LIVINGSTON, NJ The most common signal that one’s home has been playing host to a colony or two of termites is when winged members of the colony show up on window sills or around doorsills, attracted to the light.

In the spring termites in the millions will begin to swarm throughout New Jersey. Bad news for homeowners, but also for their neighbors as every other home on the street is in jeopardy too.

Termite infestations can have been active for three to five years before a homeowner spots the most obvious indicator, the swarming that occurs when a colony sends forth members to start new nests.

The other most common way the presence of termites is determined are the mud tunnels they construct from the ground into the many cracks that provide access to the wooden elements of a home.

“It’s the termites you can’t see that are the best reason for regular home inspections by pest management professionals. These inspections can save a homeowner thousands of dollars in repair costs says Leonard Douglen, Executive Director of the New Jersey Pest Management Association. “Even in times when money is tight, an ounce of prevention is still the best cure.”

“For millions of years termites have performed the important function of breaking down cellulose in trees so that it can be recycled back into the Earth. They do not, however, differentiate between a tree or a home. The result is that these structures and others with wooden elements represent years of available cellulose on which to dine,” said Douglen.

As many as three out of every five homes in New Jersey are likely to have been playing host to a termite colony. Where there are trees, there are termites.”

“One benefit of a regular inspection is the fact that other forms of infestation may be found such as Carpenter Ants,” says Douglen. “This species does as much structural damage throughout the tri-state area as termites.”

Homeowners and others often mistake the winged termites for winged ants, but knowing the difference is critical says Douglen. “That’s why trained structural pest management professionals need to make the call.”

Each spring, literally millions of winged termite alates will respond as the weather warms. They are looking for a mate and a steady source of food which is why one infested house on a typical block of homes will cause the infestation of those adjacent to it as the cycle repeats itself every year.

Douglen noted that several species of termites are native to New Jersey and the tri-state area. “By far the Subterranean termite species pose the greatest problem,” says Douglen, “because their nest may be below ground. They are the ones that build the mud tunnels in order to access a structure. The tunnels are generally found along the foundation or a pier post.”

The Eastern Subterranean Termite is among the most common in the tri-state area. Homeowners should eliminate any water leaks in the roof and other areas, and inspect their system of gutters that keep water away from wooden surfaces. Crawl spaces in attics or basements should be kept dry through ventilation or vapor barriers.

“It is essential to eliminate all wood-to-soil contact,” says Douglen, “and avoid having mulch against the structure. Piles of firewood left over from the winter are also prime nesting sites.”

A termite inspection will identify such potential points of infestation and recommend the steps to eliminate them. ” A colony of hundreds of thousands of termites may operate in different locations throughout a structure. In addition to Subterranean Termite species, there are also Damp Wood and Dry Wood species.

“Pest management professionals have the licensing, certification, and the training to provide the best protection and to eliminate an existing termite infestation,” says Douglen. “This is definitely not a do-it-yourself project.”

Founded in 1941, the New Jersey Pest Management Association is affiliated with the National Pest Control Association. It maintains an annual schedule of meetings and seminars to keep its members constantly up to date on the latest techniques and trends. The NJPMA maintains a website at www.njpma.com. The website provides a library of information for visitors seeking information on pest species and a directory of member firms.