How to Tell if Termites Are Active in your House

Gwen Wark

Termites wreak havoc on wood-framed homes, causing untold amounts of damage in short periods of time. Left unchecked, a termite infestation results in buildings becoming structurally unsound. Catching an infestation early means you'll limit the damage these little bugs do to your home.

Little bugs, big damage: the termite.

Knowing what to look for will help you identify an active termite infestation so you have time to take proper steps to eradicate it quickly.

  1. Look for termite swarmers, small insects that resemble flying ants, near your windows. Termite swarmers have a straight waist and straight antennae where flying ants have pinched waists and crooked antennae. Termite swarmers indicate a colony of wood-boring termites at work.

  2. Look for shelter tubes, small tunnels underneath the surface of mud and grass. Subterranean termites require moisture to survive, and the shelter tubes provide a way to travel without being exposed to air and sunlight. Break off a shelter tube and see if it is rebuilt; an active infestation results in the tube being repaired by workers.

  3. Check for hollowed wood using a screwdriver or probe. Poke the end of the screwdriver or probe into the wood and see if it meets resistance. Termites hollow out wood, causing damage.

  4. Check moist or woody areas next to your house for termites, including places like much piles and wood piles.

  5. Look for sawdustlike "powder" near door frames and windows. The waste wood from termite activity tends to pile up in these places.