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More than 2,000 termite species have been documented, and the majority of these species are not categorized as pests; instead, the majority of termite species reside in uninhabited humid tropical locations in South America, Africa, south Asia and Australia. Even in North America, where termite diversity is particularly low, some termite species on the continent do not infest houses, but just like their tropical relatives, all termite species in the temperate US require warm and moist conditions in order to thrive. In fact, the temperate air in the US kills subterranean termites, which is why they must remain below ground at all times. When subterranean termites do move above ground in order to infest a home’s structural wood, they must first build mud tubes that connect the ground soil to a structure’s wood source. If these mud tubes break, the subterranean termites inside would immediately dry up and die.

In subtropical southern states, where conditions can be moist and relatively warm all year round, subterranean termites can be found swarming to new locations during the winter. In the northeast, however, termite swarms only emerge in the spring and early summer when conditions are rainy and warm. The spring and summer is also when termite colonies are most active, and even the smallest colony can thrive in the northeast during this time since all a colony needs is warmth, water and food. Warm and damp conditions even speed up a termite’s maturation process. Termites survive northeast winters by digging far below the ground’s surface where the temperature becomes progressively warmer, but if subterranean termites manage to infest a home during the spring, summer or fall seasons, they remain active all year round. This is why, on rare occasions, artificially warm indoor temperatures prompt winged termites to emerge from indoor colonies. So while it is not impossible to witness a termite swarm during the winter in the northeast, such instances are very rare. The fall and winter is when indoor termite infestations tend to be noticed most often. During the night, when houses are quiet and termites are most active, termites can literally be heard nibbling away at an infested home’s timber-frame. Of course, whether or not a homeowner can hear termites depends on which area of a home termites are active. During the winter, subterranean termites hide within wall-voids in order to stay warm, and if they locate a high-moisture environment indoors, such as an area where a pipe is leaking, then they can remain indoors indefinitely without having to travel back to the soil to quench their thirst.

Have you ever heard the sound of termite activity behind the walls of a home or building?