Tree stumps, wood piles or other dead wood that may be around your house can be harboring termite colonies, which generally live underground near the wood they feed on. Termite colonies near tree stumps could be feeding on the stump itself or the remaining underground root system. When a stump is infested, you will often see winged termites, or swarmers, emerging from it, but because depending on where the stump is in relation to your house, this might not always be a cause for concern.
Signs a Stump is Infested
The most obvious sign that a termite colony is living in or near a tree stump is when winged termites emerge from the wood. Other signs are similar to signs that termites have infested any other piece of wood around your house. The stump may sound hollow when tapped. Advanced infestations will make the wood spongy or soft. This wood can be easily penetrated with a screwdriver or an icepick. If the sponginess is caused by a termite infestation, you will see mud tubes lining tunnels in the wood in an irregular pattern, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Some stumps should be removed even if there are no signs that they have been infested. Any tree stump under the foundation of a new house should be removed before any building begins. Also, stumps close enough to the foundation that the root system could be within a few feet of the house should be removed as a matter of course. Like any dead wood, stumps that are 10 to 20 feet from the house should not be a problem, according to North Carolina State University.
The easiest way to prevent termites from an infested stump from invading your home is to remove the stump. But if you can't fully remove it, or if you are afraid there may still be some colonies lurking in an underground root system, you can also treat your soil for termites as a precaution. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln advises homeowners to consult a professional exterminator for termite infestations outside the home. But remember that it can take years--as many as three to eight years in Nebraska--for an infestation to cause significant damage, so give yourself time to shop around and completely assess the potential damage before treating your soil with a pesticide.
Elaine Severs is an award-winning journalist who has been writing professionally since 2001. She has written about politics, health, education, travel and general interest topics for several newspapers and travel guides, including the "New York Times" and Insight Travel Guides. She has a Master of Science in journalism from Columbia University.