Termites are some of the most problematic pests in the United States. Not only are they an incredible nuisance, but they are also incredibly damaging. In fact, it is estimated that pests like termites can cause nearly $5 billion worth of damage in a single year to homes and structures.
A single household will often spend around $3,000 alone in repairs after discovering termite damage to their homes. Yikes!
In order to reduce damage and the cost of dealing with termites, it’s important to try and catch them early. With that in mind, we’re going to go over 10 tell-tale signs of termites.
But before we begin, let’s first take a quick look at termites, what they are and how they have come to be such a problematic pest.
What Are Termites? Identification and Habitat
Termites are a type of insect often mistaken for ants. They feast on wood and other organic material.
Though they look like ants, termites are actually more closely related to cockroaches. Most of the time they have soft, tan colored bodies and go through three stages of metamorphosis before reaching maturity and dying.
These stages include the egg stage, nymph stage and adult stage. Though they are not related to ants, termites do have a few similarities.
They tend to live in colonies, and in each colony there are termites with specific jobs. These jobs include:
Worker termites make up the majority of their termite colony. These termites are typically responsible for finding food, building and maintaining their nest, and caring for the unhatched termite eggs. When looking for signs of termites, most people are looking for signs of worker termites.
Soldier termites are, as their name suggests, the protectors of their colony. They have large mandibles and are often standing guard near the entry and exit points of their nest to prevent predators from attacking.
Nymphs are freshly hatched or young termites. Once they are able, they usually fall into the role of worker termites in their colony.
Also known as reproductive termites or Alates Termites, swarmer termites generally have wings and are responsible for reproduction. When it is time, they will swarm outside of the nest where they mate. They then lose their wings and die shortly after laying eggs.
There are around 2,000 different types of termites throughout the world, but the most common in the United States include:
Subterranean termites are some of the most common termites you’ll come across when looking for signs of termites. These termites live in every state in the US except for Alaska, where the climate is not conducive to their needs.
These termites can live above or below ground in moist, humid environments. Each colony can contain nearly 2 million termites, making them without a doubt the most destructive termites to infest homes and structures in the United States.
Formosan Termites are an invasive species of termite originating from China. They are also incredibly destructive, though they are not as common or widely spread as their subterranean termite counterparts.
Formosan Termites are aggressive by nature, and they can become incredibly difficult to control or manage once they infest a home or building. They are most common throughout warm and humid states like North Carolina, South Carolina, Hawaii, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, Alabama, Florida,Tennessee and Calfironia.
Conehead termites are another invasive species of termite hailing from the Caribbean. They are also a relatively new pest to the United States, having been introduced sometime in 2001.
These termites are proving to be an especially problematic pest throughout the United States, especially in southern states, as they can cause quite a bit of damage to properties in a very short period of time.
Dampwood Termites are the largest of most termite species, though they are also often considered less problematic. This is due to their propensity for living and infesting damp wood and environments.
While they generally stick to more humid and moist climates, damp wood termites can infest homes and structures, especially if buildings have water damage that has gone unchecked. In cases such as these, dampwood termites can be quite problematic.
Last, we have drywood termites. Drywood termites are another problematic species of termite as they do not require much moisture and can live in a variety of woods both near and far from water.
Drywood termites are most commonly found in the Southern United States and are problematic for a number of homes and structures throughout the region.
Are Termites Dangerous?
This is an example of severe termite damage behind drywall.
Though Termites are not physically dangerous to humans and animals, they can cause serious damage to wood. This can lead to devastating structural damage, which can be very dangerous for anyone living in a severely infested home.
In fact, some studies have found that it only takes about three years for a termite infestation to completely destroy a home or structure. That’s not a lot of time, considering a number of termite infestations go unnoticed for quite a while.
Do You Have Termites? 10 Signs Of Termites In Your Home
Termites can be a problem both indoors and out.
Because termites don’t bite, sting, or have hard bodies, they tend to have no other defense against predators other than to hide away. This can make them difficult to spot, especially if they infest your home.
Most termites in the United States work by building mud tunnels known as mud tubes leading to and from their nest, and these tubes can easily go unnoticed by the unwitting person looking for signs of termites.
