Can I Get Termites from My Neighbor?

Every year, termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage. They can chew through wood and even wallpaper, and in many households, they work undetected until they’ve caused hundreds or thousands of dollars in damage. Termite damage isn’t typically covered by homeowners insurance, which means that if you don’t catch an infestation in its early stages, you could be responsible for making very expensive repairs. 

Termites are weak fliers and often use the wind to propel them short distances. Termite colonies can spread by division, with subgroups of termites breaking away from their original colony and forming another colony nearby. In other words, if your neighbor has termites, then other homes in your neighborhood could also have termites. This includes your house. 

What are termites?

Termites are wood-destroying pests. They’ll eat anything made of wood, including fence posts, decks, tree stumps, mulch, log piles, and even the very structure of your home. The damage they cause occurs silently. Some termites move very quickly, and others destroy wood slowly. The speed with which they move depends on the type of termites in your home. Here’s what you need to look for:

  • Bubbling in the flooring. Some termites eat the flooring, which can cause bubbling and blistering in the upper levels of the floor. Sometimes this even looks like water damage.
  • Discarded wings. After mating, termites lose their wings. This usually happens in a large group, called a swarm. If you’ve noticed small piles of insect wings around an entry point to your home, like a window or a door, this could be a sign that your home just became a home for a newly forming colony. 
  • Mud tubes. Mud tubes are channels that enable termites to travel from one place to another. Termites are sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, so mud tubes make it possible for termites to move around without being exposed to harsh conditions. Mud tubes are about the width of a pencil and usually rise up out of the ground.  
  • Creamy colored ants. Termites and ants look similar to one another, but termites have a translucent, creamy color. Ants are brown, red or black. If you’re noticing “ants” that are unusually light in color, then you could be seeing termites.
  • Paper-thin floorboards. Subterranean termites will eat floorboards right up to the delicate finish on top. If some of your floorboards are suddenly nothing but a paper-thin layer of finish over empty air underneath, this is a sign of termites. 
  • Noises. Termites have been known to make noises in the walls and the floor, when they’re eating and when they’re banging their heads against the wood. If you can hear a rattle or a papery rustle in your walls, wood-eating pests are a likely explanation. 

Can I get termites from my neighbor?

Winged termites are called swarmers. Swarmers spread colonies by traveling short distances until they find a place where food is available. Swarming generally occurs in the spring or fall, usually after a rain.

If your neighbor’s house has a colony, a swarm may break away from that colony and travel on the wind until they reach your home. Termites are very particular about the conditions where they prefer to live. For this reason, they are disinterested in traveling long distances. If termites like your neighbor’s house, there’s a good chance they’ll like your house as well. 

There are two types of termites: subterranean and drywood. Both types spread by swarming. Termites don’t always travel from home to home on the wind: sometimes they hitch a ride through discarded wooden furniture. For example, if your neighbor has termites in their home, they could also have termites in their furniture. If your neighbor gives you a piece of furniture, you could inadvertently bring termites into your home through that furniture. 

Will my neighbor’s termite treatment drive termites into my house?

One of the concerns that many homeowners have is that their neighbor’s termite treatment will drive termites into their own homes. After all, wouldn’t the termites want to escape the poison?

This is logical thinking but is not what actually happens. Modern termite control products cannot be detected by termites. Instead, they are unknowingly ingested by termites, who bring the control products back to the colony. The poison is passed from one termite to another. The colony is destroyed from within, but without knowing that their environment is unsustainable.

If you’ve ever seen a home undergoing fumigation, you may have noticed a tent surrounding the house. This tent keeps in the pest control products – and the pests. When a tent covers the house where the pests are contained, the pests cannot swarm. 

What should I do if my neighbor has termites? 

If your neighbor has termites, your home could be infested as well. Even if you have not seen evidence of termites in your home, it’s still important to get an inspection. Termites typically do their work quietly and with few signs of a problem. Schedule a termite inspection as soon as possible. Treatment can be costly, especially if the damage is extensive. The sooner you can get help from a professional, the better. 

If no treatment is needed, it’s wise to schedule another inspection later in the year as a check-up. Remember that termites are in your neighborhood and could be in other homes nearby. While your home might not be infested now, it could be later. The goal is to catch termite activity before too much damage has occurred.

During your inspection, your pest control specialist will inspect the interior and exterior of your home. Your pest control professional will be sensitive to the many signs of termites that you may not have noticed when you were looking. If your pest professional does notice signs of termites, they’ll use a safe form of pest control product to eliminate termites from your home. Depending on the damage that was done, you may need to perform repairs after the pests have been eliminated. 

Why use a qualified professional?

Termite control measures have changed a lot over the years. It’s important to hire a pest professional who uses the most up-to-date techniques to keep your home safe from termites. To find out more about how you can protect your home from termites, or to schedule an inspection, contact Carolina Pest. With over 80 years in the business, we have the skills and experience to help you keep your home pest-free. 

By Kristin Dodd

Kristin Dodd, the President of Carolina Pest Management, has been with the company full-time for over 20 years, but has been a part of the family-owned business for much longer. She is currently an active board member of the North Carolina Pest Management Association, and was the President from 2010-2011. She is a licensed operator in...