Termites are one of the most notorious wood-destroying insects out there. They’re incredibly agile, small, and may look harmless. However, they alone can cost homeowners and business owners billions of dollars every year. An excellent way to fight off these pests is by looking for the presence of termite holes. When they feed on wood, they often leave holes behind due to munching through cellulose-based materials.
With that said, here’s all you need to know about termite holes.
What Do Termite Holes Look Like?
A termite hole or exit hole are circular holes that are small and deep, going at 1/8 inch per hole. The holes get sealed by swarmers or a swarming termite who is yet to leave or left the nest. They cover these small holes with a brown and cement-like material made from their pellet droppings. Unless you find where the termite colonies live during or after you get infested, when a swarm takes place and decides to live in your home, you will not see these holes open and uncovered.
Unlike the drywood termite species, subterranean don’t leave small exit holes in the wood as they build their nests and live underground in the soil. Instead, they exit by going inside mud tubes or mud tunnels, directing them to the surface. However, since other wood-destroying insects and pests like carpenter ants can leave holes in wood, it’s best to call a professional to determine the exact sizes, shape, age, and type of the holes to determine if a termite has caused it.
Doing this gives you better control over the situation. Besides carpenter ants, one infamous insect that likes to eat wooden structures is beetles. However, they’re easily distinguishable since most termites need or go after damp wood and cover their tracks—while beetles don’t.
Signs of a Termite Infestation
It’s no secret that termites eat wood, and they’re usually active year-round, making it crucial to protect your home from them. That’s why besides identifying exit holes, you need to understand what type of damages a termite can cause and what signs you need to watch out for, so if you do have a termite infestation—you can address it immediately. It would be best if you were proactive, especially when dealing with subterranean termites, an invasive species found in the Northern Florida region, inflicting tremendous damage in a short time.
The most common warning signs of a termite infestation include the following:
- Swarming – After swarming from their colonies, reproductive termites or swarmers lose their wings, leaving them not to travel that far. So, if you see swarmers outside your home or wings scattered by window sills, there’s likely a mature nest nearby.
- Mud Tubes – Since they often travel back and forth from their nest colonies to food sources, they build mud tubes to protect themselves during their travels from weather and predators. These tubes are easier to find than other signs.
- Pellets/Droppings – Besides the typically scattered wings by the windowsills, a termite also leaves droppings resembling pellets in the affected places in the home. So, you’ll likely see droppings on the floors in different locations around your property. These roughly look like bird seeds or pellets—and smell like them too.
Although being proactive and actively seeking signs for damages is one thing, these are often challenging to find. That’s why by the time most homeowners discover a termite infestation inside their house, significant damage has already been inflicted. Compared to the other common signs, exit holes are already signs of severe progression of an infestation, meaning those termites may have already built tunnels throughout the structural wood of your home. It’s best to call a professional for swift identification.
Why Do Drywood Termites Make Holes?
A drywood termite colony usually doesn’t have a connection with mud or soil with high moisture levels. That’s why they’re able to squeeze the wood using their gut and get the moisture out. When this happens, it results in kick-out holes. Its unique name is derived from the wood getting kicked out, resembling mustard seeds. If you’re wondering if what makes it different from your regular holes, look for a pile of tiny brown wood seeds on the floor.
Distinguishing Termite Exit Holes
Other pests like a carpenter bee or beetle can also leave behind exit holes inside the wood. However, both these species rarely cover them up, and the best way to distinguish their exit holes from a termite hole is by the size and substance used to cover the exit hole. Meanwhile, carpenter ants or acrobat ants typically leave behind bigger holes and use grass to cover them up, a powdery substance resembling sawdust. Generally, an exit hole is rounder, smaller, and filled with a brown plaster-like material compared to exit holes made by ants.
Termite exit holes are often found inside dry wood during the warmer months as it’s warm enough for termites to leave their colony or nest. Although general termite-mating season, whether for termite swarmers, drywood termites, or subterranean termites, usually happens during this time. In contrast, flying termites may leave the nest earlier on. That means homeowners who live in warmer places like Florida experience more than one cycle of termite swarmers every year.
Since exit holes are small and challenging to find, the best way to protect your home from a termite infestation is by having a pest management company help you. The best part is, large companies offer termite protection and open inspection plans that can save you time, money, and your building.
Can Drywood Termite Holes Be Repaired?
The encounter of new rotting wood or structural damage is nearly every homeowner’s worst nightmare, especially when dealing with termite-infested wood since it’s typically discovered after most of the damage has already been done. However, most cases like these are treatable, and it’s rare for termites to damage a building beyond repair—unless you’ve left your structure unattended for a long time. Luckily, homeowners can address the effects of termite holes and general termite damage using DIY methods at home. It’s best to have an annual inspection around your property to address termite infestation and holes in wood fast and avoid dealing with more damage.
