5 Early Signs of Termites and How to Detect Them

Imagine this: You’re sitting in your favorite wooden chair by the fire, enjoying a relaxing evening with a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of wine. The kids are asleep and your spouse is sitting next to you. You reach down to adjust your slipper, and that’s when you see them — tiny bite marks in the leg of your favorite wooden chair. They may be hard to see from far away, but when you’re up close and run your hand along the leg of your wooden chair, you can feel those awful little bite marks that fortel serious trouble ahead.

Termites are the most destructive bunch of pests that you’ll find in Houston. Annually, they cause $5 billion worth of damage to homes, and fixing that damage isn’t as easy as replacing carpeting or adding weather stripping to your doors.

When left to their own devices, termites can eat away at the foundation of your home. If your home uses a wooden frame or wood anywhere in the stabilization of its foundation, then termites can eat right through it, causing your home to become unstable. What’s worse is that much of the damage termites do goes on behind the drywall in your home, making the damage difficult to spot until it’s too late. 

Some termites don’t even show themselves above ground unless they’re looking for food. In Houston, homeowners most often contact Natran Green Pest Control for help with subterranean termites. These pests burrow underground and only come up for food. Underground, their colonies fan out as they build tunnels, and many colonies will have more than one egg-laying female, which means their colonies can grow and expand rapidly.

Termites can live for a long period of time without detection, and if they’re never disturbed, they won’t stop growing and reproducing. That’s why it’s so important for Houston homeowners to be hyper aware of termites and the damage they can cause. If you’re diligent about taking care of your home, you can spot the early signs of termites and stop an infestation before it balloons out of control.

That being said, early signs of termite infestations are not as obvious as other pests. When you have cockroaches or mice, you can spot dropping in your kitchen when the pests move in. Even spiders and ants come out to search for food, making it clear when they’ve moved into your home. In order to really be able to tell when termites might be moving in, you need to know every inch of your home and inspect it regularly. That way, when something changes or seems off, you’ll notice it right away, and you won’t mistake the signs for damage that was previously there.

Repairing a termite-damaged home can be wildly expensive, and we don’t like to see any homeowner in distress when their home is unlivable until construction is finished. That’s why we want to arm homeowners with the right knowledge to spot the early signs of termite infestations in Houston and know when to pick up the phone and call an expert like Natran.

For those homeowners preparing for termite season (it usually hits in spring), here’s what you need to know about the early signs of termite infestations in Houston and how to know when it’s time to call for a termite expert.

Termite swarms

You’re probably familiar with swarms of bees. When you see bees swarming around a tree branch, it means the bees have found a new queen, and they’re looking to start a new hive. They’ll swarm for a bit, and when the queen is ready to lay eggs, they’ll build a hive or make one in the hole of a tree.

Termites swarm in a way similar to bees. They too break off from their colony with a female and fly off to mate. When they’re ready, they’ll start building a colony. Unlike bees, however, termites will shed their wings so they can no longer fly, which is great — until they start burrowing underground.

You can usually spot swarms of termites in trees or bushes. Trimmed trees and bushes will make it easier to see swarms.

How to detect: Some people pull their cars into their garages, close the door and go into their homes without ever looking much around their yards. On the weekends, they go from car to a restaurant or movie theater and back again without even so much as a glance at their backyards, let alone their side yards. These homeowners will never notice a swarm or a problem with their backyards, and that’s a major problem.

You don’t need to spend every day in your backyard, but as a homeowner, you need to be familiar with your property. You should know the condition of your trees and whether or not they’re healthy. If you have bushes, you should be inspecting them regularly, especially if they’re near your home. Termite swarms love to hide in bushes where they often make their way to the ground. 

Munching and headbanging

When you were a kid, your parents taught you to chew with your mouth closed, avoid making grunting or slurping noises and keep your mouth closed when burping. You may be teaching your kids these very same manners.

No one has ever taught a termite manners – and if they did, maybe termites wouldn’t eat our homes. When worker termites eat, they are surprisingly loud for such small pests. If you were to pick up a log infested with termites and put your ear up to it, you would be able to hear termites munching on the wood inside. 

If there happens to be soldier termites inside that log when you pick it up, then you might hear another noise from the soldiers. When soldier termites detect danger to other termites or the colony, they will start to bang their heads on the wood. This causes vibrations that can be felt by other termites. This is the danger signal. It means there’s trouble, and there may be danger to the colony. 

Humans can hear these munching and vibrating sounds if they place the log close to their ears, but in your own home, you can hear these sounds coming from your walls where termites may be eating or headbanging. 

