Swarming termites, also known as alates, are termites with wings that leave their colonies with two purposes in mind: reproducing and establishing a new colony. Alates resemble flying ants and will colonize anywhere with a cellulose source and adequate moisture for survival, making your home the ideal environment for a new colony. While alates don’t bite, sting, or eat wood, they are a good indication that there is a termite colony nearby.
Why Do Termites Swarm?
Once the original termite colony reaches capacity and is ready to expand, termite swarms occur. These usually happen once per year, although some species will swarm multiple times. Swarms can contain anywhere from hundreds to thousands of alates whose sole purpose is reproduction and expansion of the colony. Once environmental conditions are right, the swarmers will launch themselves into the air and pair off. Once they’ve found their partner, both will shed their wings, mate, and find a new place to nest.
When Do Termites Swarm?
The timing of termite swarms depends on the type of termite you are dealing with. Subterranean termites typically swarm in the spring during daylight hours. Drywood termites swarm in late summer and early fall, and dampwood termites swarm over the summer. Termites will swarm once conditions are ideal, usually the day after a rain shower with overcast weather and winds less than 6 mph. Damp soil after a rainstorm also helps with nest building.
Do Termites Swarm Indoors?
If a colony is already established inside your home, termites may swarm inside. These alates will try to squeeze through cracks and crevices in your foundations and walls to reach open air. Alates are also attracted to light so they can often be found near windows and light fixtures.
What Kind of Termites Swarms Are There?
Termite swarms vary depending on what species it is. Drywood termite swarms are usually smaller than other termites with less than 100 swarmers. They will swarm in late summer and fall. Due to the small size of the swarm, you may not see the signs of drywood termites until they are already established. Dampwood termites swarm in the summer months. They are of less concern to homeowners as houses don’t typically have the moisture content necessary for them to survive. They can, however, be found in wood structures surrounding homes, e.g. utility poles. Subterranean termites are the most common and have the largest swarms, sometimes numbering into the thousands. These termites swarm in the spring between March and June.
While swarms don’t necessarily mean you have a termite infestation in your home, they are a good indicator that there is a thriving colony nearby. If you spot swarming termites in or near your home, consider a termite inspection to help identify signs of termites you may have missed and ensure you don’t have a hidden colony eating your home from the inside out.
If you suspect termites, contact a professional pest control company who can give your house a thorough inspection and help with a termite control and prevention plan going forward.
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Termites cause billions of dollars in damage to homes each year. This irreparable damage can affect both the structure and the integrity of your home. It is projected that homeowners spend upwards of $2 billion on termite treatments each year. Termites eat wood from the inside out, allowing them to go undetected for long periods of time and causing significant damage before you even realize it. Oftentimes homeowners aren’t aware of the presence of termites until they discover this damage.
The most common type of termite in the United States is the subterranean termite, although drywood termites, dampwood termites and Formosan termites can also be found here. Some of the most common signs of termites in your home include termite swarms; mud tubes on or around foundations; piles of discarded wings; drooping or discolored drywall; paint that is peeling; wood that makes a hollow sound when you tap on it; squeaking floorboards; doors and windows that stick; damaged or crumbling wood; loose tile; buckling floors; and even small holes in your drywall.
There are three main methods of termite treatment and the effectiveness of each depends on the type of termite you are dealing with and the severity of the infestation. Here is a breakdown of all three, along with some termite prevention tips to help protect your home from termite damage.
Soil treatments are applied to the soil that surrounds your home to create a barrier. The first step is to dig a trench around your foundation. This soil is then treated with a termiticide and the trench is filled back in. By doing this, termites are killed as they pass through the chemicals on their way back to their nests.
Wood treatments are used to both kill existing termite colonies and also prevent future ones from starting. There are different types of wood treatments all used with varying effectiveness depending on the type of termite and the severity of the infestation. Surface sprays are treatments that are applied to the surface of wood. Injected sprays and foams are applied to the inside of wood. Borate treated wood is wood that is pretreated with a borate solution. Gas fumigation entails using fumigants that permeate throughout your entire home which disrupts the metabolism of the termites. Surface sprays and borate treated wood are usually used during construction or renovation of homes. Injections, foams, and fumigants are used after a home is built.
Bait systems are most effective at destroying termite colonies. A termite control professional will come out and install the bait stations around the outside perimeter of your home. These stations are then monitored on a regularly scheduled basis. Bait stations help ensure your home is protected from both a current infestation and a future one. The bait stations contain chemicals that termites eat and then take back to their colonies which allows it to be spread to others. This type of termite treatment is most effective with larger termite colonies.
How do you know which type of treatment is best for you? That all depends on the type of termite you are dealing with. Subterranean termites typically nest underground and enter homes where the wood structure makes direct contact with the soil. They will often squeeze through cracks in the foundation or around utility pipes through mud tubes. The best treatment for these termites is either a soil treatment or a bait station.
Drywood termites don’t require direct soil contact for survival. These termites will colonize anywhere they can find a preferred source of wood. They also don’t need as much moisture to survive like other termite species do. Drywood termites are often found in attics, dead or dying trees and shrubs, utility poles, fencing, and furniture. These termites are most effectively treated with gas fumigation or targeted termiticide.
Dampwood termites are much larger in size than their subterranean counterparts. They also have large pincers that they use to fight off predators. They typically colonize damp or decaying wood with higher moisture content like that found in logs and stumps. These termites don’t usually make their nests in the soil or build mud tubes. They are also not usually as destructive as other termite species are. The best treatment for these termites is moisture removal and termiticide application.
The best way to get a head start on termite control at home is through prevention. Most homeowners policies do not cover termite damage so keeping them away is critical to protect both your home and your wallet. You can prevent termites by:
- Using concrete foundation during construction and leaving a ventilation space between the soil and the wood
- Covering exposed wood surfaces with sealant or a metal barrier
- Keeping the soil around foundations dry after construction with proper grading and drainage
- Maintaining gutters and downspouts
- Reducing openings that offer access to termites by filling cracks in cement foundations or around gaps where utilities enter the home with cement, caulk, or grout
- Fixing leaks immediately
- Keeping vents free from blockage
- Avoiding landscaping that is too close to the structure and not allowing them to grow against wooden structures
- Not keeping firewood or wood debris piled up next to the house
- Getting an annual termite inspection from a professional
If you suspect you have a problem with termites or you just want to get ahead with a prevention plan, contact your local pest control company who can provide you with a free analysis and set you up with a successful treatment and prevention plan going forward.
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Termites are very destructive and cause billions of dollars of damage to homes each year in the U.S. That is why we are dedicating March’s Pest of the Month to TERMITES!
- Operate under a caste system. There are workers, soldiers, and reproductives.
- Live in colonies underground or in moist secluded areas.
- Feed on items containing cellulose.
- Swarm in the spring when reproductive termites go out to start new colonies.
- Cause severe damage to a structure by chewing away at the wood.
- Responsible for more than $2 billion of damage to homes in the US each year.
- Cause more damage in an average year than floods, fires, and tornadoes.
- A termite colony may contain several hundred thousand individuals.
- Divert water away from the foundation of a structure.
- Repair leaky faucets, pipes, and AC units on the outside of the home.
- Properly ventilate areas of high humidity like crawl spaces, attics, and basements.
- Keep mulch or ground cover at least 15 inches away from the foundation of a structure.
- Sentricon Termite Elimination baiting systems may be placed around the perimeter of a structure.
Other Pests to Look Out For
If you think you may have termites, or other pests in your home, call the mouse at 888.466.7849 or visit us online at www.callnorthwest.com