NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Nearly 70% of homeowners across the U.S. spot insects between April and June, according to a new survey by Orkin. And although ants, termites, mosquitoes appear harmless, an infestation can greatly impact the value of a home. Termites, for example, cause about $5 billion in damage per year in the U.S., according to the National Pest Management Association.

"Most homes, regardless of the types of construction, typically are vulnerable to attack from termites," said Kim Kelley-Tunis, director of Orkin's technical services. "These silent invaders can enter your home through cracks as tiny as 1/32 of an inch."

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Signs of termite damage can include the presence of a swarm of winged insects in the spring, cracked or bubbling paint, wood that sounds hollow when tapped and mud tubes on exterior walls.

"Prospective homebuyers should contact a licensed pest professional to conduct a termite inspection to determine if there's existing pest activity or damage before buying a home," said Kelley-Tunis.

The Orkin also study found that ants, fire ants, mosquitoes, bees/wasps and bed bugs are the top five summer pests with more than half of Americans concerned that a mosquito bite, sting or attack could cause a disease.

"It is difficult to fully estimate the cost of damage caused by ants because repair costs can vary but damage caused by ants can lead to the complete destruction of a home," Kelley-Tunis told MainStreet.

Carpenter ants may live within a home unnoticed for years, creating elaborate nests or galleries within the wood. A homeowner may only notice an infestation once the colony has grown large.

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"Homes can be a great source for food, moisture and shelter for all types of pests, including cockroaches, rodents, termites and carpenter ants," Kelley-Tunis. "These pests aren't just bothersome. They can spread illnesses and cause structural damage in your home."

Ants enter a home through the tiniest cracks and look for sweet, greasy or protein-based foods. They leave an invisible pheromone trail for other ants to follow once they find a food source, but it can be difficult to know if an existing home has a termite or carpenter ant problem.

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To prevent ants, termites, mosquitoes and other insects from invading a home, implement the following tips:

  • 1. Keep gutters clear and direct water from downspouts away from your home.
  • 2. Do not pile mulch or allow soil to accumulate against your home's siding. "This can provide access for termites to enter your home," said Kelley-Tunis.
  • 3. Clear away dirt-filled porches and crawl spaces, because termites have easy access to wood through cracks in foundation walls or if wood is in contact with the soil.
  • 4. Like termites, carpenter ants prefer moist or decaying wood to excavate and build their nest. Reduce a home's susceptibility to carpenter ants by keeping bushes and tree branches neatly trimmed and away from the home.
  • 5. Store firewood and other wood debris away from the home.
  • 6. To deter ants, clean up spilled food and drinks immediately and keep food stored tightly especially during outdoor picnics.
  • 7. Rinse out cans before putting them into recycling bins.
  • 8. Seal cracks around doors and windows.

--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet