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In the southern states, subterranean termites can be a year round threat to structures, but in the northern states, subterranean termites respond to the cold of winter by traveling to greater depths in the ground soil where temperatures become progressively warmer. Once subterranean termites secure a sufficiently warm spot in the soil, they enter into a state of quasi-dormancy for the duration of the winter season. However, central heating can keep the soil surrounding northeastern homes warm enough to allow subterranean termites to remain active during the winter. In fact, subterranean termite swarms have been known to emerge from the upper floors of high-rise buildings in Boston during the winter, but such incidents are rarely documented. Once the spring season arrives, rising temperatures and moisture from melting snow and rainwater stimulate subterranean termite activity. In Massachusetts, eastern subterranean termite swarms emerge during April and May, shortly after workers begin foraging.

It is often assumed that homes are at the greatest risk of becoming infested with subterranean termites during the late spring and early summer seasons when swarmers (alates) are active, but this is not exactly the case. While subterranean termites love moisture, the abundance of groundwater during the spring can flood subterranean nests, resulting in numerous fatalities. In order to make up for the loss of so many workers and soldiers during the spring, queens begin producing massive amounts of eggs during the summer after heavy rainfall has ceased. Foraging worker termites are responsible for initiating infestations in structural wood, and they are most prevalent in the natural environment during the summer months. Since subterranean termites inhabit the ground soil and infest the inner cavities of wood where they cannot be seen, detecting infestations is not easy.

Many infestations are first noticed by the presence of vertical mud tubes on the exterior or interior foundation walls of homes. These air tight mud tubes are built and used by workers so that they may repeatedly travel from the ground soil to above ground structural wood without becoming exposed to the dry outside air. Unfortunately, mud tubes are often hidden behind stucco, siding, porches and within crawl spaces where they cannot be readily seen. However, there usually exists other signs of termite damage within infested homes including discolored or sagging sheetrock on walls and ceilings, sagging hardwood floors, protruding hardwood floor slats, tiny mud dots or pinpoint holes in sheetrock, and wood that sounds hollow when tapped.

Have you ever found tiny dots of mud on the interior or exterior walls of your home?