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Most termite species found in the United States belong to one of three categories known as subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites. While several species of drywood and dampwood termites can be found in the country, their habitat is limited to the southern and western states, and only a small minority of these species are pests of structural wood. Subterranean termites, on the other hand, are responsible for around 95 percent of all termite-related structural damage that occurs annually in the US. The most destructive termite pest in the country is known as the eastern subterranean termite (Reticulitermes flavipes), and this species’ colonies are prevalent below the ground in urban and suburban areas within and around Boston.

The US Department of Agriculture considers Massachusetts to be a relatively high-risk area for subterranean termite infestations. This is why the USDA states that all homes in Massachusetts should be professionally inspected every year for subterranean termite infestations, wood damage, and for conditions that are conducive to infestations. The USDA has identified a number of structural conditions that make homes vulnerable to termite attack, such as structural wood in contact with ground soil, and stucco and brick veneer on the exterior walls of homes.

Since the mid part of the last century, residential building codes have required home builders to keep substructural wood elevated several inches above the ground soil to prevent subterranean termite workers from gaining easy access to a home’s timber frame. Unfortunately, many older homes in Boston that were built before the enactment of federal and state building codes may contain substructural wood components that are in constant contact with termite-rich ground soil. However, post-code homes sometimes have attached decks or porches that are supported by lumber posts that make contact with the ground, and this is especially common with wooden porch steps. Subterranean termite workers have been known to access structural wood in homes by first accessing porches in contact with ground soil.

Stucco, brick veneer, and other types of decorative paneling on the exterior walls of homes can cover subterranean termite activity, especially mud tubes that workers build to access above ground structural wood. The existence of conspicuous mud tubes on the exterior walls of foundations may be the most common first sign that a subterranean termite infestation has been established. Stucco and brick veneer that reach low enough to cover concrete or brick foundations will hide mud tubes from homeowners, allowing infestations to continue until severe structural damage becomes noticeable to homeowners.

Are the exterior walls of your home covered in stucco or brick veneer?