Spending what might have been a fun Saturday afternoon looking for termite signs is not a good time. But it is a necessary thing to do if you suspect you may have a termite infestation on your hands.
One of the biggest issues of dealing with a pest problem or insect home invasion is mounting that first crucial hurdle: correctly identifying what you’re dealing with. The problem with insects and bugs is that their behavior, diets and ideal environments are often similar between species.
Now, I know you don’t care that much about the different types of bugs, you’re not David Attenborough – but it is pretty important to know what you’re up against before you start waging domestic war with pesticides and all manner of killing tools.
8 Obvious Termite Signs to Look for
So, here is our list of 8 comprehensive termite signs to determine if you’ve got a termite problem in your home.
1. Mud tunnels
The most common and surest sign of a termite infestation is the not so humble termite mud tunnel. Like most creatures of their ilk, termites love privacy when they come and go about their business, and when they can’t find an easy way in or out of a building/environment underground, they’ll build a network of mud tunnels instead.
You might notice these little highways on anything from your walls, concrete foundations, backyard’s patio or wooden structures/furniture around the home. If you’re finding your mind suddenly flashing back to those small, weird lines you’ve been noticing dotted about… Then I’m afraid it’s bad news.
2. Shed or discarded wings
Most termites have wings (they all do at some point, unless they die off before adolescence/reproducing… Sucks to be them, right?) – but the females will shed them after having reproduced.
This might seem pretty extreme, but they only do so after swarming a new environment and setting up their home there; the thinking being that they’re never going to need those wings again.
Spotting dried, shed and discarded wings around your windows, doors, air vents and other openings into the home is quite a common sight amid a termite infestation. More troubling, though, is that it signifies reproduction – your termite family might be about to get significantly larger. As such, it’s one of the more unpleasant termite signs.
If you’re spying wings on a regular basis then every second counts; it’s time to clear them out!
Here’s one of the trickier termite signs. When termites are in the process of swarming, they can often resemble some types of flying ant, so it’s once again important that you don’t misidentify the bugs buzzing and scurrying into your home.
Now, a termite colony will only swarm when its current home is too small for the population and they want to move out and set up somewhere new and raise a family.
You’re thinking that’s pretty admirable, aren’t you?
Wrong: because they’ve targeted your home as their new digs.
If you’re spotting flying termites, or termite activity during daylight hours or near light sources – then this is a fairly strong sign that you’re dealing with swarmers. If this is the case, you want to take action as soon as possible before the new colony gets set up!
4. Cracks, or hollowed out wood
Yep, the old stereotypes are true – termites will blast their way through your wooden furniture, floorboards, skirting boards and who knows what else; so you need to keep your eyes sharp for any damage to your home’s wood. These are termite signs that anyone with an infestation can quickly pick up on.
You want to regularly check for any cracks or small fissures that might appear, even on things that are veneered for protection (remember that termites get in from underneath) – these are sure-fire signs of stress and damage being done to the underlying wood.
As well as these stress fractures, you also want to take note of any dimples or holes that appear in your home’s wood; again, a classic sign of some termite activity happening below the surface. This is usually due to the pests burrowing under and beginning to eat their way through or forming the aforementioned tunnels.
Bonus note: small holes that have been created by termite activity will be dirty around the edges!
A handy method for investigating the state of your home’s wood is to take a screwdriver and poke and prod into any wooden structures that you have suspicions about. Now, be warned, this is invasive and will cause damage itself – so you want to make sure you’re checking areas which are out of sight and won’t cause any dangerous structural damage.
Doing this will also allow you to check for termite droppings that might be dislodged from the underlying wood, as well as test the strength/suppleness of the material itself. It can be quite a laborious process, however, and may alert any dormant termites that are lurking nearby!
And, finally, the old foot-test! If your floorboards or anything else formed primarily of wood begin to sag, bend or otherwise feel soft and lacking in structural strength, then you may have a termite infestation on your hands.
However, it’s important that you align this symptom with some of the other more common ones before deciding that you have a termite problem: sagging floorboards and such like can be signs of damp, rot or other nefarious issues that have nothing to do with pests and might go untreated if you’re wasting your time with pesticides!
That being said…
5. Water damage…without the water
The damp rule works both ways, however: many symptoms and signs of underlying termite damage can resemble moisture or damp damage to your home – particularly when we’re dealing with wooden floors and sagging beams.
Of course, if you spot anything that resembles water damage in your home, it’s very likely that you’ll deal with it immediately, which is great; but if you pull up carpets or wallpaper and find that there’s no moisture being let in underneath, don’t be tempted to just chalk it up to aging or staining. Consider the termite!
Not only do the visual signs of some termite infestations resemble water damage, but if they’ve inhabited your home for some time, they’ve also been known to give off a similar rotting/mildew smell.
6. Termite droppings
It’s the old exterminator favorite when it comes to looking for domestic pests – and the one tip that you dreaded reading, but here it is: look for termite droppings around the home. If you’re delving into the world of termite literature then you might be more familiar with the term ‘frass’, which is just a polite way to discuss termite poop.
Funnily enough, termite droppings tend to look quite like sawdust, piled up around your furniture/doorstep etc. So, I guess there is some truth to the old cartoons.
The piles are formed by the surprisingly homely termites pushing the droppings out of their nest – over time, this will gradually form into a small mound of pellets. At this point, you know you’ve got a problem.
You might not believe it, but you can actually hear termites in your home. Generally speaking, there are two requirements for this: one) there needs to be a genuine infestation or nest located in your home and two) the termites need to have been disturbed in some way, as the noise is usually one of alarm.
A noisy termite nest can sound like thousands of little popcorn kernels going off, but it actually comes from the soldier termites banging their heads against the hollow walls of their nest or clicking their mandibles together.
Obviously, this is quite a circumstantial method of identifying an infestation, so really it’s something to bear in mind, rather than a tool to use when searching your home for any termite activity… Unless you have superhero-tier hearing.
8. Exterior nests
Some species of termite are actually non-invasive and, as such, create very noticeable nests on the outside of their chosen environment. These exterior nests are called ‘aborial nests’ and are usually large, darkened clumps stuck to the side of a wooden post or tree (think of a wasp nest but more disgusting looking).
If you live in a hot or arid climate, then a termite nest might resemble a freestanding sandy structure, reaching up to several feet in height. This is a ventilation shaft for the subterranean nest below and is a 100% guaranteed sign that you have some termites living in the area, if not yet in your home itself.
As with any kind of pest or insect infestation, the key to getting your home back to its regular clean self is knowing what you’re dealing with – this way you can take evasive action much earlier.
Preventing an infestation is always preferable to managing one. But if it’s too late for you and you have confirmed a termite infestation, check out our handy guide to getting rid of termites.