Gregg Henderson | 5/7/2005 1:53:38 AM
Mother’s Day generally is considered the beginning of the swarming season for Formosan subterranean termites in New Orleans, and LSU AgCenter experts say Louisianians can expect to see the flying critters for the next couple of months.
While New Orleans was one of the first spots where the destructive pests established a foothold, they now exist in about half the state’s parishes – including most of South Louisiana but also stretching in spots to areas such as Alexandria and Monroe.
During this season, termites fly out of their nests to find partners and then reproduce and start a new colony, said Dr. Gregg Henderson, a nationally known termite expert with the LSU AgCenter.
But the flying insects, called alates because they have wings, have to meet and find a place to live. "Ninety-nine percent of them don’t survive," Henderson said. "It’s a difficult time in their lives."
Henderson said Formosan termites swarm early in the evening. And of all the various termites, only Formosans will be swarming in the evening in the next month and a half – although other species of native termites may swarm during the day, he said.
"If homeowners can find out where they’re flying from, it’s a step up on where to treat with a non-repellent," Henderson said.
The entomologist said non-repellent chemicals kill by contact rather than through feeding with materials known as baits. Better yet, a non-repellent termiticide will stick on termites that don’t die and be carried back to the colony, where it can be rubbed off on others, Henderson explained.
Formosan subterranean termites are particularly dangerous because their colonies can be 10 times the size of a colony of native termites. And larger colonies can do significantly more damage.
Louisiana homeowners can learn more about Formosan subterranean termites at the LSU AgCenter’s Internet termite site by going to www.lsuagcenter.com and clicking on the termite link.
The Web site is so popular that it’s often the No. 1 listing for "Formosan termite" on the Google Web search engine.
Henderson said the site has a great deal of information on Formosan termites, including a section on alate swarms, which tells when the termites fly, the timing patterns and why they fly.
A link to a section dubbed "home invasion" shows the routes termites use to infiltrate homes on slabs or those with pier-and-beam construction. Other links can help homeowners identify shelter tubes – the covered pathways termites build to travel through on their way from the ground into a house.
"The Web site shows you what to look for," Henderson said. "It shows you how to inspect. The most important aspect of shelter tubes from a homeowner’s standpoint is to let them know termites are there."
If you suspect termites, Henderson said it’s time to call a professional pest control operator.