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Termites have lived on Earth for more than a quarter of a billion years and are a critical link in the Earth’s ecosystem, returning the nutrients in dead wood back to the soil.

Termites are silent destroyers of homes, leaving few signs of activity while steadily eating the wood and sheet rock in the floors, ceilings and walls of homes. Termites build the largest nest of any insect.

Protozoa that are capable of digesting wood live symbiotically in the intestine of termites, giving termites a uncontested niche in the food web of your home. Termites will feed on anything that contains cellulose including (but not limited to) paper, cardboard, styrofoam, wood and plastic materials.

Termites cause more damage to homes in the United States than tornadoes, hurricanes, wind, and hail storms combined but termite damage is not covered by homeowners insurance.

Wise homeowners can prevent termites by preventing the insects from accessing food and water.

  • First, eliminate excess moisture by repairing leaky faucets and pipes. Divert all running water from your foundation so that termites who find water won’t be near your home. Keep gutters and downspouts clean and remove excessive wood mulch.
  • Secondly, remove the termites’ food. Keep firewood and paper away from your foundation or crawl space. Get rid of tree stumps that are near your home. Keep an eye on your deck and wooden fence for any termite damage and treat it immediately.

The best time to control termites is before they swarm in the spring.

Here are five warning signs that your home is infested with termites:

1. A swarm of winged insects, often lasting 3-4 days, appearing near a window or door, usually in the springtime. When a colony has matured, the termites swarm, mate, and then locate a new breeding site and begin a new colony. Ants also swarm but have smaller waists than termites and have longer front wings than back wings.

2. Cracked or bubbling paint may be signs of termite droppings.  Inspect any stored boxes or paper items on the floor of the basement or garage for evidence of termite activity.

3. Wood that sounds hollow when tapped might be a sign that termites have destroyed the wood from the inside. Wood damaged by moisture or other insects won’t have hollow tubes or bits of dried mud which are common in termite damaged wood.

4. Pencil-thick  termite shelter tubes (mud tubes) attahed to foundations on the interior of your garage, basement or walls (if house is on a slab) or on the exterior foundation.  These tubes are built by termites for shelter as they travel from their underground shelter to your home to eat. You can break the tube open to see if it is an actively used tube.

5. Discarded wings from swarmers.

The only way to confirm a termite infestation is to hire a professional. Remember, there is no subsutition for a professional termite inspection performed by a qualified licensed wood destroying insect inspector! The chemicals that can kill termites are controlled by law and cannot be purchased or applied by unlicensed homeowners. Professionals are licensed by the Department of Agriculture. Many are also members of the National Pest Management Association. Professional companies may offer references and warrantees.

Special thanks to today’s guest blogger, Glenn Zuhl!


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