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​By Xing Ping Hu, Entomology Specialist / Professor

 
Just as we are ready to enjoy spring, termites are beginning to swarm in full swing.
Subterranean termites live in colonies underground to avoid sunshine and outside air. Termite swarmers are the reproductive form from mature colonies.  These are the only type that most people ever see. It takes a number of years for a termite colony to develop into maturity.
Swarming is usually the first time a homeowner becomes aware of a termite problem. If swarming is found inside, you have a termite infestation somewhere in your house. Swarmers come out of cracks, crevices, or small holes in wall, attic, window and door frames, and similar gaps.  They are often accompanied by mud marks (Photo 1). In this case, you need to contact your termite protection contract provider or call reputable pest control professional for a thorough inspection and treatment.
 
 
 termite 1.jpg

Photo 1. Mud marks and exit holes of subterranean termite swarmer (April 2, 2013 by Kitty Siu)
 
If swarming occurs around houses outside, you may have termite colonies infesting trees, tree stumps, fence, poles or wooden structures in the  yard. Do not panic, but it is wise to locate the infested areas and do a targeted treatment.
You should understand that the absence of typical swarming signs does not mean there is no termite activity happening below the surface of a home.
Swarmers have short lifespans. An overwhelming majority of the swarmers will die (photo 2) if they are able to find somewhere they can burrow in or somewhere that is constantly moist and has wood. Such locations occur outside in woody ground or occasionally in a leaking attic or roof.
 
 
 
 
 termite 2.jpg

 
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Photos 2 and 3. Dead swarmers on carpet and window sill (April 2, 2013, by Xing Ping Hu)
 
What termite species are there swarming? If the swarming occurs during the day around noon, it is a native subterranean termite species, which start swarming in early spring. If the swarming occurs in the evening after sunset, it is Formosan subterranean termite, which swarms from May through June.
Preventive options for homeowners:
1) Remove stumps, scrap wood, grade stakes, foam boards, cardboard boxes and newspapers from around structures.
2) Move firewood, landscape timbers and compost piles away from foundations.
3) Eliminate moisture around foundations. Divert water from the house by grading the soil and installing gutters.
4) Cut back shrubs, vines, tall grasses and other dense vegetation growing against structures.
5) Do not let mulch to contact wood siding or framing of the doors and windows around the structure.
6) Seal cracks and holes to prevent termite entry.
7) Most importantly, have your home inspected by a licensed pest professional who specializes in termite control.



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