What You Need to Know About Termites in Massachusetts

Eastern subterranean termites are active across Massachusetts and cause structural damage to many homes every year.
Written by Heather Bernhard
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
According to Termite Infestation Probability Zones, the majority of homes in Massachusetts are at moderate to heavy risk of a subterranean termite infestation
That means homeowners should be familiar with termite 101—like peak seasons for termites, signs of infestation, how to deal with an infestation. 
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How to tell if you have a termite infestation

Termites are sometimes referred to as “silent destroyers” because homeowners can go months (or even years!) without knowing that they have an active infestation.
Luckily, with regular inspections—even of the do-it-yourself variety—it’s easy to identify damage.
As a homeowner in Massachusetts (a known termite hotspot), you should conduct inspections at least once a year. Look for things like:
  • Mud tubes or pencil-sized tunnels: Mud tubes are tunnels that run from the colony towards exposed wood. You’ll find them in your yard. They look like veins spreading along the side of your home. 
  • Discarded wings: Termites are attracted to light so they gather around doors and windows where they can leave discarded wings. 
  • Newly stuck windows or doors: Termites target areas like windows and doors, where the wood is easily accessible. As they eat through the wood, it can warp, making the windows and doors difficult to open.  
  • Peeling paint that looks like water damage: Termites create tunnels in the wood paneling under paint and wallpaper. This can make the paint appear as if it has bubbles in it, or like there are sunken or hollow areas. 
  • Wood that sounds hollow when tapped
MORE: How much should you pay for home insurance?

Are termites a problem in Massachusetts? 

Yes, termites are active across Massachusetts year-round. However, residents that live along the coast in Cape Cod, are far less likely to have termite infestations.
Here’s what you need to know about the most common types of termites in Massachusetts: 

Subterranean termites

Subterranean termites are native to Massachusetts, which isn’t the best news for homeowners in the state because these bugs are notorious for being ultra destructive and hard to discover. 
They live in underground colonies but often venture up to feed on wood sources (like old wood homes). Colonies can contain thousands of swarmers and workers and stay active as long as the temperature is above 50 degrees. 
They prefer warm, moist environments like decaying stumps or old wood piles. These termites frequently enter homes via points where wood meets soil, such as door frames or latticework. 

Drywood termites

Although drywood termites are not native to Massachusetts, infestations are not unheard of in the state. These termites can travel to the northeast via wooden objects, such as shipping crates or furniture, and may cause significant damage.  
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What to do if you have termites

If you notice signs of a potential termite infestation, you must seek treatment as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more damage they will cause.
A licensed inspector or pest removal service can help determine if 1) you do have an infestation and 2) how to treat it. 
Remember—never try to get rid of a termite infestation on your own. Termite treatments are often hazardous if improperly applied. 
There are three main treatments for termite infestation. They include: 
  • Fumigation: Your home is enclosed in a specially-designed tent and then filled with a chemical designed to kill termites. The chemical penetrates deep into the walls and hard-to-reach places, leaving your home termite-free. 
  • Barriers: Termite barriers come in chemical and non-chemical forms (like sand). They are designed to stop termites from accessing your home.
  • Bait stations: Termites are attracted to the bait station, which is filled with an insecticide. The process may take many months, as the termites have to find the bait station and then spread the insecticide to their colony.

How can I prevent termite infestation?

To prevent future invasions, follow these simple tips: 
  • Keep shrubs and trees pruned to avoid direct contact with your house
  • If you use mulch around trees or in flower beds, leave a gap between the mulch and your home’s foundation
  • Store firewood on an elevated platform, away from the home
  • Cover soil in crawl spaces or unfinished basements with plastic sheeting
  • Keep basements and foundations dry and free of moisture 

How to save money on homeowners insurance

A termite infestation can cause a lot of damage to your home. And unfortunately, most homeowners insurance policies will not cover destruction caused by these or other insects. 
Your best bet is to nip the problem in the bud before it occurs. Practice preventative maintenance, and schedule regular inspections, so termites never get into your home in the first place. 
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You should self-inspect your Massachusetts home for termites quarterly and schedule a professional inspection at least once per year. Apply a liquid termite treatment roughly every 5 years, and if you see signs of an active infestation, call a professional immediately.
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