Why Termite Inspectors Don?t Find Termites
First of all, I have defended Pest Control Companies against suits by consumers since 1991. I have been on the inside of explanations and excuses for why termites were not found in a termite inspection.For you to understand WHY termite inspectors can not and do not find termites, you have to first understand the biology of termites.
To begin with, the subterranean termite is Cryptobiotic.That is a big fancy word meaning that termites hate light, air and movement.In other words, they want to remain in hiding.You see, subterranean termites are not like ants that crawl around in the open and they are not even like roaches that only come out at night.No, termites NEVER want to come into the breathing spaces you live in.NEVER EVER EVER!Hence, they are called Cryptobiotic.
To enforce this point even further, termites build little tunnels to travel through when they crawl around in your wall voids.Still not impressed?They even build tunnels in the earth below to get from their colony where the queen is laying 5,000 eggs a day to the header in your bathroom.So by now, I believe you understand that subterranean termites are not going to ?APPEAR? in any house being inspected.
So, now that you have a little more termite biology under your belt, fast forward into a termite inspection, at least to one in Texas.On the Texas Official Wood Destroying Insect Report, the termite inspector is only ?required? to report VISIBLE signs of active infestation.So how does he do that given the biology of a subterranean termite?Answer, he really can?t.
In practical terms, the termite inspector is allowed to declare that an active infestation of subterranean termites exists if he finds any of the following:
- Swarmer wings or bodies.
- He finds a mud tube or tunnel ? breaks it open and sees moving termites.
- He finds a suspicious area in a wall, door, molding or equivalent and pokes or probes it and sees moving termites.
Let?s start with the first one ? swarmer wings or bodies.A termite inspector can declare that there is an active infestation even if he only finds the wings of flying termites or their dead bodies.How are dead bodies evidence of an active infestation?Swarmers are the reproductives of a termite colony and they are winged so they can fly away and start new termite colonies.If the termite inspector finds wings or dead bodies, the odds are that the termites swarmed within the year.Most people, including men, clean house once a year.
Now let?s consider the second possibility ? breaking a mud tube.A mud tube, a tuber or a tunnel is most likely to be found between the soil and the home and is customarily located on the outside exposed portion of a slab.It could also be on a pier and sometimes tubes can run on an exterior wall down to the ground.In a ?VISIBLE ONLY? inspection, a termite inspector would merely look at the tube, but of course, common sense and standard termite inspection practice dictate that at this point the inspection departs from a ?VISIBLE ONLY? inspection and the tube or tunnel is broken.If the colony is active in the house, live termites will be seen crawling up and down the tube.If left undisturbed, the Cryptobiotic termites will repair the break in a couple of hours to preserve their ?hidden? nature.So, it really isn?t a ?VISIBLE ONLY? inspection.
The third possibility- finding a suspicious area where the paint is cavitated or depressed as though there is no structure behind it or there are brown trails below the surface or there are little tiny brown dirt filled holes, the termite inspector will probe or press a finger, knife, or some such device into the suspicious area and once the paint or other cover is removed, live termites may appear.Again, this is not a ?VISIBLE ONLY? inspection and perhaps more alarming ? most inspectors consider this to be defacing of the seller?s property and actually will not do it.
So, what?s wrong with this process?Well, for one, if the termites are creating tubes or suspicious areas, basically anyone can find them.Mud tubes and suspicious areas are unusual phenomenon for even a lay person.And more importantly, statistically, their absence is not an accurate predictor of the presence or absence of an active subterranean termite infestation. So how can a termite inspector find termites if these ?VISIBLE?, i.e., ?OBVIOUS? signs are not present?
There is no easy answer, but it starts with being familiar with construction issues that can and do lead to termite infestation.What is known as a ?CONDUCIVE CONDITION? for termite infestation. These can and do lead to infestations.It also requires using moisture meters and checking doorframes, window frames and other areas. It requires sounding ? tapping on wood areas to see if there are hollow or unusual sounds.
In the end, there is no absolute about inspections or finding termites.It really takes a dedication and commitment to finding them.But without a doubt, it can not be done simply by ?VISUAL MEANS? only.