Swarmers, Wings, Mud Tubes, & Other Evidence
Flying termites, mud tubes, wings, droppings, and other little bits of evidence they leave behind. These are the most common visible signs of a termite infestation in your home or other wood structure.
These bits of evidence left behind by termites are what we get the most calls on for termite inspections. So this article will probably help answer a few questions about what you've probably already seen.
Unless you're aware of what signs to look for, the evidence of a termite infestation may go unnoticed and undetected. These silent wood destroying insects can exist unseen with all they need to survive for years or even indefinitely.
A termite colony only needs a food source and moisture source to survive and thrive. The food source being wood (your home). And if the moisture source is internal like a leak under your floor or in a wall, evidence and sign of a termite infestation may not surface for years.
Again, these are simply the most common obvious visible signs. There are other advanced methods of detecting hidden termite colonies that are used in a routine termite inspection. However, what we'll look at here is what we get called on the most prior to most of our inspections and termite service calls.
The Most Common Obvious Signs
These are the most common obvious signs. However, there are also a lot of "false sightings" that turn out to not even be termites at all. See It's Not Termites | A Little Closer Inspection for more details about what is and what isn't termites.
- Alates - Flying Termites
- Termite Wings - Body Parts
- Mud Tubes
- Frass - Termite Droppings
- Kick Out Holes - Tiny Holes In Walls
Alates - Flying Termites
Alates or flying termites are most often the first sign that there are termites inside of a structure. Often in the Spring (but not always) and when weather conditions are favorable, Alates leave the colony to form mating pairs to create new termite colonies.
Often and fortunately, the only exit from the colony is to the interior of the home or structure that they occupy. I say fortunately because if the termites exit the exterior of the structure, there may be no other visible signs and many termite infestations would go undetected.
Other than during flight, the most common area you'll find flying swarmers is on window sills and other avenues of light as they are attracted to light.
Discovering elates inside a structure, even one like on this window sill, is a sure guarantee that there is an active colony inside the structure.
For most species, a swarm happens once or many times a year. Usually the swarms occur after a good rain and usually takes place at or after sun down. And most often, it's pretty obvious that a swarm is happening. There are instances where the swarm is actually flying ants. However, most times it is termites. If you're unsure, call for a professional opinion and further inspection if necessary.
Termite Wings - Body Parts
Again, Alates are the flying winged reproductives of a termite colony. They can swarm in large and small numbers. And in some cases, only leave one small piece of evidence behind.
Many times, while there will be no visible evidence of an actual insect, there will be detached wings laying on window sills and other lighted areas. And even a single wing inside of a structure is a sure indication of an infestation somewhere inside the structure.
Mud tubes are protective travel ways for termites. They protect them from predators as well as protect their tender moist bodies from dehydrating. Some termite species won't last long when exposed to open air.
Not all termites make mud tubes. However, the species we find in our service inspections the most in Carlsbad and Southeast New Mexico, the Subterranean Termite, does. It is a sure sign that termites are either present or have been there in the past. Some mud tubes you find may be inactive and have been for a long time.
So, while you may not actually find live active termites in the tubes, it's still an indicator that you need to investigate further. Or if you're in Carlsbad, call Horizon for a termite inspection. Our service is thorough to locate a termite infestation.
Frass - Termite Droppings
Most often, the first time frass or termite dropping is sighted, it appears to be and is mistaken as dust blown in around window sills and door jams. However, after cleaning it up, it continues to return. This is usually when we get the call for a termite inspection.
A lot of times, a kick out hole directly above the "dust" pile will indicate the true composition and source of the frass. However, the kick out hole itself often looks like a speck of dust.
As well, many times there is no kick out hole but simply debris left by termites under baseboards, in corners, on window sills, and other areas.
Advanced Termite Detection And Inspection
There is a lot of great technology that exists today for detecting termites and termite infestations. However, a lot of the more "advanced" methods of termite detection are just more detailed inspection methods. If you've discovered any of the signs mentioned above and want to investigate a little further yourself, here are a few "advanced" techniques we use to detect evidence of unseen termite populations.
- Sounding - Is simply using a soft medium point blunt end object to tap on base boards, trim, walls, and other areas. What you're looking for is hollow and inconsistent sounds.
- Probing - Is using a tool similar to an ice pick to investigate hollow sounds further. It's also used to investigate bubbles and ripples in paint and other flaws in the wood and finish of your home.
You should probably go light on these so not to ding up your finish or leave pin holes all over your trim and walls.
This photo shows termite damage that is pretty obvious but wasn't seen until we came for the inspection. Sounding and probing weren't really necessary. The paint on the trim is paper thin and the wood trim itself has been completely eaten from behind it.
This actually happens a lot and can go totally unnoticed until you put a finger through the paint shell.
The first sign of this infestation was a swarm of termites inside the home. It was an obvious infestation and further investigation found evidence of the source and location of the colony.
Of course, in this example, the rippled paint is a good sign for further investigation. However, to this homeowner, it just appeared as an abnormality or old paint.
Professional Termite Control Service
If you've found any of the signs or evidence mentioned above in your home, it's a good idea to get a professional inspection service to take a look at it. Horizon Pest Control offers termite inspection, treatment, and control services to Carlsbad and Southeast New Mexico. Give us a call at 575-725-9331 to schedule termite control service today.