Termites What to look for

termite exterminator
If you want to strike fear in the heart of a pest control branch manager or inspector. Simply call them after they have done a termite inspection and say “you missed something and you need them out right away.” Any papers in their hand will go flying or any lunch will be tossed over the shoulder as they bolt for the truck and speed your way while thoughts of lawyers and Judge Judy fill their head. No other category in the pest control business causes more litigation, loss of revenue, reputation and lack of sleep as the termite inspection. Not the actual job itself where you may use 200 gallons or more of termiticide. Use heavy hammer drills, tile cutters, pull carpets, cut bath traps and trample bushes and landscape as you treat the home. No it’s the inspection where no chemicals are used and no invasive tools are usually allowed. Save of course, a flashlight and a screwdriver used to ‘tap’ baseboards. If this seems unfair to you then perhaps you are a pest control operator who found this site and decided to read. Most homeowners however believe that once they have “passed” a termite inspection they should have no problem whatsoever and once more believe the inspection is guaranteed and if they do discover an infestation it’s the bug companies responsibility to treat and fix the problem and or damage.

xray vision pestcemetery.comWell I’ve never met an inspector who has x-ray vision but I meet all kinds who go to great lengths to ensure you get a quality inspection and that no visible stone is left unturned. Even the best human inspector can truly only assess about 10% of any home even if it’s completely vacant. So with that operators began to employ tools such as dogs, moisture meters, thermal imaging cameras and acoustic listening devices. Oh and yes I’ve even seen a portable x-ray machine. With all this you’d think the public would welcome these things with open arms. On the contrary, most consumers have said no to having cannine inspectors into their home and often refuse the use of other devices. I know a colleague who spent 10,000.00 dollars on a dog that can smell termites inside walls. That pup is just a great pet now, but thats about it. Or some have bought the expensive thermal imaging cameras that now just gather dust in the office closet and the listening devices are only used to hear the secretary gossip through the wall. In Florida the legal system is such that the use of these seemingly awesome tools actually sets you up for more legal ramifications should something get missed. Professional realtor’s while lauding the use of ‘home inspectors’ (those who check the a/c unit, plumbing, roof etc.) actually do not recommend any termite inspection if the contract does not call for it. They stay completely away from those of us who actually find things and only call out the quickie $ 25.00 guys who pass homes all day long. I’m not entirely sure as to why home buyers have not embraced these tools. I can assume to know why realtor’s don’t but I’ll leave that alone. You may think it would be a price issue but many companies have even offered these extra features at reduced prices or even free. Still it seems that in this age of amazing technology termite inspections will stay languished in the past and inspectors everywhere stand at the ready to zoom across town ready again to explain to Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner how they don’t have x-ray vision. Well if you can’t beat em join em someone once said and since this site is geared to help you understand the ‘how to’ of pest control better. Here are some tips and pictures to show you what to look for to see if you have any termite issues. Most of these however are REALLY OBVIOUS and I don’t want you to think it’s just that easy. Sometimes the only clue you have that indicates a problem is no bigger than a tip of a pin. But these are signs you should be able to see with your eyes, a little know how and a flashlight.

So lets get looking!

Say this is your living room. Everything looks just fine.Yes?

Not so fast! Upon a closer look you could find a mess caused by our friends the subterranean termite.

Same baseboard same room that was probably walked by for years while damage was being done. This was only found by tapping the baseboard with a screwdriver. The hollow sound gave a hint that something was amiss and with some more prodding termites were discovered.

Check the baseboards first

View of baseboard with carpet pulled back revealing easy access and hiding for insects and termites.
If you’ve ever watched an inspector go through your home you’ve probably noticed him or her tapping the baseboards. As illustrated in our first example that’s where you’ll find your evidence most times. Why? Well termites are industrious and hard working but just as most creatures they’ll take the easy road where they can. Most times the baseboards are the first or second sources of wood they run in to. Termites will tunnel over or through the homes foundation and into the dark seclusion of your walls. There they usually find the sill plate but alas that wood is usually pressure treated lumber by code so not to tasty. While 2×4 studs abound it’s your base boards that are usually ’softer’ wood and easily accessible as shown in the picture above. Termites find this easy, soft wood irresistible and begin the feast.

Bubbled paint;

Bubbled paint reveals hidden termite evidence(brown mud exposed).

This same habit of eating to the edge goes for drywall as well. One thing to note that whenever termites eat to far, they expose themselves to light, danger and dry air. So wherever exposed they seal those holes with mud. This mud is a mixture of fecal matter and soil. This is always a good sign of termite presence. To be sure simply scrape the mud away and it should reveal a small hole into the surface. Sometimes you’ll even witness the soldier termites coming to guard the breach until workers can patch it up.

Exit holes;

Two examples of termite mud on drywall known as exit holes. This is where termites will swarm out of. (usually noticed in the spring)

Other areas you will find termite mud or other evidence will be window and door areas. These areas typically are high in moisture and termites can explore and feed in these areas longer without having to leave to replenish the much needed water supply.Check under the sill and look for the sure sign of packed mud.

One quick note; When looking for termite evidence always check the seams or joints where boards or surfaces come together. These are areas they will seal up with the mud so that they can roam freely in the darkness and feel protected. You can find a lot of these types of joints in sheds, unfinished garages, utility closets or in attics.


Other places include;

Plumbing areas are ALWAYS a place to be suspect. In fact most termite work includes cutting a a hole in the wall to be able to treat and inspect where plumbing pipes are located. Remember termites need moisture and pipes leaking or at the very least just sweating somewhat are perfect for the subterranean termite.


Now check outside;

The exterior is always an important part of looking for termites but depending on construction type or your area of the world it is sometimes easier said than done. The easiest thing to check for is termite tunnels on the foundation. Other less obvious signs are swarmer wings or swarmer’s  themselves  dead on window sills or in spider webs attached to the structure. Termites usually forage within the top 4 to 5 inches of the soil so you can dig around your foundation to try and find hungry worker termites in key spots as well. These spots would include, soil near a/c drip lines or water spigots, excess mulch or areas of other wood to ground contact such as landscape timbers or lattice.

To be sure there are 100’s of ways for termites to get into any home. These are just a few things to look for. Be sure to get an experts opinion should you encounter anything screwy or that you just can’t be sure of. They know what to look for and have the tools and experience to give your home the best once over you can get. In life nothing is 100% for sure. But when it comes to termites it’s not something you want to monkey around with. Who knows maybe your inspector will want to show you how one of his old toys work?

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.

This entry was posted in Termites. Bookmark the permalink.