Mother’s Day is the day of the year when termites really start to swarm in south Louisiana, according to Dennis Ring, LSU AgCenter entomologist.
Almost like clockwork, the Formosan subterranean termite alates, or winged termites, begin to swarm during the late April and early May.
“What they’re doing is trying to find a mate to begin their own colony,” Ring said. “They are attracted to light, and when they find their mate, they will drop to the ground and begin a colony nearby.”
The first year, there will only be about 70 termites in this new colony, but they will increase each succeeding year.
It takes about five years for them to build up enough to swarm. Termites don’t move very far on their own. They are normally moved by people in paper or wood, Ring said. “The farthest I’ve ever seen one move was about three-quarters of a mile, and that is extreme.”
Three major types of termites that cause problems in Louisiana: the dry wood termite, native subterranean termites and Formosan Subterranean termites, with the Formosans being the most destructive, Ring said.
These termites are estimated to cause more than $1 billion damage in Louisiana every year – more than $300 million in New Orleans alone, he said.
“At this time, we know them to be in 11 states including Hawaii,” Ring said. “The high infestations are in port cities like Lake Charles and New Orleans where they have had time to build larger colonies.”
One way to be sure whether you have Formosan termites is to look for mud tubes. “These termites have to live in high-humidity environments, and the tubes allow them to move from the ground into structures while maintaining the moisture required,” he said.
Do not invite termites in your home during the swarming season by leaving cellulose material and moisture near your home, said Ring. "Remove all wood, cardboard, paper and cellulose-containing material from around the home.”
If you suspect you have termites of any type, Ring said, you need to contact you pest control operator.
Louisiana homeowners can learn more about Formosan subterranean termites by visiting the Environment and Natural Resources section of the LSU AgCenter’s web site, www.lsuagcenter.com and clicking on the Insects and Relatives link.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture