(BPT) - Spring is here, and it's the perfect time to sell or buy a home. Whether you're putting your home on the market, or shopping for a new house for your family, you have a lot to think about - and termites should be near the top of your list. Just as swarms of homebuyers will start circulating through neighborhoods with the arrival of spring, the warmer weather also brings out termite swarms. A termite infestation can quickly turn your dream home sale or purchase into a living nightmare.
"Termites cause about $5 billion in damage every year, and when you consider that they've been around since the days of the dinosaurs, it's probably safe to say they've done more damage to human homes than any other critter on earth," says Cindy Mannes, vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). "Fortunately, we've come a long way in detecting and treating termite infestations over the millennia!"
Worldwide, about 2,000 termite species munch on wood, destroying walls, floors and wallpaper in homes, and also damaging forests. They are present in 70 percent of countries around the world, and they outnumber human beings by a ratio of 10 to one. The most common termite species in the U.S. are Formosan termites, dampwood termites, drywood termites and subterranean termites, the last of which are the most destructive because they eat non-stop.
A professional inspection is the best way to detect the presence of termites, but you can watch for warning signs as you are house hunting or getting yours ready to put on the market. Signs include:
* Mud tubes may appear around the outside of a house. Termites use these tubes to reach a food source. Typically, these tubes look like a thick line of dirt on the foundation of a home.
* Tap on wood near the floor, such as baseboards or even wood floors themselves. If the wood sounds hollow when tapped it could mean termites have softened the wood.
* Termites also leave a bit of themselves behind as evidence. You may see small piles of feces that resemble sawdust near a termite nest. Discarded wings near doors or on windowsills can indicate a swarm has occurred and the swarmers have entered the home.
Termites swarm to create new nests. Winged "swarmers" leave the original nest and go in search of new digs where they can establish a colony. You may see swarmers on windowsills or near doors and think they're flying ants. You can tell the difference by their wings. While both flying ants and termite swarmers have front and back pairs of wings, on termites both pairs are the same length. On ants, the back wings will be much shorter than the front ones.
A professional termite inspection remains the best way to detect the presence of termites, yet 52 percent of American homeowners have never had their homes inspected, according to an NPMA survey. Termite detection, remediation and control isn't something you can do yourself.
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