Termites also tend to eat the wood and build their nests from the inside out, meaning that many signs of termites won’t appear to a homeowner until the damage is already quite severe.
The good news is that, if you know what to look for, there are a few tell tale signs of termites that will alert you to their presence.
Some of the most common signs of termites include but are not limited to:
- Peeling Paint Or Damaged Wood
- Buckling Wood or Laminate Flooring/Squeaky Wood Flooring
- Loose Tiles On The Floor Or Bathroom Walls
- Small Holes In Wood Or Drywall and Hollow Sounding Walls
- Windows Or Doors That Begin To Stick
- Patterns In Wood, Furniture, or Flooring That Looks Like A Maze
- Termite Pellet Mounds That Resemble Salt or Pepper
- Piles of Insect Wings
- Mud Tubes Near Your Home’s Foundation
- Physically Seeing Termites or Termite Swarms In Or Around Your Home
This video talks more about signs of termites and how damaging they can be.
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Now, with that in mind, it’s time to take a closer look at the ten most common signs of termites in your home.
1. Peeling Paint On Walls
Cracked or peeling paint that looks almost like water damage can be a sure sign Termites are behind the walls.
Often, a common sign of termites in your home is going to be peeling paint or bubbling paint on walls. This is a sign that can easily go unnoticed by homeowners and may lead people to look for alternative causes to the damage, including water leaks.
The reason paint will peel or bubble due to termite damage is because the termites are eating away at the wood below the surface of the drywall. This leads to excess moisture penetrating the wall and causing paint to peel, bubble or crack.
If you notice signs of peeling or bubbling paint, another way to determine if you have termites beneath the surface is to listen in that specific area.
Termites are not the quietest of pests, and will often make knocking, scattering or chewing sounds inside walls. You can also give the wall a few knocks with your fist. A wall that sounds hollow where it should be solid is a common sign of termites.
2. Buckling Wood or Laminate Flooring/Squeaky Wood Flooring
Buckling, bowing or sagging in wood floors could be an indication that termites have caused damage below the surface.
Although most people think termites live inside their walls, termites are ravenously problematic when it comes to hardwood floors. A common sign of termites in flooring comes when flooring begins to buckle beneath your feet as you walk.
This occurs because the below subfloor that supports the wood has been eaten and compromised by the termites.
Another common sign of termites when it comes to wood flooring is a squeaky or loud floor. When you walk in areas of your home that used to feel solid and quiet but are now suddenly buckling and loud beneath your feet, it’s time to check for termite damage.
3. Loose Tiles On The Floor Or Bathroom Walls
If tiles are coming loose, this could mean that termite damage is leading to excess moisture behind them and causing them to come free.
Like wood flooring and paint, tiled floors and walls can also be compromised by termite damage. This is again due to damage caused beneath the surface of the walls or flooring as termites infest and feast on wood.
Loose tiles, tiles that fall from walls, or tiles that are easily lifted from floors are a common sign of termite damage.
Again, if you remove tiles and hear strange sounds below the surface of the floor or wall, or if you knock and hear a hollow sound where walls should be solid, you likely have termite damage.
4. Small Holes In Wood Or Drywall
Termites burrow into the wood to build their nests, which is what leads to these holes.
Another common sign of termites is going to be more obvious, and this includes physical signs like small holes in wood. These holes can be as small as a pin prick or sometimes larger, up to an eighth of an inch.
These holes, known as kick-out holes or termite exit holes, are made by termites coming and going while creating their nests. Some of the holes may even lead to mud tubes outside.
These termite holes appear when termites are freshly burrowing into the wood, and they usually don’t remain open or visible for very long. If you do find these holes in or around your home, you likely have termites creating new pathways in and out of your building.
5. Windows Or Doors That Begin To Stick
A window or door becoming stuck may be an indication that wood is shifting due to termite damage.
As termites continue to ravage your home, they cause wood to expand or retract. When this occurs, windows and doors will stop fitting properly. This can lead to doors and windows becoming stuck or difficult to open or close.
If this occurs, it is a good sign of termites, and it’s time to look into termite control methods or to contact a professional.
Unfortunately, when windows and doors do begin to stick due to termite damage, it can be a sign of a serious infestation and an indicator that damage has already gotten quite severe.
