Can You Hear Termites?


Termites — specifically Reticulitermes flavipes, the Eastern subterranean termite — rank among the most serious pest and insect problems that property owners in the Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau County metro areas may have to deal with. So it stands to reason you'd want to know the best ways to detect the presence of these wood-devouring colonizing creatures early enough to prevent them from doing too much damage.

On the heels of that, you might be wondering if you can hear termites within your walls, or if you can easily see or smell them. Let's go over these queries and figure out how best you can search for the insects' presence — and what steps you should take next.

Can You Hear Termites?

The most accurate answer to this question is, "Yes, but not easily." There are quite a few reasons why you can't readily hear them: The first of these (and arguably the most important) is that subterranean termites don't construct colonies inside the properties they use as their feeding troughs, so they aren't physically within the structure unless they're actively foraging for food or eating it. They build their lairs in the ground surrounding buildings and travel back and forth from home to their food source by way of mud-formed tunnels (which they also construct within buildings; more on those later). 

When termites are inside of the walls and foundations of buildings, they're eating wood for its cellulose content on the scale of tens — sometimes hundreds — of thousands at a time, or within their tunnels en route to food. If enough are traveling at once, you may hear a faint rustling or clicking sound. Also, if a termite-infested area is intruded in a way that the insects think is threatening, the soldiers of the species bang their heads against the hardest nearby surface to alert the colony that a threat exists. This sound isn't easy to hear for those without entomology or pest-control experience, but a professional will recognize it.

The winged termites known as alates are the only ones you're ever likely to hear.

Another time you may hear termites is during their "swarming season," when the winged class of the insects, known as alates, leave their colonies en masse to breed and ultimately create new colonies. If your property was already infested at the time these swarms form — generally in the spring — you'll likely hear them crawling and fluttering as they emerge from cracks in the walls, or around the exterior of the structure. Unfortunately, this may mean the colony has already done a great deal of damage.

Can You See Termites?

Another somewhat complicated question, to which the best answer is, "About as often as you'll hear them."

Subterranean termites, and for that matter most other species of the insect, spend most of their time far away from the eyes of humans, either in their colonies, the areas from which they eat and the tunnels in between. If you see an area of termite-damaged wood, chances are the bugs have already abandoned it. That said, a skilled pest control professional will most likely see the termites once they start getting into the nitty-gritty of an initial inspection and during the extermination process. (Were you to accompany the exterminator during either of these processes, you'd most likely hear the "head-banging" noise described above.) 

What you can more easily see — and take as the signal to call an experienced pest control service like Rudy's Exterminating — are signs of termite presence: Wings discarded by fallen alates are a surefire sign, as are the thin brown mud tunnels the insects use for travel. Wood with hollowed-out channels along the grain and small piles of sawdust-looking droppings near tunnels are also fairly reliable indicators. 

If you suspect termite activity, contact Rudy's for a free quote today!

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