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Can You Smell Invading Termites?

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Termites are frustratingly difficult to detect when they invade a structure. Their mud tunnels emanate from the soil, often below a structure's foundation. This allows invading termites to infiltrate your home without you knowing — until it's too late. And even if you know where to look, termite tubes are so small that you might very well miss them.

But what about scent? Is it possible to smell termites when they invade a structure? Yes, you can in fact detect the presence of termites with your nose, but not exactly for the reason you might think.

Termites Do Give off a Scent

When out foraging for and devouring woody treats, termites communicate with each other using pheromones. They release these pheromones to let each other know where food sources are and whether or not it is safe to return to an area. However, humans can't detect the scent of termite pheromones. Their sense of smell is much too weak.

Dogs, however, can smell termite pheromones, which is why pest control companies began to use them to detect termites in the 1980s. But even if you can't sniff out termite pheromones, you can still use your sense of smell to locate a possible termite infestation.

Termite Infestations Attract Wood-Eating Fungi

Many people say that termites give off a musty odour like that of mould or mildew. However, although termites might accompany these scents, there is no research to prove that termites themselves smell like mould or mildew. But when termites invade wood, they do help to create the conditions that attract wood-eating fungi.

When termites enter a structure via their tunnels, they maintain a connection to their underground nest. This connection is necessary because it allows termites to transport moist soil from underground to use to build their mud tunnels. This helps termites to keep their mud tunnels humid and moist — two conditions that are imperative to termites' survival outside their nest.

However, since fungal spores, which tend to be everywhere, usually become active in high humidity, termite activity also increases the activity of wood-eating fungi. Like mould and mildew, wood-eating fungi give off a musty, damp smell that even humans can detect. Therefore, if an area of your home, especially as area where there is wood, begins to smell musty, you could have termites.

You Should Hire a Pest Control Expert

Water damage also attracts termites and mould. As such, if your home smells musty, you may have water damage and termites. And even if termites haven't yet shown up, they may well do so in the near future. The best thing to do if you detect a musty odour and termite tubes in your home is to call a termite control company to eradicate the termites before they can cause costly damage.