What Are The Worst U.S. States for Termites?
July 8, 2020
The spread of termites across the U.S. is not even.
Unlike measuring flood risk to determine the worst cities for flooding, measuring termite density does not involve complex modeling. Instead, understanding the worst locations for termites requires that you look at termite biology, including their life cycle and reproduction behaviors.
Admittedly, no one wants to think about swarms of these underground insects. But on the other hand, no one wants to see termites chew away up to 20 percent of your home's resale value or threaten your safety because of a weakened structure.
Where Is Termite Activity the Highest?
Even though there are multiple types of termites, the subterranean termites are the ones most commonly referenced because they're the most destructive and have the largest colonies. Drywood termites can have localized outbreaks, but the subterranean termites have a broader and more pervasive spread. Estimates say the property damage from subterranean termites is $1 to $7 billion per year in the United States.
Subterranean termite infestations are largely a factor of a region's climate and weather patterns.
They thrive in warm locations. That's why southern states tend to have more of a problem, while the only state where termites don't live is Alaska.
Termites also thrive in humid and damp environments. That's why the arid and dry regions of the southwest tend to have less of a termite problem than the deep south from Louisiana to Georgia.
10 States with the Worst Risk of Termite Damage
- South Carolina
- North Carolina
Florida Has the Highest Risk of Termite Damage
Researchers at the University of Florida predict that within the next 20 years, half of all homes in southern Florida will be at risk for termite damage.
This dramatic increase is the result of the number of termite species that have taken hold along with the radius of potential spread around each infestation.
As to the types of termites, there are currently six species of termites that have a foothold in the state. Two of the most damaging are the Asian subterranean termites, which currently reach from the Florida Keys to Palm Beach County, and the Formosan subterranean termites reach from the Keys all the way to Charleston, SC.
Any structure within a 500-meter or 1,640-foot radius of a termite infestation of these two species is at risk.
Since 1990, the geographic range of termite damage has expanded considerably. The spread is expected to increase to more homes in Florida and to increase the risk in other parts of the country.
Orlando, Tampa, and Miami are frequently named as some of the worst termite-infested cities in the country. This Florida termite map provides anonymized data about where termite species have been identified.
Why Do Termites Cause So Much Damage to Homes?
For many people, just the thought of termites in your home can cause a strong reaction. The scope of damage and loss of financial equity can be significant.
They eat the cellulose found in wood or other plant fibers such as paper or cotton fabrics. In their search for food, they can also damage plastics, rubber, and even thin metal.
Termites are one of the worst pests that damage homes and foundations. Each colony can eat about a pound of wood per day.
What makes them so problematic is that they can go undetected for a long time. After five or six years, a colony could have several thousand to over one million termites. When you finally realize you have a problem, wooden beams in your home could look more like the inside of corrugated cardboard than something capable of holding your roof up.
Are Some Buildings More Susceptible to Termite Damage?
Your susceptibility to termite damage is also a factor of the structure of your home, how you maintain your foundation, exterior drainage, and water issues.
Termites can eat away at underlying structural components like wooden supports. Wooden floor joists in a moist crawl space can become a tasty meal for termites, but this has a negative impact on your home. When the supports are weakened, they can in turn lead to sagging, bouncy, and uneven floors that are not properly supported. This also affects the structural integrity of the rest of your home.
As the USDA notes, "Termite prevention begins with good building practices."
The main issue is that termites can only live a few days without water. If you have a damp basement or crawl space, they'll happily move into your home. Then they can travel up into your structure and return to the damp below-grade areas for water. If there's a plumbing leak or other water source on an upper story, they can center their colony there without needing to travel back down to your home's ground level.
Any home issues that increase dampness or humidity also increases your termite risk. In particular, the USDA notes that pest management can be difficult for slab-on-grade foundations and homes with certain types of patios or terraces.
Effective water drainage continues to be an important way to direct water away from your home. It's also important to address moisture issues in a basement or crawl space. Even a rebar-reinforced, poured-concrete foundation could have a small crack. That's all a termite needs to crawl up from the ground into your home.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Home Against Termites?
An exterminator can provide termite services to help you eradicate an infestation from your home.
However, chemical or biological termite control is only part of the picture. A thorough response also involves addressing foundation repairs, moisture issues, and property maintenance.
At Groundworks, our team of building and foundation experts has seen how one underlying structural problem leads to multiple property issues, including termite damage. For example, moisture in a basement or crawl space can attract termites, cause dry rot, grow mold, and create air quality issues throughout your home.
Local Groundworks basement waterproofing and foundation repair experts offer free inspections so you can better understand the underlying issues of your property.
Some properties may be able to reduce dampness and humidity by adding interior drainage, a sump pump, and a dehumidifier to your basement or crawl space.
There are also solutions that help create a bug barrier with a crawl space encapsulation system or professionally fitted rigid insulation panels. These solutions are specially treated to resist termites and can make it easier to perform future termite inspections. When encapsulation and insulation is completed, a gap of a few inches is left so an extermination company can still complete their inspections and work. Additionally, something unique about the ExTremeBloc™ insulation used by Groundworks is that these rigid panels are integrated with a termiticide, deterring termites and pests below grade. This ensures the wood-destroying pests cannot tunnel through the panels to attack your wooden structures.
Your basement or crawl space is the first line of defense against termites, and building experts can work in tandem with pest control services to help you prevent and eradicate termites from your home.
Get a free inspection from a basement waterproofing, foundation repair, and crawl space repair expert near you.