On this episode Dave Novak discusses termite swarmer’s and what to look for.
Hello, and welcome to the Prevention Pest Control Podcast where we talk about pest issues that can affect the Northeast Ohio region throughout the year. I’m Dave Novak and today’s topic is subterranean termite swarmers.
So, before we discuss the termite swarmer let’s talk a little bit about subterranean termites. In our part of the country, they are the type of termite that we deal with – subterranean, meaning they come from under the ground. If you Google termites, you may see a picture of a termite treatment being done, where they have a tent around the home, and they are fumigating for termites. Well, those are Formosan termites, and they are prevalent in the south and they nest above ground. It’s a different type of termite and a different way to treat them.
The best way to describe a subterranean termite colony is by using this example. It’s not a great example, but it does the job. The colony is like an octopus – that big head part is the nest, and the tentacles that come off that body are the workers searching out for food. So, if you flip that thing upside down, the head would be underground – that’s the nest – and the tentacles are the worker termites coming up from underneath the ground in search of food to bring back to the nest.
Now the termites eat cellulose which makes up 50% of wood. So, they come up to an old stump, mulch or a home and they pull the cellulose out of the wood. They swallow it, they take it back down to the nest where they regurgitate it, there the colony will feed on it. Now an average mature colony has between 60,000 and 1 million workers bringing food down to that nest. It takes that colony approximately four to five months to consume a one-foot piece of a two by four made from pine.
There are two ways to find out if you have termites in your home. The first and most common is termite mud tubes will appear along sill plates in the garage or basement and they’ll be crawling up the wall. Normally, they’re as thick as a pencil and if you crack one open, you’ll see the little termite workers and soldiers inside. They use these tubes as runways to help guide them to where the other members are feeding. The second way you’ll find out if you have termites in your home, is by finding termite swarmer’s inside the home.
Termite swarmer’s are produced when a mature colony has been established and is now ready to create other colonies in the area. This takes place when the weather warms up in late March and runs until around late May. They are often confused with pavement ant swarmer’s and are misdiagnosed quite often. There are a few ways to tell the difference between the two – pavement ant swarmer’s will have two wings that are larger in the front and two that are smaller in the back. Termite swarmer’s will have four wings all the same size. The payment ants will have three body parts with a pinched waist while the termite swarmer’s will have one long segment and a broader waste. The last thing to look for is ants will have a bowed antenna, while the termite swarmer’s will have a straight antenna.
The termite swarmer’s come from the soil near their surface and then wait for conditions to be right to take flight. When they decided its time, they take flight and emerge out of the ground. They will pair up, pull their wings off, mate and then find a new place to start a nest to populate. Sometimes the swarm will last days, other times only hours. Now, termite swarmer’s do not do any damage to wood, but they are another sign of termites being present in a home.
When we do an inspection for someone buying a home, we may not see termite mud tubes on the sill plates or anywhere else for that matter. But we do find discarded Swarmer wings in windows, behind appliances or on the floor. It almost looks as if the floor glitters and upon closer inspection, you’ll see hundreds of wings in that area. When termite swarmer’s are present that means the termite colony is around and the home needs treated.
The worst part of my job is when we have a homeowner tell me they’ve had those swarmer’s the last few years and they thought it was just kitchen ants. Then we go down to the basement and in that same area we find the mud tubes along the sill plate and sub floor and damage is being done that no one noticed. So, if you start having what looks like winged ants in the spring anywhere in your home, have a professional look at it. You want to make sure it is not termite swarmer’s and prevent any further damage that could be done to your home.
Well, that wraps up this episode of the Prevention Pest Control Podcast. You can reach us anytime at preventionpestcontrol.net, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and by calling us directly at 234-571-1203. Please like, share and subscribe to our podcast. Thank you for listening and remember – an ounce of Prevention is all it takes for a pest-free home.