Bugs that eat our homes — what you need to know

RedBranch Realty
RedBranch Realty
Published on March 14, 2018

Powdery stuff on the floor near the wall. Tiny mud tubes on the wall. One- to two-inch round holes near the eaves, deck and siding.

While easily overlooked, these are all signs of a wood-destroying pest infestation in and around your home. Overlook the signs at your own peril, as the damage caused by these tiny insects is expensive to repair.

And, it’s seldom covered by homeowner insurance policies

In fact, U.S. homeowners spend more than $5 billion a year to repair termite damage alone, according to Orkin, the pest-control company.

But, termites are just one of the many types of pest who feast on the wood that holds up your home. Get to know them, and the symptoms of an infestation, to stop the damage before it eats your pocketbook.


The most common wood-destroying pest, it is present in every state, except Alaska. And, if that news isn’t bad enough, consider this:

There is more than one type of termite

While there are more than 2,000 different species, the three subcategories of termites most commonly found in our homes include subterranean, dampwood and drywood termites.

And, each type has a preferred type of wood

If you suspect termites in your attic, they are most likely of the drywood variety, as they enjoy dining on wood with little moisture content.

Decayed woods are attractive to dampwood termites and subterranean termites aren’t picky, but they seem to prefer softwoods, such as pine, fir and spruce.

How much do termites eat?

The experts at Orkin say that the amount of wood a termite colony can eat depends on which type of termite is dining, the size of the colony and a few other factors. They warn that the Formosan termite is the most voracious.

They live in large colonies and “can cause extensive damage to a home in less than six months,” under ideal conditions. They prefer warm, humid climates (hello Hawaii!).

The damage they do

Termites eat wood. But, don’t assume your home is safe if it was constructed of other materials.

According to pest control experts, termites can go right through metal siding. Plaster poses no problem for them, either.

Once inside, they’ll infest anything made of wood, from your furniture to cabinetry, floors and ceilings. They’ll weaken the home’s structure, the stairs, the outside deck and more.

And, they do this without leaving obvious traces of their existence. If you know what to look for, however, you can act quickly.

Signs of a termite infestation

You’ll need to look closely for signs of a termite infestation. “Termite damage sometimes appears similar to water damage,” say the pros at Orkin.

Don’t assume that the buckling of your wood floor is from moisture intrusion because it just may be termites causing it. Mold- and mildew-like odors may also indicate a termite infestation.

Look for tiny mud tunnels near the home’s foundation – a sure sign of a subterranean termite colony nearby. Other signs to look for include:

  • Tiny wings on window sills and floors, near the wall.
  • Cracked paint.
  • Wood that gives a hollow sound when tapped on.

Termite Prevention

We look at homes every day and we see a lot of “termite attractants,” both inside and out. One of the most common is the woodpile pushed up against the home. Other common termite invitations include:

  • Allowing the sprinkler to hit the side of the home.
  • Cracks in foundation walls.
  • Attaching wood trellises or wooden planters to exterior walls.
  • Insufficient ventilation in crawl spaces.
  • Blocked foundation vents.
  • Shrubbery planted too close to the home’s foundation.
  • Gutters filled with leaves and other organic debris.

The cure

Termite eradication isn’t a DIY project – it requires the services of a pest control professional.

“There are two general categories of termite treatment,” according to the experts in the entomology department at the University of Kentucky.

  • Liquid termaticides – Applied to the soil, they keep the little critters from entering the home. They also kill those termites who have already moved in, since they can’t get back outside without crossing the liquid’s barrier.
  • Bait – “Termite baits consist of paper, cardboard, or other palatable food, combined with a slow-acting substance lethal to termites,” say the pros at the University of Kentucky. The bait material is placed in a plastic tube, underground, or inside, over the mud tubes.

Reach out to us if you plan on selling your home and suspect you may have a termite problem. We’re happy to refer you to a professional for additional advice.

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