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Termites are huge menace Print E-mail
'In the United States, no pest causes more annual damage to homes than the termite. Termites have been found across 70 percent of the world and have survived environmental changes for more than 250 million years, adjusting to most any climate. In the U.S., termites are found in ever state except Alaska. In fact, they invade the homes of more than 1.5 million Americans every year. Americans spend more than $2.5 billion yearly dealing with termites and repairing the damage they cause - more than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and fires combined. But unlike these natural disasters, termites will destroy a home silently -their presence often goes undetected until after the damage is done. What''s worse, termite damage is not even covered by most homeowner insurance policies.

Read more to learn the warning signs to avoid termite damage.

The Warning Signs

According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), the following signs may indicate a home is infested with termites:

  • Swarms of flying termites (called "swarmers" or "alates") can occur both inside and outside of the house, usually in the spring. Often the first sign of a termite infestation is the sudden appearance of these swarmers, ushering in the beginning of termite "swarming" season.
    Swarming termites usually shed their wings after swarming, leaving behind small, papery piles on windowsills, countertops or floors. During swarming season, termite colonies send off large numbers of these winged reproductive termites.
    A swarm is recognizable by the sudden appearance of hundreds to thousands of swarmers within a home or building. The swarm often lasts just a few minutes, as swarmers fly a short distance, then fall to the ground and lose their wings. Soon afterwards, females will emit a pheromone to attract male termites for mating. After pairing, the termites search for a location to begin a new colony.
Termite swarming is triggered by a combination of several successive days of above average temperatures, followed by a light rain. Swarm activity varies geographically, but occurs most often in the spring (March-May) and during the daytime. A single colony may swarm more than once a year, but ensuing swarms are often not as large as the original spring swarm. It is also common for termite colonies in the same area to swarm on the same day.
  • Small piles of wood residue or shavings often indicate termite activity. Tiny holes in wood, crumbling drywall and sagging doors are other symptoms of wood damage. Termites are attracted to the cellulose and high moisture in wood; some termite species need only a space 1/64 of an inch wide - the thickness of a piece of paper - to enter a home.
    There are five major types of nuisance termites throughout the United States - Eastern Subterranean termites, Western Subterranean Termites. Desert Subterranean termites, Formosan Subterranean termites (the "Super Termite" invading homes throughout the South and Hawaii) and Drywood termites. Eastern Subterranean and Formosan termites are by far the most destructive. Combined, they account for more than 80% of the economic loss in North America every year.
An average Eastern Subterranean termite colony can consume five grams of wood per day, the equivalent of 2 1/3 linear feet of a 2-foot by 4-foot pine board annually. Formosan termite colonies can average millions of workers, all of them foraging for food. A mature colony of Formosans can consume as much as 13 ounces of wood per day. As a result, Formosans can severely damage a structure in as little as three months.
  • Beware of bubbled paint or visible, pencil-sized mud tubes running across concrete or connecting soil to wood. Termites often make underground tunnels or above-ground "shelter tubes" of mud, feces or debris while searching for new food sources and connecting their underground nests to the food. These mud tubes are the tunnels that termites use to gain access into your home.


Although Eastern Subterranean Termite colonies are largely located in the ground below the frost line, secondary colonies can exist above ground, and examples of true above-ground colonies existing without any ground contact have been seen. However, such above ground colonies have access to moisture and often the source is a roof or plumbing leak. In all, subterranean termites can average 13 to 14 colonies per acre, with as many as one million termites per colony.

This article was prepared for the LESCONEWS by the BASF Corporation.

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