Hudson River Home Inspections
Termites and other Wood Destroying Insects
Termites are the major wood destroying pest in the United
to some estimates, over $2 billion are spent annually in the U.S. controlling or
preventing termite infestations. Here in the Northeast, our main problem
is with subterranean termites, i.e., termites that normally live below
ground and may move up into a structure where they cause damage.
Termites are "social insects", i.e., they live in a nest or colony which is typically found underground, often near a tree, stump, wood pile or other source of 'food'. Each colony contains a king and queen who are brown in color. The queen is able to lay thousands of eggs each year. There are also "soldier termites"
which have large heads equipped with large mandibles ("jaws"). The soldiers protect the colony from invaders (such as ants). The majority of the colony consists of thousands of whitish "workers"
who have various jobs within the colony. Some workers take care of the queen and the newly hatching immatures (sometimes called "larvae"). Other workers forage (search) for food. The foraging workers are the ones that we find infesting wood. As the colony grows, the workers expand the nest and their feeding area. A mature colony will contain 200,000 to 2,000,000 workers, although many colonies contain as few as 50,000-60,000. Studies have also shown that termites from a single colony may forage across an area of one-third acre and travel over 200 feet from their nest. One acre of land may support several termite colonies (although this doesn't mean that all of them are invading your home!). A large termite colony does not usually occupy a single underground nest. As the foraging area expands the colony actually splits to form several smaller "nesting sites".
Signs of Termite Activity
Without a periodic inspection of your home, termite activity can remain undetected for years. Some signs of their activity show up unexpectedly, while others are discovered by accident or during renovations. Here are some key signs of a termite infestation:
A termite colony matures in 3-5 years and begins to produce swarmers (winged adults). Swarming usually occurs during the day, particularly on warm days following rain. Swarmers found outdoors near tree stumps, landscape timbers, etc., are not an indication that your house is infested, but they serve as a reminder that termites live around us. When swarming occurs indoors, it usually means that you have an infestation somewhere within your house. Several species of ants also swarm at the same times of the year as termites. Winged termites and ants look somewhat similar, but you can tell them apart by certain features.
If you're not sure whether you have termites or ants, show them to a pest control professional for identification.
Unlike ants, termites do not roam around out in the open. They
will either tunnel through wood (or other material) or else travel inside
pencil-size (or larger) mud tubes that they build from soil, wood particles and
other materials. You will find these tubes on foundation walls, floor joists or
other parts of the house. Tubes may also hang from the floor system (see picture
below) or may be found protruding from cracks between boards and beams and even
through holes termites may chew through sheet rock on walls and ceilings.
An empty tube doesn't necessarily mean that termites are gone; they may have
simply abandoned this particular tunnel. Termites often rebuild damaged tubes,
which is another indication of current activity. 'Old' tubes are dry and crumble
easily, leaving behind "etching" on the surface that may be visible
for years (an indication that a house had termite activity at some time).
Without knowing the inspection history of the house, it is impossible to tell or
guess at the age of tunnels or etching.
Tubes that are found on ceilings
or on the second floor of buildings may indicate that you have a
"secondary" or aboveground ("aerial") infestation, i.e., the
termite colony actually lives in the building and the termites are traveling up
from the soil. Mud tubes built by an aboveground colony usually contain
materials other than soil, e.g., wood and sheet rock or whatever the termites
are feeding on. Secondary infestations occur when there is a serious moisture
problem or leak somewhere within the structure. In such situations, a thorough
inspection may require removal of siding or interior wallboards, etc. More
importantly for you, secondary infestations cannot be controlled with the usual
soil treatment. Finding and correcting the moisture problem is the first step to
eliminating the termites.
The "Termite or Wood Destroying Insect Inspection" is included in the price of the "Home Inspection". A separate report (National Pest Management Association Form NPMA-33) will be issued with the home inspection report. Some financial companies require this form.
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