Termites are a silent moving invasive insect that comes in two types. The wood nesting and subterranean. What you’ll get depends on your region. They both can enter your home and travel from house to house, but in different ways.
Wood termites travel on cellulose material like cotton, as well as wood furniture. Subterranean termites can spread through mud tunnels, during construction at neighboring houses or your own, firewood, mulch, and gaps in the windows or doors. You could also be unintentionally attracting termites.
Termites are a difficult thing to remove. You may not notice the subtle calling cards the termites leave behind. Read on to find out how to sniff ‘em out and how your termites may have spread from house to house. Let’s get to it!
Why Do I Have To Get Rid Of Subterranean Termites?
There is a lot of confusion surrounding the types of termites you find in a house. The most common type people associate termites with are the wood eating ones. The media portray these more often than other species.
However, the portrayal is accurate, since all termites can and will cause a building to be condemned, but this may take a decade of chewing. The point is to make sure the structure of your home is unaltered over time by having inspections and addressing the issue as soon as possible.
Most folks are not aware of subterranean termites–a termite is a termite–they eat your house. So, some may think subterranean termites are not a threat because they live beneath the surface. Unfortunately, they are still a threat.
They tunnel their way through to your home and then make your neighborhood their neighborhood. Read on to find out everything you need to know and more about how to identify the infestation issue and run them out of town!
How Do I Know Termites Have Spread To My House?
There are several common signs you can look for to know if termites have invaded your home from another home or object.
Keep in mind it is difficult to pinpoint where the termites originated from. If you notice any of the below, use your common sense and recall of events that could have brought them in. We will include a list of questions to ask yourself when you notice signs.
Identifying Subterranean Termites In Your Home
These five warning signs are more for the subterranean termites; however, some of these signs will be present for wood nesting types too. We want to focus more on the subterranean variety because of their ninja-style movements.
The bottom line here is, you must find them before they do extreme damage to your home. In the US, we spend billions dollars on termite elimination and damage control annually.
You could spend close to 10 grand to repair it. Yikes! So, look for the early warning signs.
- Signs in your Walls and Furnishings: Buckled wood; pinholes in wallpaper; weird-looking tracks or lines under wallpaper or in the paint with sunken or pitted areas.
- Termite droppings: Yes… termite droppings. They eat wood and cellulose products like linens made of natural or vegetable fiber. Most times, their droppings are commonly called frass.
The important thing to note is you will only see frass from drywood termites. They appear in the southern states near the coast. So, anywhere else, it’s rare if not impossible to encounter drywood frass.
If you live in the southeast United States, the frass will appear like sawdust. However, they are small wood-colored pellets. Subterranean termites will use their droppings to create mud tubes.
- Mud Tubes or “Tunnels”: Ever see thin lines that branch out like veins upward from the ground that seems to stop or disappear at an area that has dry, exposed wood.
The subterranean termite creates these mud tubes or tunnels because they need protection from the dry air while they travel to their food source. They use their droppings–ew–but true–and mud to create a tubular barrier. The exoskeleton is now protected and they can do their job.
- Termite Wings: Termites swarm in the spring. They are NOT flying ants and here’s the way to tell. Termites have a tubular, solid-looking body. Ants have a cinched waist area and two distinct segments. Ants have uneven wings, and termites have symmetrical pale-colored wings.
When you notice any fallen swarmer termites or discarded wings near outside lights, windows, or doorways, then you have quite an issue–an active termite infestation.
- Jammed Windows and Doors: Most homes will experience jammed windows and doors that are hard to open or close. This could be due to weather changes and humidity or sagging floors and other structural issues arising from settling or other reasons.
However, when you find this and you don’t recall any issue like this before, you’ll want to look for any wood that looks invaded. Tunnels, lines, pits, and sawdust are telltale signs.
The earlier you can head off the damage and weakening of your structure, the better – so if you have seen termites, contact a pest control professional ASAP.
I highly recommend taking a look an our in-depth guide on where termites live – it’ll help you know more where to look!
How Are Termites Transported From One House To Another?
Here, we’ll talk about the ten ways termites can be transported from one house to another. Again, you will want to get a professional inspection and identification of the termite infestation first.
Read on to find out what those ten ways termites are transported from one house to another. Then we will explain the common extermination processes for both the wood eating and subterranean termites.
1. Termites Spread by Mud Tunnels
The subterranean termite will spread from house to house looking for food and nesting spaces. They will be underground and you won’t notice them.
Subterranean termites are the silent army of destruction.
You may see them as we described in the ways to tell you have a termite infestation section. By the time you see it, it’s too late for prevention. Now, gather your own army in the shape of professional pest control.
The sooner the better!
2. Termites Spread in Swarming Season
When termites swarm each spring, they fly and get carried in the wind while in the throes of what I can only describe as termite love.
They are flying to find a perfect mating partner in a short period each spring. So, there are a lot of them at one time.
3. Termites Hitch a Ride on Old Wood
So where do you find old wood? You may get something special from an antique store, garage, or estate sale. The older the wood, the more porous it gets.
This is where they find the ready-made holes and soft inside of old wood. Easy nest and food source no problem for them–but a big problem for you!
4. Termites Can Come With your New Floor
Make sure the place you collect wood for a DIY floor job treats the wood for these things.