6. Patterns In Wood, Furniture, or Flooring That Looks Like A Maze
This maze-like pattern is a very good indicator that you have termites.
Another common sign of termites and termite damage is going to be maze-like patterns in wood. These patterns can appear in a variety of woods throughout your home, from flooring to rafters to furniture to walls.
Termite patterns may also present themselves outside of your home in trees or along your home’s siding.
If you find patterns in your wood, it’s important to contact a professional or begin working on a gameplan to get rid of termites as soon as possible.
7. Termite Mounds Near Your Property
Termite Mounds appear like large mounds of dirt.
The termite mound in the above picture is a bit exaggerated, and it’s not likely you’ll have termites build a mound this size without you noticing. However, termite mounds can vary in size and shape, and many of them look like piles of dirt or debris.
Pay attention to signs of termites and termite mounds around your property. Even if you have termites outside of your home, you’re likely to encounter termites inside your home if you let them go unchecked, as termites are highly attracted to man-made structures and environments.
8. Piles of Insect Wings
Termites swarm and fly during mating season, but afterwards they immediately lose their wings.
Many people don’t realize that termites have wings. In fact, swarmers, also known as reproductive termites, do have wings temporarily and they use these wings to swarm outside of their nests to reproduce with one another.
After they swarm, the termites then lose their wings. Because this practice occurs outside of the nest, one of the first and most common signs of termites is going to be piles of wings. If you have termites inside your home, you’ll likely notice these pils along the edges of walls, on window ledges, or on flooring.
Wings can be small and difficult to make out. They often look similar to shiny fish scales. If you’re having trouble identifying termite wings around your home, you can use a flashlight and sweep it across your floor or surfaces to try and catch the glimmer from the wings.
9. Mud Tubes Near Your Home’s Foundation
Mud tubes can be easy to miss if you don’t know what you are looking for. This is an example of the size and shape of a termite mud tube.
As we discussed previously above, termites tend to build mud tubes that provide them access to and from their nest. These mud tubes serve as protection from predators, and are often found along the siding of your home leading into your home where termites have built their nests.
Mud tubes can easily go unnoticed, though they are one of the easiest signs of termites to find once you know what to look for. If you do find mud tubes, try and follow them to see where they lead to. This will give you a good idea of where to start looking for other signs of termites and termite damage inside of your home.
10. Physically Seeing Termites or Termite Swarms In Or Around Your Home
Physically seeing termites in or around your home is the best indicator that you do indeed need to begin termite treatment.
Last but not least, one of the most obvious signs of termites in or around your home is going to be the physical sighting of them.
When you do see termites outside of the nest, you’re most likely going to see swarmers as opposed to workers, soldiers or nymphs.
Depending on the types of termites you are dealing with, swarmers can look slightly different. However, for the most part swarmers are light to dark brown, elongated, and look like large ants with wings.
They swarm in large numbers above mounds or near their nests, where they procreate and then lose their wings.
If you’re wondering which types of termites you are most likely to come across, experts agree that most common types of termites in the United States are subterranean termites and drywood termites.
However, and as we mentioned above, there are several other types of termites common throughout the United States, and each type can look slightly different.
In order to determine which types of termites you are dealing with, it can help to do a bit of research into the habits, habitat, and lifestyle of the termites you see so that you are better able to implement the proper treatment.
And speaking of treatment, let’s take a look at some of the best products you can use to get rid of termites once you have discovered for certain that you have them.
How To Get Rid Of Termites – Best Products For Termite Removal
Getting rid of termites early is important to help reduce property damage.
Once you’ve discovered you do indeed have termites, it’s important to work quickly on getting rid of them. If you’ve followed the signs of termites and found that you caught the damage early and if the termites are it’s still outdoors, there are a few products you can use to go about removing the termites on your own.
Spectracide Terminate Termite Stakes
First on our list of products to get rid of termites is a product by Spectracide. This product is specifically designed to detect and kill termites quickly and effectively.
The kit includes 15 stakes that are easy to set up, as well as locator shields to help detect and control termite activity.
