ATLANTA -- According to Atlanta-based pest control leader Orkin, the above-average temperatures much of the U.S. has seen recently could mean earlier termite activity. Subterranean termite swarms have already been seen in south-central Florida and will move west into the Gulf states, north into the Carolinas and then spread throughout the country.

When the temperature rises above 60 degrees, termites often swarm inside homes before moving outdoors to search for food and water. Jim Warneke, Orkin's Southeast division technical services manager, noted homeowners should not assume termite swarms are flying ants, a common misperception based on appearance. Termites are found in every state except Alaska and thrive in warm and damp, humid climates.

"Termites get moisture from the ground or use moisture found in a home or building from leaks or condensation," said Warneke. "Moisture combined with increasing temperatures make springtime conditions in the South ideal for termite activity."

Even though termites are most visible in the spring, they can damage property year-round. According to the National Pest Management Association, termites cause about $5 billion in damage per year in the U.S. Warneke suggests homeowners contact a pest management professional if they suspect any termite activity, because the warning signs can be subtle and often go unnoticed until structural damage has already occurred.

"Signs of an infestation can include termite swarms, mud tubes and piles of discarded wings," said Warneke. "After the termites swarm—usually during warm spring days—they can shed their wings and leave piles of them behind."

Termites are attracted to light, so swarms are typically found around lighting fixtures and windowsills. Mud tubes act as a protective tunnel and provide moisture for the termites. The mud tubes are about the size of a pencil and usually run vertically on the inside or outside of a building's foundation.

Warneke recommends the following tips to help prevent termites from entering your home:

  • Keep gutters clear, and direct water from downspouts away from your home.
  • Do not pile mulch or allow soil to accumulate against your home's siding. This could provide access for termites to enter your home.
  • Pay close attention to dirt-filled porches and crawlspaces. Termites could have easy access to wood through cracks in foundation walls or if wood is in contact with the soil.

Source: Orkin, LLC

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.