, leading to areas with exposed wood, may be seen alongside your house.

Mud Tube

Termites build mud tubes to maintain their moisture levels in dry air. Subterranean termites, the most common type in South Florida, require a moist environment to thrive due to their thin exoskeletons. Mud tubes aid them in safely reaching their food source from their colony.

You can inspect a section of a mud tube for live termites to determine if you have an active infestation. However, absence of live termites or repaired mud tubes does not necessarily mean you are free from termites. They may have shifted to another part of your home or property with easier food access.

5. Termite Droppings

JJ Greive of Home Inspections Of Puget Sound, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

One of the key signs of termite activity is frass or termite droppings, produced as termites consume wood. However, the handling of frass differs across termite species.

Drywood termites, common in the southern coastal states, often push out their frass from the colony. This way they prevent waste buildup in their nests and tunnels. Drywood termite frass usually looks like wood dust or shavings due to its wood color and pellet-like shape.

On the other hand, subterranean termites incorporate their droppings into their tunnel construction. These termites build comprehensive tunnel systems out of mud and droppings, which are often invisible to the untrained eye. This makes their detection more intricate.

Types of Termites

The United States commonly hosts two species of termites: Drywood and Subterranean termites. Although they share a similar cellulose-based diet found in wood, their behaviors, habitats, and infestation indications significantly differ. This discussion will provide a deeper understanding of these termite types, their characteristics, and identification techniques.

Drywood Termites

Drywood termites are prolific in warm, southern climates, constructing their nests in the trees they consume. It’s typical for them to carve tunnels and chambers into walls and furniture. They leave behind small, pellet-like fecal deposits after feeding or nesting.

Drywood termites can also cause areas to resemble water damage, resulting in sagging floors, walls, and ceilings. After swarming, they shed wings, which can be found scattered in infested households. These wings exhibit a fish scale-like pattern.

Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites populate the continental United States. These pests burrow underground but venture above ground for food. They invade homes through foundation cracks or leaks, utilizing tunnels composed of mud, animal waste, and saliva. Their brown, dry, and spherical tunnels are distinctively visible.

Infestations by subterranean termites are discernible by the proximity of these tunnels to the house’s foundation. The presence of swarming subterranean termites in your home indicates active colonies nearby.

"Termites leaving the mounds" (CC BY 2.0) by jeans_Photos

Your Best Defense Against Termites

Be aware that termite signs might remain hidden for months or even years. Employing a licensed termite professional safeguards your home from potential catastrophic structural damage by termites. Trained to detect the slightest signs of activity, termite experts could save you thousands in home repairs. More information about what termites look like is available here.

Free Full Attic & Home Inspection

On Demand Pest Control, a South Florida-based pest control company, specializes in offering safe and effective termite control. Our staff, well-acquainted with termite appearance and activity, treats pest control as a scientific endeavor.

Contact us today for a free inspection and no-obligation estimate or visit our termite page for more information.

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