You may get a great deal on wood to lay your floor and more power to you for putting in the work, but you pay the price in termite damage.
5. Termites Are Invited By Your Neighbors
Now, they probably are not doing it on purpose. All your neighbor has to do is some simple renovation. It does not even have to be a big job.
Subterranean termites will get dispersed into the ground, and the wood feeding ones will nest once they fly or walk to your place.
6. Termites Come From New Construction
Your neighbor is not the only culprit spreading the termites from house to house. Let’s suppose you live in a subdivision with close-knit structures.
The new construction in your neighborhood can bring termites into your home and the neighboring houses. They travel any distance if they deem it necessary for survival.
Ways That You Could Be Attracting Termites To Your Home
The next four ways that termites can spread from house to house could be down to you doing some things to attract them without realizing it. This is a great place to make a short list of things to be aware of.
7. Storing Wood Near Your House Can Spread Termites
Keep firewood at least 20 feet from your home and 5 feet above the ground. This way, you attract neither type of termite.
The subterranean usually will not find the wood if it is not flush to the ground and wood eating termites who get in will not typically make it to the house if you store the wood 20 feet away.
You may wonder how construction five blocks away can give you termites, but your wood 20 feet away does not. Do not keep a large amount of wood for a long period. It has to be used in a reasonable amount of time. So, the suggestion is not foolproof.
8. Mulch and Rotting Wood in your Yard Can Bring Termites In
Mulch is a great bug attractor, especially for termites. Your mulch contains cellulose but you can buy it without, although it is scarce. A straw-based product would be best or not using it at all. If you have downed tree branches, palm fronds, or anything that can rot, it will attract termites.
9. Your Gutters May Be Attracting Termites
Yep. You may have all kinds of water dripping and pouring onto your siding and soil around the house because you have not cleaned a gutter in years.
You have a family of partridges building nests in it and ducks have opened a water park in your yard–and you do not even know it!
We get it! Just when you get a chance–you might want to fix the issue. Termites need mud and water, which is what you are making.
10. Cracks in Key Places On the Home Can Bring Termites In
Termites travel through windows and door frames with gaps.
They do not have to be big either, ¼ inch or less they can fly or walk through. Weatherstripping can ease some of that issue. Cracks in the siding and the foundation are also culprits.
What Is The Process for Eliminating Termites?
Regardless of which termite you have, the subterranean or wood termite you should probably get the most invasive and thorough treatment necessary, tenting and fumigation. Some exterminators do a soil treatment for subterranean termites, but this is not effective for the rest of your space.
They can also inject a substance called a termiticide into the walls. The only issue is this is for mild infestations.
If your budget can handle it, do the tenting fumigation. It takes a day or two and you can be fairly confident they are eradicated.
The important thing to understand is this treatment is for drywood termites active at the time they are treating the home. You will have to take active measures to prevent new colonies. Yes, it is a process and can be a frustrating one.
How Long Do You Have To Stay Out of Your Home During Termite Treatment?
Typically, you should make some plans to be away from the house from between 24 to 72 hours. Your exterminator will tell you how long it will be in your case. You will have to remove whatever they ask you to so the treatment does not ruin or poison your belongings.
The tent will go up and remain for one to two days. Then, the exterminator will use special equipment to measure the amount of fumigant left in the air.
They will not clear you to return until it is aerated completely from the home. This is where the 72 hours come in.
Do You Have To Wash Dishes and Clean After Termite Fumigation?
Ask the company doing the fumigation this question. Typically, you do not have to do anything regarding cleaning your dishes or your home. This is if they use a gas like Vikane.
What you need to do is throw away the first batch of ice your ice maker makes after turning it back on. Do NOT use them! Also, any bags wrapped around or containing anything the fumigator used must be thrown away immediately.
How To Know If Your Home Has Ever Been Fumigated
The fumigator must hang a tag with the date and other vital statistics of the fumigation in the subarea or attic of the home and it must not be detached in most cases!
That’s A Wrap!
Well, there you have it. The ten ways that termites may make it to your home! You also learned the ways you could detect and prevent termite infestation. Let’s recap, shall we?
- Look for signs like sawdust on the floor and in corners of the house or anywhere they land and leave their waste products.
- Be on the lookout for discarded wings and past their prime swarmers anywhere. The discarded wings are typically found in windows or doors.
- Take a quick look around and move any wood you may have stored outside. Place only what you need about 20 feet from the house and 5 inches or more above ground.
- Pick up any fallen and rotting wood or palm fronds and branches from your property.
- Inspect the exterior walls for mud tubes or tunnels. They fan from the ground to the top of the house where dry wood can be found. The pattern can look like veining.
- Contact a pest control expert immediately if you suspect termites.
That should be a good enough start, and we hope you have gained some valuable information so far. See you in the next one!
Vargo, E. L., & Husseneder, C. (2009). Biology of Subterranean Termites: Insights from Molecular Studies of Reticulitermes and Coptotermes. Annual Review of Entomology, 54(1), 379–403.
SU, N.-Y., & SCHEFFRAHN, R. H. (1998). Integrated Pest Management Reviews, 3(1), 1–13.
Chen, J., & Henderson, G. (1996). Determination of feeding preference of Formosan subterranean termite (Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki) for some amino acid additives. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 22(12), 2359–2369.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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