What should I do if I see termites near my house?

Carolina e-mailed in this question:

"Hello.  I saw flying termites coming out of the ground in by backyard a couple of days ago.  What should I do? is my house in danger? are there any treatments I can do on my own?"
Swarms of flying termites are often the first thing that tips homeowners off to the presence of an infestation.

The rest of the time, there's really not much to see - they're chewing away at your home behind the scenes without you knowing anything about it.

It sounds from your situation like you need to be worried, because you saw them actually coming out of the ground on your property.

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Subterranean termites live underground in little burrows that are also connected to your house. Just because you see the termites coming out of a hole away from your house doesn't mean the colony actually isn't already inside - they go out into the dirt for moisture, and eat food from the wood in your house. The ones coming out of the ground are reproductives, which come out from time to time to start new colonies. The one think to make sure of is that they aren't ants - the two often look alike, especially the flying ones. If you dig out a little bit of dirt near where you saw them you'll be able to tell - termite workers are white and die once you get them out of the tunnels. If it's termites, you need to get treatment done on the colony even if it hasn't connected to your house yet.

If you just see flying termites but don't see where they come from, it's not as big a deal, but it does mean you need to get your house inspected at least twice a year or so. They can fly for up to 2,000 feet or so - the ones you see could be from a colony a large distance away. However, it does mean they are in your area, and a couple of the ones that land near your house could get in. Just remember that it takes a couple of years at least for any real damage to your home to be done, so don't panic if you see some - just get inspections and have them treated if any are found.

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