TERMITES: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Parents often joke that their children are eating them out of house and home, but when it comes to termites, it’s not just a figure of speech. The damage that termites can cause to your house cannot be overstated.

In a time where living in harmony with the environment is important, and we want to encourage diverse life in our yards, where we can, we want to avoid poisoning anything on the property with more legs than we have. That’s why we thought we’d give you some ways to check if you have a termite infestation, and what you can do about it.

What do they look like?

If you happen to see termites before you hear them, you might think that you’re looking at some strange white ants. They might even have wings. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as white ants — what you’re looking at are termites.

Termites are white, unlike ants, which are usually brown or black. Termites also look a little translucent (slightly see-through), which is common for bugs (and animals) that tend to live in the dark (more on this in a moment). You can spot them inside your house or outside in the yard, but either way, they’re tenants you don’t really want hanging around.

Part of the reason termites don’t spend a lot of time in the sun is because they don’t need to forage for food the same way that ants do. They eat dead wood and plants, which means they’re happy to chomp their way through a tree stump in your backyard, or indeed the dead wood that’s currently holding your roof up.

What are the signs of an infestation?

The reason termites work in the dark even when they’re outside is that they construct tunnels out of mud and move through those instead of just marching along like ants do. If you have termites on your property, you may see these mud shelter tubes either around your property, or even possibly inside the house.

But a lack of mud tunnels or seeing the termites themselves doesn’t mean that you’re safe. If they’re already in the walls, you might not be able to see them.

Here are some of the ways that termite damage can manifest:

  • Sagging doorframes or window frames. Remember that a doorframe is built of wood and fits around the edge of the plaster over the wall. If you see the doorframe sagging, chances are that termites have eaten enough of the frame that it has affected the structural integrity of the wood. You might not be able to see the door sagging, but if you find your doors and windows start sticking or becoming difficult to open, it might be worth having a closer look.
  • Delicate walls or frames. Most of us know when we’ve hit something hard enough to damage it. If you bump into a wall that you think should be able to take the knock and it crumbles, it could be a warning sign.
  • Thin wood, or wood that sounds hollow. You might wonder how you’re supposed to be familiar enough with the acoustics of your house to know whether the sound has changed, but you’re probably more aware of what a wall should sound like than not. The sound the wood makes is important because sometimes termites will eat away the inside of something, like a supporting beam, so it will look fine from the outside, but be hollow inside. Not ideal!
  • Wood that looks like it’s bubbling. You might also see wood bubbling as termites build their infrastructure inside your house.
  • Strange noises. Termites are noisy. Usually the sound they make is described as a muffled banging or chewing, and you’re most likely to hear it in the dead of night.

What do I do if I think I have termites?

There are many problems that may go away by themselves, but termites are not one of them. If you think you might have an infestation, you should call a professional exterminator as soon as possible and get them to check it out. While there are some remedies you can attempt yourself, it’s better to have a professional guarantee that the problem has been fixed, as the consequences of a reinfestation can be devastating. Termites also eat 24 hours a day. Every hour that they’re on your property, they’re ruining something that you probably don’t want them to ruin.

Termites are a serious problem that can literally destroy your investment. It pays to be vigilant and look out for the warning signs. If you’re living in your house, pay attention when you’re moving around the property to check for mud tunnels or any other signs of infestation. If you see something that you’re not sure about, don’t be afraid to engage a professional and get rid of the problem before it affects the value, or indeed the structural integrity, of your property.