Are Termite Inspections 100% Accurate?
Termite inspections are not always 100% right. However, it can go both ways. To the relief of some, sometimes it's not termites after all.
Carlsbad has its share of termites. Almost half of our own inspections turn up positive results for wood destroying insects. And the majority of calls we get where folks already know they have termites or have been told they have them are positive.
I would say that the majority of live termite infestations we find in Carlsbad are right in the center of town. From Pierce Street to Lea Street and from down by the Tansill Dam to C-Hill, we've had more positive termite inspections and treatments than anywhere else in Carlsbad and Eddy County. We also get a lot of service calls for false sightings in this area as well.
The Obvious Positive Signs
Some signs of termites are obvious. The presence of a live colony and even damage is usually pretty obvious.
Some of the most obvious signs of termites -
- Wings on widow sills or anywhere in the home. There's really only one way it got there.
- Dirt on window sills or anywhere in or around the home that keeps returning after you clean it up. Not always termites but a sure sign of some critter.
- Mud tubes on interior walls and foundation walls. These don't always look like "mud tubes" but it's pretty obvious what it is. The photo above is a good example of an interior wall mud tube that doesn't look like the average mud tube.
- Paper thin paint on trim and walls. You can see this in the photo as well. The termites have eaten all the wood from behind this trim. All that's left is the paint.
Other signs may not be so obvious and can be questionable. I always encourage folks to get a second opinion. Especially when it's a situation where I say they don't need a treatment. We're very confident in our ability to detect termites and give accurate results for our inspections. Still, in a situation like this, another set of eyes is just reassuring.
While we'll discuss some of the ways to identify termites and some of the the ways they're mis-diagnosed, this article isn't necessarily about how to identify termites and their damage. It's more about the reality that termite inspections aren't always 100%. See signs of termites for more details about identification and signs of termites.
Termite inspections require a serious approach and time to pay attention to detail. They can't be rushed. We're dealing with one of if not the biggest investments that most folks have. Still, most inspections are limited to what a pest control operator can see and hear. Even with sophisticated detection equipment, what's inside the walls or under the floors can sometimes go undetected.
This has become obvious to us over the years as we've seen so many active infestations discovered during a remodel or re-construction project. Some of them have been extensive with entire walls being eaten and destroyed. And all the while, there were no outward sign that an infestation even existed.
And with that, I can say that, for lack of better words, anything to do with termites can be somewhat tense. On one hand, a pest control operator doesn't want to miss an actual reason for a treatment. Again, it's your property we're dealing with. And on the other hand, you shouldn't be sold a treatment that you don't need. They can get expensive.
So, what can you do?
You get another opinion!!!
Even if it's Horizon that gives the first opinion, if you have questions or doubts, you should always get a second opinion.
My last call for an estimate turned out to be not even termites at all. It reminded me of just how many of these estimates I've done over the last year that, in my opinion, didn't need a termite treatment at all.
Luckily for these folks, they did call to get estimates. That's just smart. And at the same time, it gives other pest control technicians an opportunity to see the evidence and offer advice if there is any needed.
Live bugs are obvious. Flying termites (alates) in the home are obvious. However, not all other signs are obviously critical. In a situation where there is no observable visible evidence of termites, at least to me, or they're not even termites at all, my advice is always this -
"An ounce of prevention is worth a TON of cure. However, at this time, I don't observe any evidence that would require a curative treatment. I am not discounting another pest control company's recommendation. This is just my observation. However, I Suggest that you GET ANOTHER OPINION.
We'll do our best to point out why we think what we do. And if you're not completely satisfied with what we have to say, you should seek out another opinion.
A Few False Sightings
Most false sightings are from concerned (panicking) homeowners that have heard of or experienced the horror stories of termites before. This or someone has already told them that they have termites. We get these from all over Carlsbad and Eddy County because of Desert Termites which are common all over Southeast New Mexico. I'll talk about these more a little later in this article.
This Is Not A Termite
This little flying insect is mistaken as a termite a lot and is the reason for a lot of service calls. It is a Brown Lacewing. Although it flies, can be found on indoor window sills, and is often mistaken for one, it is not a termite. You can see the difference with the photo of the alate above.
