Duration of insect infestation is usually difficult to determine

Inspector's Eye

July 14, 2002|By Dean Uhler

Can a house become infested with carpenter ants and termites within two years?

That is what Kenneth Newburger of Pikesville wants to know after a pest control inspector recently found both types of wood boring insects in his 21-year-old house.

Two years ago, when he bought the house, an inspection by a different pest control company found no evidence of infestation. Now he's faced with the cost of termite treatment and would like to know if he has any recourse against the first company that inspected the house.

Both subterranean termites and carpenter ants are extremely common in this part of the country. They typically establish their colonies inside wood, or underground. Because houses tend to contain lots of wood and wood products, they are appealing habitats for the insects.

Every spring, termites and ants swarm. Swarmers are winged termites or carpenter ants that take flight from existing colonies to seek out locations where they will establish new colonies. As a result of this annual event, new termite and carpenter ant infestations are constantly occurring in houses.

Happily for pest control companies, infestations still occur despite construction methods designed to minimize the risk and an industry devoted to thwarting the pests.

Given the mobility of swarmers, less than two years is plenty of time for termites and carpenter ants to have entered the house. Colonies could become sizable in that time. But there needn't have been a sizable colony for the recent inspection to conclude that treatment is needed - even minimal evidence, such as a collection of wings shed by swarmers, would be considered a significant risk requiring protective measures.

Depending on the scope of the infestation that was found and the damage to wood in the house (if any), there may be some basis for estimating how long the insects have been in the house. But, unless the damage is very extensive, it probably cannot be established with sufficient certainty to lay blame on the first inspector.

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