5 Indicators of a Termite Infestation


  • Termites are wood-destroying insects that eat anything that contains cellulose.
  • Watch for signs like mud hoses and wood damage to determine if you may have a termite infestation.
  • While this article can help you spot signs of termites, to permanently get rid of an infestation you need a professional.

You’ve recently spotted some insects fluttering around your home and are concerned about the potential for termites. But how do you know they are termites? And what to do if you notice a termite infestation?

Termites are small wood-destroying insects that live in colonies, much like ants. According to estimates by the US Environmental Protection Agency, they cause billions of euros in structural damage every year.

And they don’t just eat through wood — they can damage anything that contains cellulose, including wallpaper and carpeting. While they won’t eat plastic or foam, they do enjoy tunneling through these materials. Knowing how to spot them can help you prevent an infestation and treat it right away before you have to spend thousands on repairs.

Twin Forks Pest Control founder Brian Kelly shares five common signs of termites that you should never ignore.

Note: Carpenter ants are often confused with termites. They are black with a red tinge, have translucent wings, narrow bodies, and are about 1/2 to 5/8 inch long. If you’re not sure what type of pest you’re dealing with — whether it’s termites or carpenter ants — consult a professional exterminator to properly identify them.

Sign 1: Swarmers (flying termites)

Overhead shot of a bunch of hawkmoths (flying termites) on the ground.

Swarmers are an early sign of termites.

Arun Roisri/Getty Images

Hawk moths are flying termites that don’t bite, sting, or eat wood. But they are often the first sign of a termite infestation. Because their sole purpose is to reproduce and establish new colonies during the swarming season. Kelly explains that spring is the best time to find wings and spot flying termites.

One way to tell if they’ve infested your home is to look for discarded wings, Kelly says.

“Termite hawk wings are pale in color and typically ¼ to ½ inch long,” says Kelly. Once mates are found, hawk moths shed their wings, often leaving them on windowsills and other entry points.

Character 2: Hollow or blistering wood

A closeup of the corner of a door frame ruined by termite damage.

Wood damage occurs in the places where termites have easy access to your home.

hadkhanong_Thailand/Getty Images

Damaged wood is another possible sign of termite activity. You’re most likely to discover wood damage in areas where termites can enter your home through wood-to-soil contact, Kelly says, including door frames, deck jambs, porch steps, and structural supports.

If you spot wood damage, Kelly recommends carefully inspecting the damaged area for signs of mold or mildew. Mildew typically has a powdery appearance, while mold can appear damp or fuzzy. “If you find any, you have a wood rot problem.” Wood rot is not a sign of termite damage, but persistently damp wood can attract pests like termites.

Dry wood that comes off easily in chunks is likely dry rot, Kelly says, a type of damage caused when fungal spores come in contact with damp wood.

Hollow wood, on the other hand, or wood with veins is a sign of termite infestation. You can tell that wood is hollow by the way it sounds when you tap it.

Character 3: Frass

Termite wood damage with frass.

Frass is termite droppings and can range in color from beige to dark brown.

P_Wei/Getty Images

Termite damage or droppings is another sign of termite activity. Frass indicates that termites are burrowing through and eating the wood in your home. Termites dig small tunnels to clear their nests of feces and leave it all over the house. You can sometimes notice holes near areas where you’ve spotted frass.

The appearance of the drop varies by species, but they are generally very small and often wood-colored. They can be confused with sawdust or dirt. If you don’t see frass, you might be able to smell it, Kelly explains, since it can give off a moldy or moldy odor.

Character 4: Mud Tubes

Mud hoses on a termite damaged wall.

Mud pipes are made from wood and earth.

EQS-M/Getty Images

According to the University of Missouri Extension Service, the termite species most likely to cause damage to homes in the United States is the eastern subterranean termite.

Subterranean termites are most likely to form mud burrows, brown tunnels made of wood and soil about 1/4 to 1 inch (0.5 to 2.5 centimeters) wide. Because these types of termites are soft-bodied, they can use mud hoses to get around your home without exposing them to outside threats like dry weather and predators.

However, underground termites can find other routes into your home. If you don’t see mud tunnels on the outside of your home, that doesn’t mean you don’t have an infestation. Still, mud tunnels are a clear sign of termite activity. Termites often build mud burrows in visible places, such as B. along fences, porches, nearby tree trunks and wall corners.

Quick tip: Carpenter ants and termites can both damage wood. Kelly explains that termite tunnels and mud tubes or galleries have a more ragged appearance than the carpenter ants, which are smoother and more polished.

Character 5: Tightly closing doors and windows

Close-up of a wooden door ajar.

Doors that don’t close easily, whether inside or outside, can be a sign of termites.

Jacek Kadaj/Getty Images

Any doors that suddenly become difficult to close or open are also potential signs of termites, says Kelly.

Because termite activity can increase humidity, door and window frames can expand, making these entrances harder to open or close. This sign is most likely in underground termites, which shed more moisture than other species.

If termites are active near your doors or windows, you may also notice other signs of activity such as grazing and wood damage.

Quick tip: In the US, dampwood, drywood, and underground termites are most likely to cause damage. Knowing the species of termite is important, Kelly explains. “If you crush against the wrong type, it probably won’t work and they’ll keep infesting.”

What to do if you see any of these signs?

Because it’s not possible to treat a termite infestation yourself, it’s important to consult a professional to assess the damage and determine the proper course of treatment.

A professional exterminator is armed with the knowledge to identify the termite species and the best way to exterminate them.

However, damage doesn’t happen overnight and there’s no need to panic if you notice signs of termites. The North Carolina Extension Office states that it can take anywhere from 3 to 8 years for serious damage to occur. Therefore, taking the time to find a qualified professional is more important than hiring someone locally.

Insider snack

Many things, such as hawk moths, discarded wings, frass, damaged wood, and mud burrows, can tell you about a termite infestation. While termites can cause serious damage, especially if left untreated, it takes a while for the damage to become serious. Finding a qualified professional who can identify the type of termite infestation is crucial to getting rid of these wood-damaging insects.

Stephen Coelho

Freelance Writer