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Get set for spring termite swarms

Termite swarms are often the first visible evidence that termites are a problem in and around a home. There are several different types of subterranean termite species, and many begin to take flight when weather conditions are favorable, such as in the spring and summer.

According to the pest management company Orkin, swarming may be linked to the age and maturity of a termite colony. Swarms also may indicate the presence of other conditions, such as moisture in the air or abundant light.

Swarming termites are the winged alates that venture outside of the nest to mate and reproduce, forming newer colonies. Thousands of swarmers may be in the air. The termites will squeeze through cracks and crevices in the walls and foundations of homes. They also may be seen coming out of the ground outdoors.

Orkin notes that the presence of a swarm of termites around a home suggests a strong likelihood that there is a well-established colony of termites living in or near the home. According to The Terminix International Company, over her lifetime, a termite queen can lay one million eggs, producing new swarms each year.

It is essential that homeowners recognize when termites are a problem in a home, as they can cause considerable damage. In the United States alone, subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites cause more than $5 billion in damage annually and can cost homeowners an average of $8,000 in treatment and damage repairs, says Terminix.

Homeowners who suspect they have a termite problem should call a professional exterminator. Flying ants can be mistaken for termites and tend to swarm as well. Termites have two pairs of wings of equal length, while ants have wings of different lengths. It may require the eyes of a trained expert to recognize these subtle differences.

There are some other indications that termites may be in a home or nearby.

• Termites shed their wings as they enter a new home. If wings are found around windows, vents, doors or pipes coming into a home, it may mean termites have entered.

• Look for muddy, flattened tubes about the width of a drinking straw. Termites travel through these tubes and the tubes help protect the termites from predators and temperature extremes.

• Dark areas or bubbling in flooring can indicate termites are feeding below.

• Termites eat wood from the inside out, so any damage may not be visible. Tap suspect wood and listen for a hollow sound.

• Look for and mark any areas where termites are seen entering or exiting the house. Then direct the exterminator to these areas.

Termites can cause substantial damage to a home, but their infestations are largely treatable. When a termite swarm is spotted, call a professional immediately.