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It’s unlikely termites will ever anchor a movie franchise like a Tyrannosaurus rex does. But the pesky bugs deserve some respect. Both animals date back to the cretaceous period. And then there was a mass extinction. The T. Rex didn’t make it, but the termites did.

And now termites are responsible for about $5 billion dollars in property damage every year, according to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).

Does Home Insurance Cover Termite Damage?

Here’s a major scare: Homeowners insurance won’t cover termite damage.

Home insurance covers problems that are considered “sudden and accidental.” Termite damage is gradual and can be prevented with maintenance. Home insurance doesn’t cover problems that are due to poor maintenance.

Home insurance also won’t pay for termite extermination fees or preventative measures. Those costs are considered part of the routine maintenance of a home.

There may be rare exceptions when home insurance covers a problem caused by termites. For example, if termites chewed through your home’s wiring and resulted in a house fire, your home insurance will generally cover the fire-related damage.

How to Spot Termite Damage

Here are some common indicators of a termite problems:

  • Termite tunnels. Termite tunnels look like muddy tubes and are often in a vine pattern. You can find them near the house foundation.
  • Wood damage. Termites carve mazelike patterns into wood.
  • Hollow sounding wood. Termite damage is often hidden. Tap on the wood throughout your home and listen for a hollow sound.
  • Cracks and holes. Termites can cause cracks in beams, and small holes in wood and walls.
  • Irregular or sagging floors. If your floors are buckling, it could be caused by termites.
  • Buckling ceilings or walls. Termites burrowing into wood can cause ceilings and walls to buckle and sag.
  • Actual termites. They can look like flying ants.
  • Shedded wings. Swarmer termites break off their wings and look for places to colonize. If you find discarded wings in your home, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have an infestation in your home, but you might have colonies living in your yard.
  • Termite droppings. Drywood termites leave behind tiny droppings which can look like salt and pepper.

What Is a Termite?

Termites are social insects that live in colonies that are usually found in wood or in the ground. Termites feed on the cellulose in wood and wood by-products, like paper. A colony is typically made up of three types of termites:

  • Soldier. A soldier termite’s role is to defend the colony. Soldiers do not reproduce or forage for food. Soldier termites are pale red, light brown or white. They are larger than average with heads that are darker in color than their bodies and protruding jaws. Soldier termites do not have wings.
  • Swarmer. Swarmer termites are responsible for reproducing. These termites are dark brown or black and about four millimeters in length. Swarmer termites have two pairs of wings that lie flat over their abdomen when not in use.
  • Worker. Worker termites maintain the colony, build and repair the nest, and forage for food for the colony. Workers are cream-colored and around three to four millimeters in length. Worker termites do not have wings.

Termites are found in all 49 states, with the exception of Alaska. Termites thrive in warmer climates, such as the South, Southeast, Southwest and West. There are three main types of termites found in the U.S.:

  • Subterranean termites. These termites nest in soil and feed on the wooden structure of homes. Subterranean termites are found in every state except Alaska, and more commonly found in southern states and hotter climates.
  • Drywood termites. These termites nest in the dry wood found in wood structures, flooring, frames and furniture. These termites are mainly found in Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Mississippi.
  • Formosan termites. These are known as the most aggressive and destructive termites. They destroy wood by boring tunnels through walls. Formosan termites are found in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Most termite species cannot crawl on the open ground like other insects (such as ants) and build mud tubes to travel from their colony to food sources (like your home). Some termite species (including subterranean termites) can remain active year-round and eat wood 24 hours a day.

How Do I Prevent Termites?

Termite damage can be hard to spot and by the time you see evidence of termite activity, significant damage may already be done. That’s why it’s smart to take preventative measures.

It’s a good idea to have an inspection done by a termite specialist who can not only detect present damage and termite activity, but also identify areas in your home that could be susceptible to termite problems. You may want to consider having an annual inspection.

Here are more steps you can take to prevent termite damage:

  • Regularly check wooden areas of your home (such as door frames and window frames) for signs of termite damage
  • Keep plants and mulch two to three feet away from the house
  • Stop moisture from accumulating near your house by making sure your storm drains empty a few feet from the foundation
  • Repair leaky faucets, gutters and roofs
  • Remove dead trees, branches and other dead plants around or near your home
  • Do not stack firewood next to the house
  • Do not use untreated wood on your home, deck, fences or other structures