Termites can be a nightmare for homeowners as they can cause severe structural damage to homes and other buildings. Damage from termites often goes unnoticed until significant and expensive repairs are required. However, being informed about the warning signs that a termite infestation may be present can help you take the appropriate steps toward preventing or eliminating the problem.
What are Termites?
Termites are small insects that are typically smaller than a half-inch long. Termites live in colonies with their own systems and hierarchies, and these colonies vary in size, ranging from only two individuals to several hundred termites. Mature termite colonies can expand to contain as many as 60,000 to 1 million termites, depending on the kind of colony.
Termites feed on wood for the cellulose content, which can result in extensive damage to the internal structures of homes and buildings.
Termites in Canada
The most commonly seen species of termites in Canada include:
- Eastern Subterranean Termite (Reticulitermes flavipes)
- Western Subterranean Termite (Reticulitermes Hesperus)
- Pacific Dampwood Termite (Zootermopsis angusticollis).
Located in different areas of Canada, subterranean termites tend to be distributed predominantly in urban areas, whereas dampwood termites typically can be found on the western coast of Canada. Subterranean termite species are responsible for the majority of damage that is inflicted on homes, and the dampwood species of termites commonly target extremely moist and rotting wood. The presence of dampwood termites often indicates that there is an ongoing moisture problem.
Can you See Termites?
Termites can be seen with the naked human eye, however, they are experts at hiding as they burrow within the walls of homes. This means termites commonly go unnoticed for extended periods of time while they eat away at the internal structure of the building.
What do Termites Eat?
Termites consume dead plants and trees which contain a nutrient-dense fibre called cellulose. While termites primarily eat wood, they will also sometimes eat other materials including drywall or plastic materials. The preferred diet for termites depends on their type with dampwood termites prefer moist and rotting wood while drywood and subterranean termites require minimal moisture, which is why they thrive and multiply so well in places such as basements and attics. Termites feed on the structure of the home itself as well as its foundation, furnishings, and occasionally even paper products such as books.
What are the Signs of a Termite Infestation?
Termites can exist within a home for several years before the damage they caused becomes visible to the home’s inhabitants. Some signs of a termite infestation include:
- Swarming of termites at lights or windows
- Finding termite wings caught in cobwebs and on window ledges
- The presence of ‘mud tubes’ which are mud-colored structures resembling large straws
- Portions of wood are hollowed out
- Tiny piles of sawdust
- Discovery of soft spots on floor joists or loosening floor tile
- Hollow-sounding walls
- Drywall damage that bubbles under paint or wallpaper
Sometimes signs of a termite infection can show up suddenly, or they go undiscovered for years (often until renovations are being completed). All types of homes are susceptible to infestations and can provide cellulose-rich food for termites. It’s important not to wait until signs of termites are visible to take preventative measures as by then the infestation is likely well established.
How to Prevent a Termite Infestation
There are a number of things that can be done to help deter termites from infesting your home. Experts suggest keeping the soil around the foundation as dry as possible through appropriate grading and drainage systems and reducing access to your home for termites by repairing any cracks in the foundation with caulk or grout.
In addition, you should consider:
- Avoid planting any shrubs and trees too close to the home and foundation.
- Preventing standing water from collecting near the home.
- Getting rid of tree stumps and dead or rotting wood near the home.
- Schedule routine inspections of your home for pests and potential damage.
- Immediately repairing any leaky faucets and/or pipes.
- Keeping lumber and firewood away from the home’s foundation.
- Keeping downspouts and gutters clear.
- Keeping all vents clear.
- Removing excessive plant cover.
If you are concerned that termites may have invaded your home, contact an expert inspector as soon as possible to do a thorough inspection of your home and confirm whether termites are present. If you have seen signs that termites are already in your home, it is important to contact an exterminator as soon as possible. If you want to learn more about termite infestations or to receive a free home inspection quote, contact us at Building Insights today!