What's Eating Your House?

Many homeowners discover they have a termite problem when they see a stream of swarmers emerging by the hundreds from a tiny crevice and flying off to form a new colony. Other signs of trouble are harder to spot. The workers, the bugs that actually eat the wood, are visible only if you break into their tunnels or galleries, as are the soldiers that guard the nest.

The Bugs
Of the dozens of termite species in the U.S., the three shown below do the most harm. A fourth type, the dampwood termite, poses less of a threat: Their colonies are small, and they only nest in wet wood. Eliminate the source of the dampness, and the colony dies.

Subterranean Termite
Habitat: All states except Alaska.
Habits: Nests underground; uses mud tubes to reach wood in the house. Colonies range in size from several hundred thousand to a million. Workers will eat through plaster, foam, plastic, or asphalt to get to wood.

Formosan Termite
Habitat: Southeast, Southern California, Hawaii.
Habits: This voracious variety of subterranean termite forms large colonies of several million and can structurally damage a house in months (other termites take years). Nests underground, but also builds satellite nests in trees and houses.

Drywood Termite
Habitat: Gulf Coast, Southwest, Hawaii.
Habits: Small colonies can live anywhere in a house. Needs no contact with ground.
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