What shows up uninvited and eats you out of house and home?
It's not your relatives; it's termites. These tiny insects can slip through the smallest cracks in your house and start eating all the wood in your home, until they turn your beloved refuge into a pile of sawdust. Capable of causing more damage than most natural disasters, these bugs are designed to eat-and eat-and eat. They eat twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Termites are actually beneficial in their native habitat, which is the forest. Fallen logs and dead brush are chewed up by these insects, who serve to keep the forest clean. Think of them as tiny little foresters, clearing the forest floor for new growth and getting rid of dried, dead underbrush that could pose a fire hazard.
Unfortunately, they can't tell the difference between that pine log lying by itself in the woods and, say, your nice hardwood deck. Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the risk.
First, make sure that no wooden part of your house touches the earth. Optimally there should be a solid concrete foundation that holds your home above the ground. Also try to avoid moisture on the property; damp areas are a breeding ground for termites and other insects. Creating a barrier between your home and the termites, either with textured sands or nontoxic (to humans) chemicals, is another option.
Finally, if you have concerns that you might have a termite infestation, contact a professional termite exterminator and have him do a thorough inspection. He'll be able to decide if you have a problem, and if so, what you can do about it.