Here are 7 signs of termites that you might have these unwanted guests living in your home:
1. Head banging
Not yours, but the termite soldiers! You may be wondering what do termites sound like? One sign of termites is quite clicking sounds coming from your walls. Soldier termites bang their heads against the wood or shake their bodies when the colony is disturbed to signal danger to the other termites. The worker termites, which are the ones who love eating your woodwork, are noisy eaters. If you put your ear close to any wood infested by termites you can hear them munching away. This noisy eating habit was even mentioned by the Roman writer Pliny the Elder 2,000 years ago!
A little known fact is that termites love rock music! Queen, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Rolling Stones, Nirvana you name it. A recent study carried out in the eating habits of termites found that these wood addict insects work faster when they hear rock music. When a selection of termites were subjected to a rock track they ate wood two times faster!
Termites are sensitive little creatures. They can detect vibrations and noises using several organs which are found at the base of their antennae and on the tibia (one of the segments of the leg).
Scientists at Australia’s CSIRO even think that termites can tell the size of a piece of wood by using vibrations to measure it from the inside — something even humans can’t do yet! There is still a lot to be discovered about these little pests.
2. Flying termites
Usually the first sign of a termite infestation is the presence of flying termites — called swarmers or alates. The flying termites are the males and females that have left the nest to find a mate and then establish a new colony — which could be near or in your home. Read more about these winged termites in our previous blog Why Flying Termites Mean Serious Trouble.
Some species swarm at night and are attracted to light sources. Other species will swarm in daylight, but all drywood termites tend to swarm after rain at particular times of the year.
Another common sign of termites is the discarded wings. Flying termites lose their wings shortly after finding a mate. Male and female termites pair up then crawl to a suitable nesting site where they seal themselves in to mate and start the new colony. The king and queen start off by caring for their young until there are enough workers to take over. The king continues to tend for the queen and the pair can live together in the growing colony for over ten years.
Did You Know in some termite species the males die shortly after mating but the green can live for up to 20+ years!
3. White Ants
A common mistake people make is confusing termites with ants or calling termites “white ants”. This misconception is an easy one to make as both ants and termites are very similar in both shape, size and in some cases behaviour.
So what are the differences between ants and termites?
- Termites are light in colour. They are usually a white/creamy colour and can sometimes look quite translucent.
- Compared to ants termites antennae are dead straight rather than elbowed.
- The waste section of a termite is a lot thicker than that of an ant. The section where the thorax meets the abdomen is very narrow on ants, whereas on a termite this section is quite large in comparison.
- Both flying ants and termites have two sets of wings. However a termites set are both the same size compared to an ant who have one set larger than the other.
The important thing to note is that there is no such thing as a white ant. If you think you have spotted an insect which looks like a white ant in and around your house then you might have a termite problem on your hands.
4. Papery or hollow sounding timber
Termites usually consume wood from the inside out, leaving a thin veneer of timber or just the paint. When you knock or tap on an area that has termite damage, it will sound hollow or papery. This is because part or all of the timber inside has been eaten away.
Some of the most common stories you might read about termites is that a problem is only discovered when the vacuum cleaner goes through a skirting board or a finger pressed into a door frame goes through the frame.
5. Tight fitting doors and hard-to-open windows
Often related to signs of damp and hot weather, stiff windows and warped doors can also mean termites! The moisture they produce when eating and tunneling through door and window frames causes the wood to warp, making it tough to open doors and windows.
6. Tunnels in wood
The tunnels, also known as ‘galleries’, are obviously quite difficult to see from the outside, but if you see them in a piece of broken timber near or in your house it is a sure sign that termites have set up camp in your home.
Various types of technology have been proposed for detecting tunnels and the activity of termites when there are no visible signs. These include borescopes, electronic odour detectors, microwaves, sound detectors, infrared detectors, Xrays and even dogs, but only a few have been tested in laboratory conditions or are in use — some are used by Rentokil technicians.
7. Frass – Termite Droppings
A key sign of termites, and in particular drywood termites, is frass – termite droppings. This indicator of an infestation is something that is always looked for during a termite inspection. Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites don’t use their feces to build their tunnels. Instead they push their poo out of small holes near the entrances to their nest. This results in small black marks and a dark powdery substance in and around the area in which they are infesting.
So you know the signs of Drywood termites but what about subterranean termites? Unlike their cousins, subterranean termites prefer to live underground in soil, particularly in your garden and under your house. Find out more about subterranean termites in our previous blog Termites Underground – The Dark & Smelly Story.
Professional Termite Inspection
Rentokil’s specialist technicians are expert in looking for the signs of termites around your home and have various types of technology to detect them when there are no visible signs. These include moisture sensors, heat sensors and sound sensors.
Most insurance policies do not cover termite damage so it is a good idea to have a regular professional inspection to detect termite infestation as early as possible and minimise the risk of costly damage to your property.
If termite activity is found, Rentokil technicians can provide you with recommendations for the suitable treatments available for your property. See the Rentokil website for more information.
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