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The eastern subterranean termite is the most destructive termite species in the United States, and it’s the only termite pest found in Massachusetts. Given their well concealed habitat beneath the ground-surface and occasionally within wood, subterranean termite infestations are not typically discovered by spotting individual termites crawling about in homes. Despite their cryptic habitat, subterranean termites leave behind signs of their presence within a home, which can make pinpointing infested lumber relatively easy. For example, in order to avoid deadly air-exposure, worker termites must construct air tight mud tubes that protrude from the ground and connect to above ground structural wood in homes. Vertical mud tubes are typically located on the exterior foundation walls of homes, but they are also frequently found within crawl spaces.

The emergence of an indoor termite swarm serves as a sure sign that a termite infestation has been established within a home. If residents are not home when an indoor termite swarm emerges, they will still find winged termites (alates) lying dead on window sills and/or doorways, indicating their effort to escape into the natural environment. Reproductive alates can only be produced in mature colonies, and it takes between four and seven years for a newly established subterranean termite colony to reach maturity. Therefore, alates only swarm in homes that have been infested for several years. Since it takes three to eight years for subterranean termites to inflict significant damage to structures, an indoor swarm indicates an advanced infestation.

It has been said that a moderately sized mature colony of around 60,000 individual subterranean termites can eat one foot of two-by-four pine lumber in only 157 days. However, in Massachusetts this degree of termite damage would take a bit longer to inflict due to reduced feeding during the colder seasons. Minor termite damage to wood is not readily recognizable, but wood that appears dark or blistered on the surface has been hollowed out by subterranean termite workers, and the dark surface will easily collapse with minimal pressure. The structural wood components that subterranean termites damage most frequently include the mudsill, joist, studs, subflooring and floors.

Have you ever found alates within your home?