Termite Trouble

(Family Features) - Springtime showers aren't the only thing warmer weather brings. It can also trigger termite swarms-and the presence of winged termites can be a bad sign for homeowners.

Termites can enter a home through cracks as thin as a few sheets of paper and devour enough wood and wood products to do serious damage. Even though they are smaller than a grain of rice, termites cause more than $5 billion in damage to homes all across the United States, according to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). To make matters worse, most insurance policies don't cover termite damage, and according to Terminix, a national pest control company, homeowners pay an average of $3,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for repairs.

"A termite swarm is a group of winged, reproductive termites that leave their existing colony to establish new ones," said Paul Curtis, entomologist for Terminix. "Swarming is weather-driven and normally occurs on warm spring days, after a rain. The presence of a termite swarm is the most obvious, and often first, sign of a termite infestation, so it's important to know what to look for and what to do if you experience a swarm in or around your home."

Termite colonies can remain hidden behind walls and other structural elements for months-and even years-before their presence is detected. Homeowners should look for signs such as mud tubes, which are hollow, drinking-straw-sized roadways for termites, and check for wood that makes a hollow sound when tapped. Also, look for discarded wings around windows and doors, which termite swarms may leave behind as a sign of activity.

Keep Termites Out

The pest control experts at Terminix recommend the following tips to help make your home less attractive to termites:

  • Fix roof or plumbing leaks. The moisture from these leaks allows termites to survive above ground.
  • Eliminate all wood-to-soil contact around the foundation, keeping firewood or other wood debris from being stacked against the side of the home.
  • Keep mulch or soil away from the home's siding. It's best to have a barrier of a few inches.
  • Remove items like scrap lumber, boxes and even old books or newspapers from crawl spaces.
  • Maintain adequate ventilation in crawl spaces.
  • Use a mesh screen on all windows, doors and ventilation openings.
  • Have your home inspected by a trained professional at least once a year. Prompt treatment and regular inspections can save thousands of dollars in damage repair.

You should also prevent moisture accumulation around your home's foundation by making sure water is diverted with downspouts and gutters. Don't let shrubs or other landscaping cover up vents, and remove old tree stumps and roots close to the building.

Termite Treatment

It's very difficult for homeowners to treat a termite problem themselves. Curtis says that treatment will vary depending on the severity of the infestation, the termite species, and the location of the building. Your best bet is to have a trained and licensed pest control company, like Terminix, assess the problem and recommend the appropriate treatment plan.

To learn more about termites and to download a swarm map for your area, visit www.terminix.com.