While we do like this product for detecting early termite infestations after noticing signs of termites, we should also point out that these stakes work best outdoors and are best utilized as a preventative method when it comes to termite control.
Spectracide Terminate Termite Killing Foam
If you’re looking for a product to kill termites on contact once you’ve noticed signs of termites around your home, we recommend Spectracide Termite Killing Foam. This foam is effective on subterranean termites, drywood termites and dampwood termites.
It is specifically designed to be used in and around wood, and can also be an effective tool against wood-damaging carpenter bees.
To use this product most effectively, be sure to read the directions and use it only as instructed. It’s also important to store this product out of reach of children and pets.
BioAdvanced Termite Killer Granules
Last on our list we have BioAdvanced Termite Killer Granules. These granules come in a 9 pound bag and are ready to spread throughout your yard and property. Again, this is for outdoor use only and will help eliminate signs of termites and active termites you have noticed before they get into your home.
The product treats up to 200 linear feet and is designed to build a protective perimeter around your home. The granules are activated once watered. Of course, as with all pest control products, it’s important to store this product safely and only use it as directed.
When To Call A Professional For Termite Control and How To Prevent Termites In The Future
Because Termites can cause severe property damage in a short period of time, it’s best to call a professional if you have noticed signs of termites already inside your home.
If you find you cannot manage the termites on your own or you feel that signs of termites prove you have already suffered extensive damage, don’t hesitate to contact a professional.
On average, home owners will spend around $3,000 for termite control and damage repair, alghouth this number can vary depending on the extent of the termite damage to your home, your region, and the pest control business you have contacted.
Unfortunately, termite damage is not widely covered by most homeowners insurances. For that reason, it’s incredibly important to be vigilant and take precautionary steps to prevent termites in the future.
You can work to prevent future Termites by following the below expert tips:
Remove Excess Wood Around Your Home
Don’t store firewood in close proximity to your home. Instead, store it at least 20 feet away. It’s also important to remove any dead or dying trees and get rid of wood debris like old furniture, cardboard, paper, and dead plants or leaf litter instead of allowing it to sit out and rot in the elements.
Fix Water Leaks and Damage In And Round Your Home
Many species of termites are attracted to moisture and thrive in warm, moist environments. To prevent termites from becoming attracted to your property or home, try and keep it as dry as possible.
Repair water leaks and water damage as soon as you notice it, and consider using a dehumidifier inside if you live in a particularly humid state or region.
Use Cedar Mulch Or Straw Instead Of Wood Mulch
If you use mulch in your garden, try to avoid using standard wood mulch. Wood mulch collects moisture and can not only be an attractant for termites, but also other pests like earwigs, roaches, ants and spiders.
To keep termites at bay, consider using cedar mulch or straw instead. Cedar mulch is a natural repellent to a variety of pests while straw does not hold moisture that termites are attracted to and require in order to thrive.
Create A Four Inch Barrier Between Your Home and Soil Or Plants
Since many termites create mud tubes that lead to and from nests inside of homes, a good way to keep them at bay is to remove the materials they use to build these safety tunnels. In order to keep termites from your home, create a four inch barrier around your home that does not allow for soil or wood contact.
Reduce Outdoor Lights During Swarming Season
Swarming season occurs for termites just after winter, when the weather begins to get warm again. During this time, swarmers leave their nests to mate. Like many insects, termites are attracted to outdoor lights like porch lights and garden lights.
They can fly to the light and then gain access to your home, where they can quickly build another colony and begin causing damage.
Use A Pest Control Product Year-Round
Last, it’s important to stay on top of pest control, even if you don’t notice signs of pests inside or around your home. Using a routine pest control product can help prevent future pests and take care of any current pests you may have before they get out of control.
We hope this has been a helpful guide on signs of termites and that you feel confident in catching these pests early, before the damage becomes too severe.
If you have any questions or comments about termites, signs of termites, and how to prevent termites in the future, drop us a note in the comment section below.
Good luck out there!
Jack founded our blog after two decades of working in the pest control industry. His vast experience dealing with a wide array of pests allows him to diagnose issues quickly and get to the heart of pest problems quickly and effectively. He has serviced more than 2,000 homes over his career and there is hardly any pest situation that he has not seen before.