If you type the question, "What does termite damage look like?" into an internet image search engine and scroll through the pictures that come up, you're going to be extremely confused about what termite damage actually looks like, assuming you realize you should be confused at all. What do we mean? Well, most of the images that will come up in these searches range from unhelpful to completely wrong. And while a few of them may actually be correct, without an understanding of what you're looking at, it's hard to piece things together. Let's see if we can get you on the right track!
A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Word
When you search the internet for pictures of termite damage, you'll see a lot of pictures of damaged wood. Some of that damage will end up being termite damage and some of it won’t. If you look close enough, you can usually tell the difference between termite damage and other wood damage by looking to see if the damage looks like there is dirt stuck to it. Because subterranean termites require high levels of moisture in order to survive and get their moisture from the soil, termite tunnels always have soil in them. So seeing soil in these tunnels is an indication that the damage was caused by termites and not by some other wood-destroying pest like carpenter ants or even woodpeckers!
If you see wood with damage that looks clean and smooth in these images, it could still be termite damage, but there are two factors to consider. The first thing to consider is that the wood could have been cleaned out before the photo was taken. Thus, the dirt would not be stuck to the tunnel walls. The second thing to consider is that those tunnels were created by drywood termites. Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites create aerial colonies in man-made structures and do not make contact with the soil. However, some of the images you see won’t be of termite damage at all, but of damages caused by other pests. A lot of the images you see may actually be of carpenter ants as the tunnels they cause are very similar to those created by termites.
If you see wood that has trenches stacked on top of one another, it could be termite or carpenter ant damage. From a photo, it is sometimes hard to tell, as many photos don't show the damage in its original condition. As we mentioned, the wood may have been cleaned out before the photo was taken. Termite tunnels are typically more messy and gritty while carpenter ant tunnels are smooth, so much so that they appear as though they’ve been sanded down. If you uncover damages in your home, look to see if the tunnels are filled with dirt or if they’re empty and smooth to tell the difference between termite damage and carpenter ant damage.
Some of the photos you'll see will be of damage that doesn't look like trenches. This is because termite damage doesn’t have one uniform appearance. Though termite tunnels and trenches are the damages most commonly associated with these pests, they can cause other damages as well. For example, termites can consume every inch of wood in one spot, creating one hole rather than a series of tunnels. It depends on how appealing the wood is. It also depends on the species of termite causing the damage. Most of the time, the termites in our area prefer to create stacked tunnels as they feed on the wood of our homes.
If you see damage that looks like circular holes, that is damage was probably caused by drywood termites, if it was termites at all. Carpenter bees and wood-boring beetles create circular holes as well. You may even find tiny holes on the surface of a board that has been infested with carpenter ants as these ants create kick-out holes to push the sawdust that is created as they tunnel out of their tunnels.
So, as you can tell, going to the internet to figure out what termite damage looks like is complicated, and you're not likely to get the answer you're looking for. When we get asked the question, "What does termite damage look like?" it is usually because a property owner wants to know whether or not they have termites. Since this damage is done primarily inside the wood of a home, we describe the surface damages they might see such as bubbling paint or wallpaper, cracking stairs, damage on laminate floors that looks like water damage, or dented baseboards instead of the inward damages that typically occur out of sight such as stacked termite tunnels and trenches or chewed, splintered wood.
Better Safe Than Sorry!
Do you suspect that your home has termites? If you do, looking for these damages isn't a good way to figure out if your home is infested. The damages caused by termites are very subtle, if visible at all! You'll have more success tapping on the sound timbers of your home to see if they're hollow or inspecting your foundation perimeter for shelter tubes. But, especially when dealing with subterranean termites, it is best to have a licensed pest control professional come take a look. Pest control professionals use trusted methods for tracking down termite warning signs and identifying conditions that are conducive to termite infestation.
Subterranean termites can cause a lot of damage. Don't let them eat away at your equity! For assistance with termite inspections and termite protection in Virginia, reach out to us at RichPro Pest Management! We use industry-leading termite control products and methods to detect and eliminate the termites found in our area. Schedule a free estimate to get started!