Common Warning Signs of Termite Infestation in DC-Area Homes

termites near dc home

There are few pests that can ruin your day like termites can. Everything can be going along smoothly just like any other day when suddenly you find out that your home has been devoured from the inside out by these wood-destroying insects. This is because termites don't infest our homes in obvious ways. They chew their way into our homes in hidden locations and once inside, create their damage entirely inside the wood of our homes, out of sight. Therefore, if you have termites within the walls of your home, there is a strong possibility that you're not going to know it. Because of this, these elusive pests are commonly referred to as “silent destroyers”. But there are some ways that these silent destroyers alert us to their presence. That’s what we’re going to focus on in this article.

As we said, termites don't crawl around on the outside of the wood they are feeding on. If they did, they wouldn't be so difficult to detect. Instead, these tiny pests do all of their wood-eating on the inside of the wood. In fact, worker termites will chew right up the paint on your walls and stop short of chewing all the way through. So how do you fight such a sneaky insect? Know your enemy.

Understanding the habitat preferences, behavior, and the appearance of subterranean termites will give you a better chance of detecting them when they attack your home. Let's take a look at each of these.

Habitat Preferences

When subterranean termites come into your yard, they are going to do so in one of two ways. They will either tunnel into your yard in search of food or fly into your yard in search of a place to establish their nests. Since these termites will look to establish their nests near a food source, this is the key factor to consider.

The termites that tunnel into our yards are called worker termites. These worker termites can travel the length of a football field in search of a food source. Initially, they are likely to feed on other sources of wood in your yard before targeting your home. If you inspect your yard, you may find some warning signs of termite infestation on your property. If you have stumps in your yard, cut into them and look to see if there are any small, pale insects inside. If you have mulch around the foundation of your home, rake up a section, dig into the soil, and see what you find. If you have a fence, tap on the base of your fence posts and see if any of them sound hollow, as hollow wood is a sign of termite damage.

The termites that fly into our yards are called swarmers. These swarmers are male and female reproductive termites searching for a location to establish their new nests. In the spring, these swarmers emerge from their mature colonies to mate and create new nests. And our yards provide them with the perfect places for them to do so. When they come into your yard, they're going to target areas that are damp and secluded. There are many reasons for this, but the most important reason is that there is a higher probability that they'll find an ideal food source in an area with high moisture levels. This is because moisture helps wood to decompose and decaying wood attracts termites. Therefore, when searching for termite swarmer activity around your home, looking in areas that are damp and shaded is a good place to start.


Subterranean termites need moisture in order to survive. In fact, these destructive insects are so reliant on moisture that they can't crawl up the side of your home to get to your wood without building shelter tubes to protect themselves from the dry environment outside. If you find packed mud tunnels running up the side of your foundation wall, it is important to recognize that those tunnels are a strong indication that you have a termite infestation.

However, most of the time you're not going to see these shelter tubes at all. This is due to another behavior associated with subterranean termites. The worker termites that build those shelter tubes have a strong aversion to light. So, when looking for shelter tubes on your home, you're going to have to look underneath your deck, inside your crawl space, behind your stairs, and in other dark, hard-to-reach areas.


When dealing with termites, you aren’t likely to see them as they like to remain hidden within the wood of our homes. In fact, even if you have a very large infestation, you probably won’t even encounter a single termite unless you are renovating your home. However, the swarmers we mentioned above do show themselves, though only for a short time. If you do see them, it is vital that you are able to recognize them. To help you do this, we want to clear up some common misconceptions about these swarmers. First of all, you won’t necessarily spot a termite swarmer in a swarm. You might only see a swarmer crawling on your exterior wall or wiggling around in a spider web. But termite swarms typically only last for about thirty minutes, so you are much more likely to see an individual swarmer searching for a place to establish its nest. The second misconception is that termite swarmers are large insects. Doing a quick search for images of termite swarmers on the internet may lead you to believe that these insects are quite big like flies or winged ants. But they aren't. If a termite swarmer was to land on you, you'd probably be surprised at how small it is. Even with their long white wings, which are longer than their tiny black bodies, termite swarmers are only about a quarter of an inch long. And, when you consider that their long white wings make up most of their length, those black insects are really tiny!

Sneaky Insects

If you know where to look and what to look for you might find shelter tubes, swarmers, and maybe even termite workers. But most of the time, you won't. Detecting termites is difficult, even for professionals who know what to look for. That is why many pest control professionals have turned to bait solutions for the monitoring and elimination of subterranean termites.

The experts on staff at American Pest trust the Sentricon® System with Always Active™ to detect termite workers and soldiers and eliminate attacking colonies. The Sentricon® System has had over 30 independent studies done on it, 70 scientific papers written about it, and has two decades of real-world success. It is also the only termite product that has earned the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for environmental responsibility. Most importantly, it makes detecting termite activity much less difficult. If you have had Sentricon® installed on your property, you're going to know when invading termites find their way into your yard and come to feed on it. There's no guesswork needed!

Don't wait to see the subtle warning signs of subterranean termites. Protect your DC home with the Sentricon® System and by partnering with us at American Pest!


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