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How do you recognize the signs of termites?

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Quick Answer

Signs of termite infestation include hollow-sounding wood, swarms of flying insects and cracked or distorted paint. Other signs include mud tubes around the foundation of a home and termite droppings or frass, which is discarded termite waste.

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Full Answer

Two types of termites are endemic to the United States. Subterranean termites live underground, while drywood termites prefer to live in wood, such as in a home's framing, hardwood flooring and furniture. Both types of termites damage wood, and according to the Nation Pest Management Association, cost American homeowners more than $5 billion a year.

Because termites prefer to be in dark and humid places, they may not eat or damage the surface of wood, which makes recognizing termite damage tricky. One way of detecting termite activity is to knock on wood. Wood that sounds hollow can indicate termites are eating it from the inside out. Cracked or distorted paint can signal swarming drywood termites. Sealing cracks in the foundation, near roof siding and in vents and windows prevents termites from getting in.

Subterranean termites build mud tubes to connect their nests to sources of moisture. They tend to build these mud tubes along the bottom of exterior walls and are usually round. Mud tubes signal an infestation even without signs of active termites. Storing mulch, firewood and wood chips deprives termites of moisture. Swarmers, or reproductive termites, are active in the spring. They seek out new places to colonize. A swarm of insects or discarded wings may indicate termite activity.

Drywood termite droppings also signal an infestation. Termites leave behind wood-colored droppings as they eat their way through wood. One way to prevent an infestation is to remove potential sources of food, such as debris and other materials from gutters and crawl spaces. Another way to detect termites is to look for wood with honeycomb-shaped tunnels and the presence of soil.

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