If you're out walking around your house and notice a strange tube of mud -- sometimes several feet long -- running from the ground up past the foundation, you could be looking at big trouble. That sort of formation is a telltale sign of subterranean termites. They're not critters you want to feel welcome in your house. Here are some other signs to look for to help you determine whether you have termites in your home.
Subterranean termites need moisture. They also need wood to eat. Since the two are often not found together, the termites create a "termite highway" from the water source to the food source. When these tubes are found on the side of the house, it's as good a sign as any that the dwelling has termites in it.
Termites swarm, often after a rain. Flying termites are in the reproductive stage of their life cycle. If they swarm in your house, they probably hatched nearby. If, you see wings on the ground, it's a sign that the termites have burrowed close by after having mated. If you see a swarm, try to capture a few to take to a professional exterminator for identification. They could be flying ants instead of termites.
You won't see big, fat beetle holes when you're looking for termites. Termites eat wood from the inside out, creating long tunnels and galleries out of sight. You have to look for other signs, such as an unusual presence of dirt near the base of a beam where dirt shouldn't be present. Also, use a pen knife to poke and tap on beams and joists. If the wood sounds hollow, dig at the wood to see if the wood is solid or not. Sometimes, if the termite chambers are close to the surface, the wood will appear cracked.
Drywood termites, the other common species besides subterranean, will drill tiny, irregular holes that would be virtually unnoticeable except for one thing: the termites kick their sawdust-like droppings out of them. If you see an unexplainable pile of sawdust next to wooden furniture or a baseboard, you may have termites.
Termites are among the most common insects in the world. Not having them is no guarantee that you won't have them in the near future. To prevent termites from targeting your house, you can use a trenching product, such as Ortho® Home Defense MAX® Termite & Destructive Bug Killer. It creates a barrier against termites.
Call a professional.