How to Tell If They are Termites

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Termites can cause extensive damage to wood and wood by-products in your home, resulting in costly repairs. Although there are several types of termites, Ohio State University reports that subterranean termites are the most common in the United States. These termites tunnel through soil in search of moisture and wood found in your home. Learning how to identify termites can help you take appropriate pest control measures, limiting the amount of damage to your home.

Things You'll Need

  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Look at the insect's body. Soldier and worker termites are approximately 1/8-inch long, have no wings and a white or grayish body. Soldier termites have yellowish-brown rectangular heads with strong jaws, while workers have round heads. Termites capable of reproducing are approximately ½-inch long, may or may not have wings and have a body that can range in color between yellowish-brown and black.

  • If the insects have wings, examine them. It can be easy to confuse termites with flying ants. Winged ants have larger wings in the fronts of their bodies than in the backs. The front and back wings of termites, however, are equal in size.

  • Take note of the season. Termite swarms are more likely in the spring when warm temperatures and rainfall prompt termites to emerge from their tunnels and fly away to begin new colonies.

  • Look at the corners of your windows. The wings of swarming termites may become caught in cobwebs or accumulate on window sills.

  • Check for tell-tale signs of a termite infestation. Look for long, skinny tubes constructed from mud on sill plates, interior or exterior foundation walls, beams and joists or exterior walls. Termites use these tubes to enter your home.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you find termites, use a flat head screwdriver to check beams and other wood surfaces for signs of termite infestation. If there is an infestation, the screwdriver head will easily penetrate the damaged wood. If you examine the damaged wood closely, you may be able to see tunnels lined with dried or fresh soil.
  • Make it difficult for termites to invade your home by storing logs and wood away from the foundation of your home and by decreasing moisture near your home. Grading soil to allow water to run away from your home and keeping downspouts and gutters clear and in good repair will decrease moisture.

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