Garfield County Cooperative Extension

Termite swarming season is upon us

Rick Nelson Extension Educator, Ag/4-H

The termite swarming season has arrived and knowing what to do about them is a key in preventing problems. North Central Oklahoma has experienced only small flights of mostly native subterranean termites thus far. They swarm during the day and are not necessarily attracted to light.

Swarming is a means by which sexually mature adult termites move out of a colony that has become overcrowded and/or lack adequate food. During this season, the insects become “swarmers” by developing wings and taking flight, particularly on warm, calm days.

The size and age of a colony are indicated by the size of the swarm. The purpose of the swarmers is to mate and start a new colony, but relatively few of the swarmers can survive to successfully find a mate and a suitable place to start a colony.

Swarmers themselves do not cause damage to structures. Their offspring are responsible for this, and over 90 percent of swarmers fall prey to predators before being able to produce offspring.

People are advised not to waste time trying to spray the swarmers. Instead, it is better to spend your time inspecting for other signs of an active colony and termite damage and then taking any appropriate treatment action.

Once a homeowner identifies termite swarmers in their home they should consider the possibility of a termite problem. Homeowners should inspect frequently for three signs of termite infestation – swarmers (termites with wings), mud tubes and damaged wood – and have a pest-control operator do a thorough inspection.

A recent termite treatment may not prevent swarming, because the swarmers may have already been above the treatment zone in the soil when the application was performed.

As for dealing with a termite swarm, here are some tips:

  • Don’t panic! Remember, a sudden barrage of these winged termites does not mean your house will fall into splinters tomorrow.
  • Make sure the insect is actually a termite swarmer. Many species of ants will swarm in the springtime, as well, and, because treatment methods differ between ants and termites, it is important to know the difference. A termite swarmer has a beaded antenna, a broad waistline and two pairs of similar wings that they shed after flight. Ants have an elbowed antennae, pinched waistline, two pairs of dissimilar wings and do not shed wings after flight.
  • Figure out if the swarmers are emerging inside the house or from outside. If it is within your house, close off the room in which the termites are swarming, use a vacuum cleaner to remove swarmers after they have swarmed and note the exact locations where the swarmers are emerging.
  • If your house has had a history of termites, find out what company treated it and if you are entitled to any warranty provisions.
  • If you have never had any evidence of a termite infestation, this is usually the first signal a homeowner sees that an active infestation exists. Most people miss the insects’ flight, because the swarmers emerge  fast and disperse quickly. Often, the only result people notice is broken wing parts near windows and doors.

Other tips offered on preventing problems with termites and reducing their damage are:

  • Inspect your home frequently for signs of termite infestation, such as swarmers (termites with wings), mud tubes and damaged wood. If you notice any evidence of termites, have your home inspected by a licensed pest control operator. Get more than one opinion and treatment quotation.
  • Be mindful of wood mulch in landscape beds.
  • Wood-to-ground contact in any type of structure is an invitation for subterranean termite infestation.
  • Termites cannot eat through solid concrete, but the construction of your “monolithic slab” home is not impervious. Termites can enter through cracks in the slab, openings for bathroom traps; where wooden fences join your home, between the original structure and added rooms, decks or patios, or where bushes and trees in your landscape make contact with the house. Traditional termite treatments require the application of a continuous chemical barrier to the soil around all possible entry points.
  • Brick and mortar piers are some of the most difficult to inspect and treat, because termites can travel through the center of the pier as easily as they can travel up the exterior. Proper treatment requires that the soil around each pier be treated by trenching or drilling and that each pier be drilled and chemicals applied to the holes.
  • Subterranean termites can use sewage lines, electric conduits and other lines connecting the house to the ground. The area around these should be inspected and treated.

The termite swarming season has arrived and knowing what to do about them is a key in preventing problems.

Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service is implied.

 

Oklahoma State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, State and local governments cooperating. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Services offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, disability, or status as a veteran and is an equal opportunity employer.

 

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