Colonies of anywhere from a few hundred to several million termites can quietly and methodically devastate your home.
Wood, paper and dead plant material that is in contact with soil near the house provides termites with a ready source of food and an entry. And moisture accumulated around foundations and in poorly ventilated crawl spaces gives termites a source of water they need to survive.
Over time, termites can damage or destroy support beams and other wood features in a house. The National Pest Management Association estimates that termites cause $5 billion in damage in the U.S. each year.
If these unwanted guests cause wear and tear to your home, do not expect your insurer to bail you out, says Janet Patrick, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Insurance Association, an industry lobbying organization in Springfield, Ill.
"Homeowners policies do not pay for termite damage," she says.
For that reason, Patrick recommends having a licensed pest control company take a look at your home to make sure it is termite-free.
"Homeowners can avoid structural damage with early intervention," she says.