Termites to Swarm Soon
Termites to Swarm Soon!
Starting sometime in March, subterranean termites will begin to swarm. They will first swarm from warm areas, areas under heating units and hot water heaters. Swarming is usually the first indication that there is an existing termite infestation.
Subterranean termites live in the soil. During the winter months, they will be against building foundations (where it will not freeze) or below the frost line. Termites swarm as a way of starting new termite colonies. The swarmers are the male and female reproductives of the colony that swarm out when they get the proper stimulus such as warmth or moisture in the soil. The males and females have a nuptial flight and then settle into the soil to start a new colony. It takes about three years for a new colony to be mature enough to produce a swarm.
The new colony also produces worker and soldier termites. The soldier termite’s job is to protect the termite colony from other insect invaders such as ants or other termite colonies. Worker termites’ job is to feed the colony. Only worker termites can actually eat and digest wood or other cellulose containing materials. Worker termites have a protozoan in their guts that actually digest wood fibers. They feed the other members of the colony through trophalllxis; that is they regurgitate the digested food and feed the soldiers and reproductive.
So much for the biology lesson. What you really need to know is how to prevent termites and choose the best treatments if an infestation is discovered. Subterranean termites need excessive amounts of moisture in the soil to survive. Making sure that rainwater drains away from the structures rather than against the foundation will prevent the excessive moisture that termites need. Keeping shrubs trimmed away from buildings and not putting firewood or other stored items against the foundation also helps considerably.
If termites are found, there are two treatment options. First is the conventional soil treatment. This involves pumping termiticide into the soil to create a barrier that is toxic to termites. Modern termiticides will last for more than ten years before the effectiveness of the material dissipates. These treatments need to be done on both sides of the foundation in order to create and effective barrier.
Subterranean termite monitoring and baiting is the latest treatment available. This involves placing monitoring stations around the structure and then replacing the monitors with termite bait when termites begin feeding at the monitor. The bait contains a material that kills termites slowly (so they can distribute the bait to reproductives) or uses a material that interferes with the termite’s ability to form new exoskeletons after they grow and molt the old exoskeleton. Baiting programs are for a minimum of two years since time is needed for termites to discover the monitors. Monitoring can go on for years and baits used when termites feed on the monitors.
From a cost basis, the conventional soil treatment is less expensive than termite monitoring and baiting. Baiting is effective and is much less damaging and inconvenient. Soil treatments involve drilling through any concrete slabs including concrete inside the structure. Resident’s furniture must be moved and residents themselves become inconvenienced.
Through inspections of all the structures in your community is the best way to identify termites before or after the spring swarming season. Regular termite inspections will help prevent wood damage that can occur if termite swarming is not noticed, because of high wind conditions or termites swarming into a crawl or inaccessible area.
Joe Silvestrini, Pest Control Technicians, Inc.
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