How to Detect Termites

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Termites are soft, six-legged insects that resemble ants. Most are white or clear, with the exception of winged termites, which are brown. Termites form colonies that can contain millions of insects that cause damage to wood structures and homes, creating costly repairs. Knowing how to detect termites in your home before too much damage is inflicted is paramount.

Things You'll Need

  • Flashlight
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Pay close attention to any swarming insects you see around the foundation of your home. Termites will swarm on occasion. Where there is a swarm, infestation is most likely close by because termites don't venture far from their colony.

  • Inspect the foundation of your home. Wait until night to do the inspection because termites like the dark. Take a flashlight and look around the entire foundation of your house. Pick up a specimen of any insects you find to check further. Winged termites are the easiest to spot and are found more often in spring and fall. A link with pictures is provided in the Resources section to help you identify the insects you find.

  • Check for piles of mud close to the foundation of your home. If mud piles are present, disturb them and check for insects.

  • Look for tunnels when trying to detect termites in your home. Termites build mud tunnels or tubes to get from the ground into wood structures. The tunnels look like rivulets in wood and will often have mud around them. If the infestation is bad, you may even find hanging tunnels in basements and crawlspaces.

  • Take a hammer or screwdriver and rap on wood around the foundation of your home and in crawlspaces and basements. A piece of wood that produces a hollow sound when rapped on might contain termite damage. Termites cause wood to become fragile so any wood that pulls or breaks away with slight pressure is even more likely to contain termite damage.

  • Keep an eye out for any small wood debris around windows and doors, as this is an indication of termite infestation.

  • Listen for excessive creaking of floorboards in your home. If termite damage is extensive, the wood in floors may weaken. Any creaks should be checked out.

  • Follow these practices yearly now that you know how to detect termites in your home. When you do yearly inspections, you ensure any termite infestation doesn't get completely out of hand before it is found. If any signs of termites are present, call an exterminator for a complete professional inspection.

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