East Texas Ag News: Termite Swarms

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Updated: Apr. 29, 2020 at 4:51 PM CDT
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ANGELINA COUNTY, Texas (KLTV/KTRE) -I’ve had some questions already this year about termites swarming. I’ve not seen any yet for myself this year. I’ve noticed one fire ant mound swarming, but not termites.

Homeowners dread termites. It seems nothing good can come of them.

There are two major groups of subterranean termites, natives and Formosan, that make Texas their home.

Native subterranean termites have already swarmed down South where the weather has already warmed up and now is reported to be swarming in Central and North Texas.

The subterranean termite is considered the most destructive insect wood pests in the U.S., causing more than $2 billion in damage each year. They cause more damage than fire and windstorms.

Native subterranean termites live in nests or colonies in the soil and feed on dead trees and brush. You may see swarms when land is cleared off for development termites will make this their new home and attach the structure if precautions are not taken.

In nature, subterranean termites are beneficial. They break down dead trees and other wood materials that would otherwise accumulate. The breakdown process is recycled to the soil as humus and provides nutrients to other living organisms.

Termites enter buildings through wood in direct contact with the soil. They will utilize shelter tubes directly through cracks or joints in and under foundations.

You can distinguish the flying, reproductive termites from the reproductive ants by two distinctive features. First, ants have a very narrow “waist” between their head, thorax, and abdomen. Termites’ body shape resembles a grain of rice without any significant narrow joints.

Second, both sets of termites’ wings will be the same length. Ants also have two pairs of wings but the fore wings are noticeably larger than the hind pair.

The primary native subterranean termite which is swarming now is coal black to yellow-brown, about one-fourth to three-eighths of an inch in length with distinctive wings.

The other species of termite is the Formosan termite, which swarms in the summer. They swarm at night from early May through June and are attracted to lights.This termite has only been in Texas for a little more than 50 years

Formosan termites construct their primary nests in the soil with fecal material and cellulose called “carton”. When they infest a structure, they can form an aerial nest with this carton in the wall spaces if moisture is available.

Formosan workers feed on wood in structures and also on living plants. They have been known to attack more than 50 tree species, including pecan, citrus, wild cherry, cherry laurel, sweet gum, cedar, willow, wax myrtle, Chinese elm and white oak

When searching for food and moisture, Formosan termites, like other subterranean termites, may chew through non-cellulose material such as asphalt, plaster, rubber and plastic. Their damage can result in home fires caused by electrical shorts.

If termites are found swarming around or inside a home, don’t panic, advise entomologist specialists. They’ll remind you that termites usually work slowly, so your house will generally not collapse or be ruined overnight.

If you are concerned that you may have them in your house, take the time to learn more about termites, their biology, inspection techniques and treatment options.

Do not permit anyone to rush you into buying termite control services. Take the time you need to make an informed decision.

If you are unsure about termites being present, arrange for a thorough termite inspection with a licensed, reputable company.

Ask for inspections from three or more companies. Ask for recommendations from your friends and neighbors for who they’ve had good dealings with.

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