Do Termites Spread from House to House? Uncovering the Truth

Termites are notorious for causing extensive damage to wooden structures, raising concerns among homeowners. These tiny insects often live in colonies and consume cellulose, which is found in wood, ultimately weakening it. One question that often comes to mind is whether termites spread from house to house.

Subterranean termites, the most common type, create tunnels called mud tubes to travel between their nest and the source of cellulose, usually within the wooden parts of buildings. The presence of these mud tubes might indicate a termite infestation, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that termites will spread to neighboring houses. Factors such as moisture, temperature, and food availability play a significant role in their movement.

Although it’s not guaranteed that termites will spread to nearby homes, it’s essential for homeowners to take preventative measures. This can be done by eliminating moisture around the foundation, avoiding wood-to-ground contact, and periodically inspecting for signs of termite activity. By taking these steps, the risk of termite infestations and costly damage to structures can be significantly reduced.

Do Termites Spread from House to House?

Termites can cause significant damage to homes and buildings. Understanding how they spread from house to house is essential in preventing infestations. This section focuses on two common types of termites: subterranean termites and drywood termites.

Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites live in colonies underground. They require contact with soil to maintain moisture levels, and travel in tunnels to locate food sources. When they find wood above ground, they can cause extensive damage.

Some factors that facilitate their spread include:

  • Proximity to infested homes
  • Soil movement or disturbance
  • Landscaping changes

Though subterranean termites don’t fly, they can create new colonies in nearby houses if they find an attractive, moist environment. However, they are more likely to infest homes adjacent to their current colony rather than move long distances.

Drywood Termites

Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites don’t require contact with soil. They live directly in the wood they infest, extracting water from the wood and creating nests inside it. Given their habits, they are more likely to spread from house to house.

Some ways drywood termites can spread include:

  • Swarming to find new homes during mating season
  • Infested furniture or wood products brought into a home
  • Neighboring infested structures

Here is a comparison table of the two types of termites:

Feature Subterranean Termites Drywood Termites
Soil contact Required Not required
Nest location Underground Inside wood
Swarming Rarely More frequent
Moisture requirement High Low

Both subterranean and drywood termites can spread from house to house, but their methods and likelihood of spreading vary greatly. Taking preventive measures like regular inspections and maintaining a dry environment can help safeguard homes from infestations.

Signs of Termite Infestation

Mud Tubes

Termites build mud tubes as a way of traveling and foraging from their nest to a food source, such as wooden structures in a house. These tubes are usually brown and flat. They can be spotted on the exterior of your home, around your foundation, and within gaps in the wood. For example, mud tubes could be seen running on your basement walls or on your wooden fence.

Swarmers

During the swarming season, winged termites emerge from their colonies to start a new one. They are usually attracted to light and can be observed around windows and doors. Swarmers are often confused with flying ants, but there are differences:

Winged Termites Flying Ants
Wings Two pairs of equal length Two pairs of unequal length
Antennae Straight Elbowed
Waist Broad and straight Thin and pinched

Finding swarmers indoors may indicate a termite infestation in the house.

Frass

Frass is the termite’s waste product, which resembles sawdust or small, grainy pellets. This can be found near their feeding sites, like wooden furniture or structural components. Inspecting for frass can help determine termite activity in your home.

Damage to Wooden Structures

Termite damage may include:

  • Small holes in wood
  • Hollow-sounding structures when tapped
  • Sagging floors

These signs could indicate the presence of termites feeding on cellulose material and causing structural damage. For example, you may notice unexplained gaps in your wooden door frames or weakened wooden beams.

Remember to regularly inspect your house for these signs of termite infestation to prevent potential damage to your home’s structure and foundation.]=]

Prevention and Control of Termites

Regular Inspections

Regular inspections are essential in preventing termite infestations. Check for signs of termite activity, such as mud tubes, damaged wood, or frass (droppings). Inspect the areas that are prone to termites, like:

  • Wooden structures (decks, fences, etc.)
  • Tree trunks
  • Firewood piles
  • Attics
  • Basements

Pest Control Professionals

Consider hiring a professional pest control company to inspect and treat your property. The pros and cons of hiring a professional service are as follows:

Pros:

  • Expert knowledge on termites and their habits
  • Access to specialized equipment and treatments
  • Peace of mind about effective termite control

Cons:

  • Can be expensive
  • May require multiple visits

Termite Barriers and Treatments

Several measures can be taken to create termite barriers and implement treatments. Some of these include:

  • Sealing around all utilities that go through the slab
  • Installing metal mesh or sand/basalt termite barriers around the foundation
  • Applying termiticides or baiting systems to protect against subterranean termites
  • Using termite-resistant construction materials

Environmental Modifications

Modify the environment around your property to make it less attractive to termites:

  • Keep a distance of at least 18 inches from the ground to wood elements
  • Ensure gutters and downspouts direct water away from your home
  • Remove wood debris, dead trees, and thick mulch around the property
  • Properly ventilate crawl spaces, attics, and basements to reduce moisture
  • Store firewood away from your home to avoid providing a food source

By implementing these prevention and control strategies, you can effectively minimize the chances of termite spread and infestations in your home.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Termites

 

Subject: What are these little guys?
Location: Austin, TX
May 9, 2015 11:38 am
Hi Bugman,
We found this “nest” high up in our bathroom attached to a wall. Underneath it in the bath tub were a bunch of dead little worm looking things. We cleaned it up and wiped it down last night before going to sleep, but could not get a tiny amount of the black stuff off the wall. Sure enough, over night, the “nest” grew back to it’s prior size and once again the bathtub was full of the bugs. What is this and how should we get rid of it? Thanks!
Signature: Kate

Evidence of Termites
Evidence of Termites

Dear Kate,
You have Termites.  See this image on All Experts which resembles your “nest”.
  Here is another similar looking image from BugGuide.

Termites
Termites

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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