There were several calls this year for estimates where homes had already been diagnosed positive for termites because of these flying insects. Most folks are relieved when we inform them that they are not insects that will destroy the wood in their home. However, some are skeptical because they've already been told they have them. We understand. Most folks simply don't know.
In one instance, the homeowner insisted that we were wrong and that they were indeed termites. In this case, we sent samples to the New Mexico Department Of Agriculture and they confirmed our findings. They even sent us a document to present to the client. This is our state working for us. If you need this service, let us know.
A Sure Sign Of Termites?
Is the presence of Carpenter Ants a sure sign that you have termites? Absolutely not. I'm not sure where this one came from but it simply is not true. It may be an indicator for further inspection. But it is not a sure indicator.
While we've encountered this only once, I thought it was worth mentioning here just in case it's being told elsewhere.
We did a real estate inspection in the Country Club Circle area for a home purchase and we passed it. After a few months, the homeowner saw Carpenter Ants. They called in someone and were told that Carpenter Ants are a sure sign of termites because they are their favorite food. And that they needed a treatment.
Since we had cleared the home in our initial real estate inspection, the homeowner wanted to speak with us.
The homeowner was told that they have Carpenter Ants (we'll talk about this in another article). And that because termites are Carpenter Ants favorite food, it is a sure sign that there are termites in the home.
This is a new one to me. Termites are a favorite food of a lot of different insects including most ants. They're soft almost defenseless balls of protein. However, this is not a sure sign of termites. Maybe an indicator for further inspection but not a sure sign.
We were able to eliminate the colony with a simple inexpensive baiting program.
This is often a tough call for me. And it's the one we get the most calls on. As I explain this, I want to be clear that in no way am I giving a solid diagnosis of your home or situation. For more info on this see, Desert Subterranean Termites. The rest of this is just from my experience from dealing with Desert and Subterranean Termites in the Carlsbad and Southeast New Mexico area.
Desert or Agricultural Termites can be found everywhere in Southeast New Mexico. While they can be found anywhere in the Carlsbad City limits, the most calls we get are from around the outskirts of town and near farm fields. Areas like Otis, LaHuerta, and even on C-Hill near the Living Desert State Park have the most calls for desert termites.
To most folks, one termite is the same as the next. And especially if you can see them right there crawling on your wood fence, your wood pile, on sticks and grass in the yard, and even a mud tube going up the side of the house.
Yes. These are termites. However, this desert type is rarely a threat to the structure of your home. At least, I haven't seen it. Don't get me wrong. They do cause some damage but most often in a different way.
In most cases, if you scrape away the mud tubes, you can see for yourself that most often the wood or other surface is most often not even touched or eaten. This is characteristic of Desert Termites. The type of subterranean termites in our area that do eat wood structures, will most often have eaten and made grooves in the wood.
In most cases, desert termite sightings are away from the home on a fence, some siding, a board, or some other wooden structure. In cases like this, I usually won't call for a treatment but rather a clean up and a broadcast insect treatment of the area and home perimeter.
A harder determination is when the evidence is in, under, or near a home or wooden structure.
This photo of a mud tube found under a mobile home is a good example. This is without a doubt, a mud tube. And it is indeed, under the home. Should this be a reason to call for a treatment?
In this case, I said no as well as you may want to get another opinion.
This mud tube exhibits the classic characteristics of how desert termites travel, eat, and survive. There were actually several under this home. And they all ended just like this. They are surrounding a piece of grass and never even touch the home. As well, there are no live bugs or damage to wood to be found.
This is without a doubt an obvious visible sign of termites. And like I said earlier, to most folks one termite is the same as another. And for most folks, this is plenty reason to panic, expect the worse, and call for a treatment. And most pest control operators will oblige without any assessment or advice.
This is why it's so important to get a second opinion. And even if you're not happy with our assessment, you should seek more advice. It won't hurt our feelings. It will either solidify our opinion or keep us from making a mistake.
Professional Termite Control Service
Horizon Pest Control, based in Carlsbad, provides termite inspections, treatments, and pre-treatments to all of Southeast New Mexico. If you're in need of any pest or termite control service, give Horizon Pest Control a call today at 575-725-9331.