Most people live under the assumption that termites and carpenter ants (wood destroying insects) only come in Spring with warming weather.
While it’s certainly true most termites and carpenter ants will go dormant in colder weather, if you have a warm basement (or crawlspace), they can go on damaging your home regardless of exterior temperatures.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of wood destroying insects in New England can save you from thousands of dollars worth of costs related to the structural damage caused by them.
If you have a crawlspace, especially one with a dirt floor it is important to have a pest control company annually re-inspect for wood destroying insects. Basements and crawl spaces, and especially ones that are damp or have wood debris laying close to the damp areas are more prone to attracting insects.
A good wood destroying Insect inspection includes probing all the lower perimeter wood including floor joists, rim joists and sill plates. Probing can detect hollowed out sections and areas where termites or ants are active.
Soundings; that is tapping on the wood may pick up hollow sounds that may indicate something is going on.
Termite shelter tubes (see photos) can be a very obvious sign to a trained inspector but may be overlooked by a homeowner. The shelter tubes are created by secretions from the termites. They build these tunnels to travel through to get back and forth to the soil and the wood they are eating.
Carpenter ants don’t eat wood, but create nests in the wood by hollowing out areas called galleries. The end result is often structural damage.
Termites and Carpenter ants can do a tremendous amount of damage if ignored. And they are sneaky, as they do not like to show themselves… so you have to carefully search.
Once found, corrective action can be taken to treat an area, or more effectively treat the whole house. Treatment for ants is usually several surface spray treatments.
For termites the treatment for many years was restricted to placing a barrier of termiticide around the perimeter of the home. Now we have additional choices of using borates on the wood and bait stations to combat these very destructive insects. Damaged wood should be replaced.
Most home inspectors offer termite and carpenter ant inspections as part of a regular home inspection when the home bought, but regular inspections after that, are typically provided by pest control companies.
And yes, firewood can bring the insects into the home. Try to store firewood in rings or holders off the ground.
Look carefully at the photos attached to this story so you can better identify conditions in your home.
Stephen Gladstone is a Supervisory Licensed Pest Inspector and Home Inspector in Stamford.