Is that a termite? Relax! That’s a flying ant. Flying ants don’t eat your house, but termites do. Here’s how to know the difference.
Termites, on the other hand, have a middle section that is as wide as the back, making for a long, thin-back body. It is more the shape of a capsule-type pill. Termite wings are long, evenly sized, and fold toward the back. Termites’ antennae are straight.
Try to trap one in a jar for easier identification. If you are not willing to get that close, call an exterminator.
Finding termites near your house
Adult termites can’t live in sunlight. They live underground and bring soil with them to the nearest wet wood. Looking for these mud tunnels twice a year is a good practice for a homeowner. If you are unsure, exterminators provide a service plan where they do it for you, for a fee.
Preventing termite and carpenter ant damage is a matter of limiting wet wood. Anywhere that wood is touching the soil, you may attract termites and carpenter ants: both like their wood damp. Shingles that touch the ground, the garage sill that is on the ground, wood embedded into basement floors are all prime dining spots for the insect crowd.
The most common places that I see termite damage is in wood garages where the frame is right on the ground or the shingles go all the way to the ground. On/in the house, I see damage under the basement stairs, at the middle basement wall, and along the foundation sill of the house. Watch there for damage.
The bigger wood boring insect: carpenter ants
Carpenter ant damage can be detected by looking for “frass” (looks like sawdust). Carpenter ants nest in wood, so they hollow out a piece of wood and leave the frass outside.
Carpenter ants don’t eat wood. They chew wood and spit it out. What they actually eat are sugars made by other insects, and sometimes meat or syrups and pet food in your house. Some people find out they have carpenter ants because they find one looking around the kitchen for lunch!
Carpenter ants are cheaper to exterminate than termites. You can do it yourself, or a professional can do it for you for a few hundred dollars.
Termites require a professional. The poison treatment costs about $2000. The exterminators drill holes around the ground near the foundation and insert poison every few inches. There are also bait systems that attract termites outside the house. When the termites come, they are served a hormone that disrupts their reproduction and the nest dies. The poison service is more of a one-and-done experience. The baits need to monitored every few months to be effective.
Either kind of insect can do a lot of damage, over time. In the tropics, these insects don’t have the dormant periods that they have here. There, they do structural damage in less than a year. But in the northeast, they have a short season. It takes years for a nest of termites to do structural damage to a house sill or carpenter ants to structurally damage a sill or porch.
Check your house. Exterminate wood boring insects as soon as you can. The longer you leave them, the more of your house they will chew. Stop them early and save yourself money!