Termites Ignoring Social Distancing!

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Right in the middle of all of this human “distancing,” termites are getting ready to party like mad in our houses…up-close and unwanted.

We have had some rain now, and with warmer temperatures, the termites will start to swarm. That’s when you might see hundreds of flying termites all in a bunch, shedding wings, and making a mess. Most of the year, termites are little white, wingless pests, enjoying eating wood at will. But now, we are getting ready to see the real show. If you have termites, then a nice, new batch of reproductive termites are about to come out where you can see them, to get ready to build new colonies. Swarmers, as we call them, are black, instead of white like the termite workers. And unlike the workers, they have wings and come out to where you can see them. Being dark in color, they resemble what many call “flying ants” (reproductive ants), except that ants have a “thin waist” similar to wasps (see images).

Dr. Waldvogel of North Carolina State University writes:

Termites typically swarm during the daytime and often after rains. They appear suddenly and may be around for a few hours and then suddenly disappear. Very often, the only sign of their activity are their shed wings scattered about the area (as seen in the image here). If swarmers are seen outdoors, take it as nature’s way of reminding you that termites live all around us. HOWEVER, that does not necessarily mean that they’re invading our homes. The solution? Take the hint and consider contacting a pest management professional to inspect your home to look for any other sign of termite activity. This can be particularly helpful if your home has not been treated or inspected for more than 8-10 years. If termites swarm inside your home, this more likely means that you’re hosting a family of several thousand termites. If you have a termite contract, contact the pest management company immediately and arrange for an inspection. If you don’t have a contract, it is best to contact 2-3 companies and have them inspect your home and give you an assessment of any problems and how they propose treating it.

When it comes to termite treatments, it is probably best that you avoid the “do-it-yourself” approach. Termite treatments are quite extensive, with liquid insecticide for the soil and/or an in-ground termite baiting system.

Be warned that the idea that spraying something to kill a termite swarm is going to “take out” your termite problem, is like thinking that spraying air freshener is going to take out your kitchen trash. The smell is your warning to take out the trash. The termite swarm is your warning to “take out” your termite colony. The one that is likely eating your house.

The best advice for you is to contact the professionals, take your time, and compare the treatment methods, prices of service, and warranty terms of each company. Choosing the treatment type depends on preference, or the type of construction of the house. Contracts are generally renewed annually, and might typically run $125 – $350 a year depending on various factors. While a swarm of termites in the house is a wake-up call, the damage is not so rapid that you can’t stop to think before signing a contract. Do your homework and choose the right company for you. Realize that as we move into swarm season, it might take a couple of weeks to get a scheduled visit to get an evaluation and estimates from various companies. When the swarms start, getting an appointment gets tougher. So when you think you have a swarm, compare the insects to these photos to see if it is ants or termites, and start calling the professionals.

For more information, please call 704-736-8461.

Tom Dyson, Director, N.C. Cooperative Extension of Lincoln County