How to detect: Relying on what you can hear from tiny insects possibly lurking in your walls may not be 100% reliable, but if you listen often to what your home sounds like, you can get better about hearing when something sounds off. 

There’s no real secret skill here. You just need to pay attention to how your home sounds. When it’s quiet at night or in the early morning, what sounds do you hear? You might hear your refrigerator hum or the sounds of your air conditioner kicking on. When you sit down to flip on the TV, take a second and listen. Do you hear anything off?

Hearing tiny little pests won’t be easy, but if you get into the habit of listening, you will be more likely to tell when a new noise is heard.

Tight fitting doors and windows

It’s a nice, breezy day. You want to let that lovely breeze go through your living room. You try to pull up the window, and suddenly, you nearly crack a nail when you try to pull up on your window. It’s almost like your windows shrunk in the wash — er, rainstorm.

This often happens to windows and doors, and it’s not that your windows or doors have suddenly shrunk. The wood around them becomes warped, so the window or door no longer fits its frame. 

You’ll notice with doors that when you try to close them, they suddenly cannot be shut all the way. In truth, this isn’t always a sure sign of termite damage. In fact, a lot of things can cause these problems with doors and windows. Damp, hot weather can cause doors and windows to become stiff, and damp wood itself can become warped. If you do notice this happening with any of your doors or windows, it’s best to get it checked out by a green pest control expert, just to be on the safe side.

At any rate, dampness often attracts termites and mold, so having someone take a look is never a bad idea.

How to detect: Open and close your windows and doors often. Make a point to open your windows for at least a little bit on a warm day. You’ll notice which ones come up easily and which ones don’t. If that changes, then it could be a sign of termites.

Termite droppings

Yes, termites do leave droppings like mice and rats. However, you won’t find any black pellets lying around so obviously in your kitchen. 

Termite droppings, known as frass, are typically seen with drywood termites because subterranean termites often use their feces to build their tunnels. Drywood termites do not. Instead, they push their feces out of their tunnels of small holes or the entrances to their nests. Frass typically looks like a dark, power-like substance or black markings on your floor.

Most homeowners mistake frass for ordinary dirt, so they don’t notice a termite infestation until it’s too late. If you weren’t already vacuuming regularly, this is a good reason to get on a regular schedule. A suspicious pile of dirt in the far corner of your living room will attract attention if you see it constantly there from week to week.

How to detect: Be on alert for suspicious piles of “dust” in the corners of your home. It could actually be frass.

Moisture patches

Now moisture alone is not an indicator of termites in your home, but if you find a spot in your walls or floors that has been exposed to dampness and moisture for a certain amount of time, then it might be worth having a termite expert come and check for these pests.

Termites love moisture, and as soon as they detect it, they will usually start eating in that direction. If your basement recently floored or a leak in your attic caused rainwater to leak in, it’s worth having an expert come out and sweep for termites. Termites can do a lot of damage very quickly, so it’s worth the peace of mind knowing no termites have moved in — or if they have that they can be stopped before they do serious damage.

How to detect: Be diligent about checking your home. Do routine checks in your attic and basement to spot signs of moisture right away.

The problem with subterranean termites

What makes subterranean termites so frustrating for homeowners is that sometimes they don’t leave any signs of an infestation at all. Because they often burrow so deep underground, it’s often difficult to detect them, and many homeowners don’t know there’s a problem for weeks or months. Unlike drywood termites, subterranean termites use their frass to build tunnels, so you won’t see any dark power at the entrances to their colonies.

As you probably know, termites are determined workers. When they want to build a colony, very little will stand in their way. So long as there are fewer predators around the area, they will continue to grow and thrive.

Luckily, there are some tools that can help detect subterranean termites. Experts at Natran like to use moisture, heat and sound sensors to try and pinpoint exactly where the subterranean termites might be building a nest. The quicker we can find them, the quicker we can get them out of your home.

Before you know it, spring will be here, and it will be time for termite season. As a green pest control expert in Houston, we advise all residents to start learning the signs of termite infestations now to better protect their homes as the season ramps up.

Our termite experts in Houston have seen far too many homes that have been severely damaged by termites, and we want to help all homeowners spot the signs. When you know what key signs to look for, you can spot infestations right away before the colonies have a chance to grow and expand around your home.

Natran offers its customers free inspections, so even if you aren’t sure that you have a termite problem, a termite expert in Houston is here to help. Once scheduled, a termite expert will come to your home and use our state-of-the-art technology to detect these awful pests.

Share with us: How are you preparing for termite season? Let us know in the comments and tell us how we can help.

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