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Do I have a termites?

Whether you're considering purchasing a home, or trying to sell your old one, it pays to be able to identify a termite problem. Home sellers will need to correct their termite problem before trying to sell their residence. Home buyers will want to recognize a termite problem before they sink their hard-earned money into a problematic home.

In the United States, there are three primary kinds of termites, but the most common are the subterranean variety. It pays to understand how these little bugs operate, so let's give you a little bit of background. First, a termite colony will -- after some years establishing itself -- produce winged adults that are sexually mature. These mature "alates" then fly away in springtime to start a new nest. If you find winged alates in your home, it means that a nest is nearby and they might be eating the wood in your house for food.

However, not all winged creatures are termites. They might simply be ants. Here's how to tell the difference:

-- Termites have two sets of wings, and the rear wings will be just as long as their front wings. With flying ants, the rear wings will be shorter than their front wings.

-- The waists of termites are wide, whereas the waists of ants have wasp-like indentations just behind their second wings.

-- The antennae of termites are straight and beaded. The antennae of ants have jointed bends, and elbows.

To be certain you don't have a termite problem, it's best to call your local exterminator. They will know the difference between termites and ants in an instant, and if you've got termites they'll tell you exactly what needs to be done -- and how expensive it is -- to fix the problem.

For would-be home sellers and home buyers who encounter termites, it might be wise to consult with a real estate lawyer about the legal ramifications of termites. Termites found in a home that's a part of a real estate transaction could potentially make or break a deal, but with a qualified real estate lawyer on your side, you can navigate the issue appropriately.

Source: How Stuff Works, "5 Things Exterminators Check During Termite Inspections," accessed Feb. 10, 2017

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