Best Ways to Deal With Termite Damage
Regardless of the species you’re dealing with, drywood termites or subterranean termites, you need to take quick action. That’s because if you don’t address the termite damage fast, you’ll be dealing with plenty of decaying wood and a damaged building. So, if you can’t call for pest control or a professional exterminator right away, consider doing the following:
Use Wood Hardeners
If the termites’ holes you’re dealing with aren’t as excessive and you’ve caught it on time, using a wood hardener on the affected place is ideal. Do this by removing excess rotten wood in or around the holes and filling the gaps with the hardener.
Use Wood Fillers
If wooden structures in different areas in your home have had a termite nest living inside for some time, you’re likely facing extensive damage, including exit holes and long hollowed-out grooves. Fortunately, you can quickly address this by using wood filler.
Add Supporting Beams to the Building
Depending on the termite damage level you’re dealing with, adding a piece of supporting wood next to rotten or dead ones is ideal. Doing this may restore the structural functions of a building’s beams. However, keep in mind that it may also make their appearance less appealing.
Seek Professional Help and Replace Building Damage
Although termites can be quick, this will depend on the type of termites they are and their nest or colony size. For instance, subterranean termites live in a large colony and usually eat through wood faster than a smaller nest of drywood termites. In these cases, the damage can be excessive, and termite treatment costs can be high since a termite nest usually often moves from wood to wood in a building—and at fast speeds.
If this has happened in your home, you may call a professional to assess the damage, particularly when the building has been affected by termite exit holes. So, you may also need to call a contractor to take charge of any wall or floor replacements necessary around your property.
Preventive Measures to Prevent Termite Infestation
If you’re not too keen on fixing each termite hole you come across or deal with dead or rotting wood filled with termites outside your yard, you can always prevent the termite damage from happening in the first place. Below are preventive measures you can take at home.
Prevent Your Home Structure from Getting Damp
Since most drywood termites consume soft or rotten wood, they may usually seek areas with high moisture levels or with decaying wood. A home and its structural foundation may become the best place for termite colonies if it doesn’t get maintained properly or untreated. Additionally, termites are attracted to moisture and are more likely to infest the soil next to its foundation since it’s consistently moist.
Make Sure Enough Sunlight Gets Into Your Home
Termites aren’t attracted to light since they die when exposed to it. Plus, research has proven that when light is shone into a termite colony, the termites work together to create a blockage so that light will no longer enter. They’re able to do this by sending social signals through pheromones instead of their eyes. However, that’s only the case for drywood termites and subterranean termites—not so much for the flying termite.
That’s because the flying variation or alates are slightly different, resembling moths, and are highly attracted to light sources.
Treat Wooden Structures and Furniture with Insect Repellent
Although a termite isn’t the same as an ant, its anatomical structures are similar. That’s why ant spray may be efficient in killing termites. Besides, most insecticides made for ants are used for termites—and vice versa.
Maintain the Garden or Greenery Outside and Clear the Areas From Dead Trees
Regardless of what species trees are, if it’s dead or already rotted, the moment you left even a piece of it out in the open made them the primary target for termites. Even the smallest branch is enough to attract drywood termites looking for an easy and fast meal, especially in Florida, where these pests are common. Any termite likes dead and rotting trees or wood in general since they’re easier to chew through and get cellulose, so having a stump in your yard is sending them an invitation to move in.
That’s why when trees show signs of damage or rotting, investigate it immediately to find the cause and make the necessary changes.
Termites may be small, but they are ruthless and pay no attention to the difference between dead or rotting wood in the garden to your brand new kitchen door—and the preventive methods mentioned can make the process easier for you. However, if you’re dealing with more wood-destroying insects than usual, whether it’s termite swarmers or carpenter ants, a professional exterminator or pest control company can always help.
Although termites are dubiously known as wood-destroying insects and wreak havoc nearly everywhere they go, they are still crucial members of the ecosystem and general environment. However, the presence of termites brings little comfort to homeowners worrying their house is slowly crumbling before their eyes—leading to expensive repairs as structural replacements may be necessary.
Fortunately, most would see this as an opportunity to improve and fortify their home, adding more to its value—and now that you know how to look for termite holes in wood and identify them from other holes made by other insects. In the meantime, homeowners should place long-term adjustments to ensure no termite swarmers find their way in again. Doing “basic” and cosmetic touches can help restore the wood with termite holes or other minimal damage, and anyone can fix them with little effort and low costs.