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Wednesday, March 25, 2015


One thing that is consistent about late March and early April weather in the northeast is its inconsistency.  Snow is common.  It is usually a wet, sloppy, and not a whole lot of fun snow.  It is often gone in a day.  For some reason, in the spring it will snow even when the temperature on the ground is above freezing.

It can also get really warm.

The warmest I remember was Easter Sunday 1972.  It was April 2, and the temperature rose to above 90 degrees, and this was before global warming. 

On this Easter, my wife and our one year old daughter visited my folks in Maryland.  We returned home to a not so wonderful surprise.  It was hot, but the heat was not the problem, well indirectly I guess it was.  Inside, our home  was crawling with little flying bugs.  They were on the ceiling, they were on the walls.  They were trying to get out. 


This was our first house, we had moved in maybe six months earlier.  In the 1970’s termite inspection was not required on the sale of a home.  If it had been, the inspector would have seen hundreds of mud tunnels that came from the outside, ran under the shingles, and were all over and inside the cement crawl space.

We vacuumed the crawling termites up over and over; they kept coming from the crawl space for an hour.  My wife was quite a trooper and though she was upset, she remained relatively calm.  

The scariest thing was in a powder room on the lower level of this split level home.  There was a termite mud tunnel heading straight up in the air.  It was heading for the toilet which had a wooden seat.  I’m sure this was a coincidence, if not it is pretty scary how persistent these critters can be.

We called an exterminator, and the house was treated for about $300, cheap by today’s standards, a monthly mortgage payment at the time.  As we were living paycheck to paycheck it was rather painful.

The bad news was the termites were in the house structure.  The good news was these “Jersey” termites swarm every two years, and two years is not long enough for them to do any serious structural damage.  The other good news was that the $300 treatment would kill them all.

I did learn a lot for my $300.  I learned that there are termites all over New Jersey.  If you drive a wooden stake in the ground anywhere in New Jersey, termites will find it. I learned they require moisture and must have contact with the ground, which is why they build tunnels.  Sunlight will kill termites.  They swarm on the first warm day of spring with the intent to form new colonies.  Almost all will die before they find suitable soil and wood for sustenance.

The best way to keep termites out of the house is to not allow any wood to be in contact with soil.  Then you should periodically check for mud tunnels outside on your concrete or stone foundation.  The termites will build these mud tunnels to reach the wood in a structure.

It is a plus that in New Jersey; you can no longer sell a house without an exterminator certifying the dwelling is clear of termites or carpenter ants. 

The negative I have found is exterminators will ALWAYS find signs of infestation.  If they so much as see a carpenter ant on the property, or a hunk of termite ridden wood in the yard, they will claim infestation and treat the house for a sizable sum.

There is not a yard in New Jersey that does not at least have a carpenter ant or two crawling around.



  1. Sounds horrible! I remember when we bought this house, we didn't move in for a couple of weeks and one day we came round to find the bathroom full of wasps. there was a nest in the ceiling! Luckily they were all dead or dying so we cleared them out ourselves. We don't have termites in England but we do get flying ants once a year, they grow wings purely to mate and migrate and all hatch at the same time so we get a day when they are everywhere - horrible!

  2. We found termites in this house when we moved in, and that was with an inspection. The termites were in the garage, and the exterminator had only checked the bathrooms! We were paying a cousin to treat for termites anyway, because the house needed a retreatment, and a carpenter friend replaced the wall studs, and that was that.

    Here they also have to check for wood boring beetles.

  3. We have carpenter ants. And wasps. And winged ants. Soon, the apocalypse.

  4. we had the same type of termites in one house, here. *sigh*

  5. I was feeling your pain till you mentioned the tunnel heading for the toilet seat which gave me some serious giggles. So far, I have been spared though I did have a bout with carpenter ants that were easily contained with one treatment from the bug man. Just had my exterior retreated as it had been 10 years. It was free and part of my contract.

  6. Before you sell a house in California, you have to tent it for termites. That is interesting about the swarming of them because it did happen where we used to live and now that I remember it did happen in March (but I'm sure it was the first day of spring, just don't remember for sure). It was weird when they came out of the wall like they did. We'll be selling that house so I'm sure the inspectors will find something since it hasn't been tented in years.


  7. We don't have termites here in Portland, but carpenter ants are a problem. I imagine it costs thousands of dollars today to have a house de-infested.

  8. When they cover a house to fumigate it, it always looks like a circus tent to me!! Can you train termites?

  9. Yikes that must have been something indeed. I would have not been so calm. At least I don't think I would have been calm. I'm glad you got rid of the problem, but I can relate how $300.00 back then was a small fortune.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  10. I had no idea they had termites up north. I'd never heard of them and the problems with them until we moved to the South. In South Carolina, you have to have a "termite bond" or else selling your house might be more difficult. We have termite insurance here in Florida, too. I've seen the occasional ant or spider inside our house, a scared cockroach once or twice, and the most excitement was caused by one of those little lizard-like anoles. The cat thought she'd gotten a new toy...

  11. ACK! We have a wood bee gang that bored into one of the posts holding up the porch roof. You can tap on that post and hear the hollowness. We have sprayed several cans of killer into the hole. Hick plugged it up with putty. But still they come back and make another hole. We really should replace that post.

  12. Termites are rife here in Australia too. So much so, that many builders will treat the soil and then lay TermiMesh before any foundation is laid.

  13. This was before Global Warming...