I worked for a professional exterminating company that is known nationwide. I worked in the termite division as a technician / salesman. My experience and professionalism helped me work up to the position as a certified WDO inspector. I certified that a home was free of any wood destroying organisms such as termites, carpenter ants, beetles, carpenter bees and mold fungus prior to a home being sold in some states that inspection is a requirement. It requires a thorough inspection. Identifying live elements that destroy the wood in a home and reporting of all previous damage by WDOs is required.
I worked in Virginia. The mid-Atlantic region is home to primarily Reticulitermes flavipes, or the eastern subterranean termite. These termites do the bulk of damage to homes in that area followed by fungus. Subterranean termites live underground as the name implies. They colonize underground between the water table and the freeze line. SEE- How to Identify a Termite
The months of April and May are considered swarm season. Each year at a point in time when the conditions are right the colony releases a large quantity of flying termites. Thousands of termites exit a single opening. Once they exit and are trapped inside the house, their wings fall off and they search for a mate to establish a new colony. I have been inside homes with wings on the floor almost an inch deep.
A swarm is a sure fire way to deduce that you have a termite problem. Otherwise I recommend an annual inspection. Most companies offer free inspections. Beware that many inspectors are more salesman than inspector and want only to earn a good living at your expense. An inspection is about the only way of finding out you have termites, short of having visible damage to the structure.
Termite inspections are conducted under homes with crawl space access. Check all walls in slab foundations (include the garage area of homes with a crawl space). A good inspector will have a probing tool such as a crow bar or a large screw driver and flash light with a high intensity light. The inspector should advise of conditions that are favorable and attract termites, such as no rain gutters or drain spouts. Water should be directed away from the house. Moisture is a termite’s friend. All wood scraps and fire wood should never be next to the foundation.
Inspectors are looking for what are called Mud Tubes. The mud tubes exit the ground along the foundation. Termites need protection from light and a moist environment. They can be hidden inside concrete blocks. Sometimes they are hard to find because they are hidden behind a thin sliver of the wood. Termites only eat the cellulose. They can eat wall board, all but the painted area. If tubes are found, understand that there could be only one tube, or many depending on the size of the colony. They can be anywhere along the perimeter. The first thing an inspector will do is scrape the tube and see if it is active. Many homes have had termites exterminated and the tubes were left.
Once it has been established that a colony is using your home as a food source they will need to be exterminated and the damage assessed. Only licensed trained technicians should be conducting the extermination. Many of the leading companies train their technicians and they can come in and perform their procedures in about 5 or 6 hours. In crawl space type homes they have to trench and apply pesticide to the entire perimeter of the foundation on the inside and outside of the crawl space, teating around center supports within the crawl area too, not just the area of the mud tubes. Drilling and applying pesticide in slab, brick and basements should be done at 12 in intervals.
My advice is to have your home treated prior to an infestation. Contact at least two professional companies. They will come in and inspect your home. Be wary of anyone that says you have termites after only a short inspection. Salesmen are notorious for tacking on unneeded costly expenses in the name of protecting your home. They prey on older home owners and widows. If anyone offers to sell you sand to prevent moisture under your home, definitely get a second opinion.
See if the company offers a protection guarantee. Weigh the price and the length of time you will be in the home. Termites are beatable.