If you’re worried that your property is vulnerable to extensive damage from termites, knowing the warning signs of an infestation can save you a lot of time and money. Subterranean termites have a lot of unique habits that make them distinct, but they can be hard to spot because much of their active life is spent underground. The subtle nature of termite habits means it’s important to hire a professional pest inspector when you’re not sure if there’s a problem. Professionals will search for several different things.
Termites live and feed underground by building a network of tunnels made of mud, saliva, waste, and other materials. These tunnels connect the nest, which is a high moisture spot, with the source of food, sometimes the wood in your home, for the colony. These tunnels are usually pencil sized, and there are four distinct types of them that may be located in or near your home. They include:
- Working tubes connect directly from the nest to wood food source
- Exploratory tubes allow termites to search for food sources
- Migratory tubes are present in the soil but aren’t connected to wood
- Drop tubes come down from the wood structure towards the soil
In addition to these tube types, termites will also excavate within wood structures themselves and use mud and saliva to make repairs as needed. Some mud tubes can remain even after termites are gone, but they are easy to spot because they will crumble easily because of their lack of moisture.
Active mud tubes, sometimes referred to as shelter tubes, are proof of a termite problem, but they do not have to be present for a termite infestation to be occurring on your property. Termites can reach sills and other wood structural components through very small voids or cracks in the foundation wall, under the stucco, or from earth or mulch-filled steps, porches, or patios. Because the landscape in Puerto Rico is so rich, termites have an easy time traveling from place to place.
While termites spend most of their time nesting and feeding underground, reproductive male and female members of the species form swarms in order to establish new colonies. Up north, swarms develop in the spring and fall, but Puerto Rico’s even climate throughout the year means they can show up at any time. Swarms love warmth and moisture so you can expect to see them most during the afternoon after some thunderstorms. Swarmers look a lot like flying ants.
Swarms around piles of wood, railroad ties, and other common insect breeding areas are common but not necessarily a sign that your property is infested if they’re only located outside. When you see a swarm inside your home, however, it’s time to respond to the problem immediately. Swarms only develop when colonies reach a certain size, meaning the infestation within your home may be significant.
When a pest inspector visits your home, they’ll be looking for things like piles of wings from previous swarms, tiny holes in paint, buckling wood, and of course all different types of mud tunnels. They’ll be equipped with a good flashlight, knife or another probing tool, and adequate clothing. A qualified inspector from a professional termite control services company will closely examine:
- Piled up scrap wood around your exterior
- All wood construction in your crawl space or basement
- Points where concrete meets wood construction
- Hollow points or cracks in cement or brick
Inspectors in cooler climates may only examine the ground level of a home, but Puerto Rican termite control service companies will also examine and treat higher floors because the warm and moist climate is favorable to upper-level infestations. By probing and inspecting tunnels and other vulnerable points, an inspector can see if there are live termites and start to devise a control solution.
The longer your home in Puerto Rico has a termite infestation, the more likely permanent damage can occur to your property. The good news is that termites damage wood relatively slowly, so you should have time to deal with them before they become too big of a problem. Make sure to contact a termite control service company right away if you know or suspect that you might have an infestation.