Termite swarmers! What does it mean and what should you do? It means you are probably going to have to spend some money on termite control and that you should start getting bids from pest control companies. If you already have an active termite contract on the building, call your pest control company.
Finding termite swarmers inside a building is a clear indication the building is infested and needs to be professionally treated. Termites swarm only once per year, but they are active 365 days a year and it takes several years for a colony to grow large enough to produce swarmers. By the time you see termite swarmers in a building, the building been infested for several years and has one or more healthy active colonies containing tens to hundreds of thousands of termites. Time to put a stop to that!
There are several common misconceptions about termite swarmers: 1} “Those things show up around this time every year, but they don’t seem to be causing any problems.” 2} “I vacuumed them all up and have not seen any more, so I guess they are all gone.” 3} “I sprayed them with bug spray and killed them all; nipped that problem in the bud.” 4}“I’m worried those things might infest our house!” None of these statements is true. In the first three cases, the swarmers may be gone, but the colony that produced them is still there and still eating your house. In the last case, the house is already infested. Also, any Eastern subterranean termite swarmers that are trapped inside are not able to reinfest because they will not be able to find the moist soil they need to survive and will die of desiccation. It is not the swarmers you can see that you need to worry about. It is the colony that produced them!
The bottom line is that when it comes to termites, what you can’t see can hurt you. In one sense, seeing termite swarmers is cause to be thankful. At least it gives warning the building is infested without you having to find out by discovering serious structural damage.
Could these be Formosan termites? Depending on where you live, Formosan termites are an equal or greater possibility, especially in the more southern parts of the state. Swarmers of the two species are easy to distinguish in good light. Eastern subterranean termite swarmers are dark-colored, like those in the photo. Formosan swarmers are tan or golden-colored, and larger. See the MSU Extension Termite Website for close-up photos of swarmers of both species (look in Section 5, Species of Termites in Mississippi). Both species are serious structural pests and need to be controlled. Fortunately, control methods are similar. Eastern subterranean termites swarm earlier in the year, from February to April, while Formosans swarm later, from May to June. See Bug’s Eye View No. 8 of 2021 for a short article on Formosan termite swarmers.
See Extension Publication 2568, Protect Your House from Termites, for more information on termite biology, signs of infestation, and how to control termites:
Extension Publication 2765, What Homebuilders Need to Know about Termites, contains additional information that will be of special interest to new home builders, and Table 1 of this publication contains information on how long the various soil-applied termite treatments last.
Blake Layton, Extension Entomology Specialist, Mississippi State University Extension Service.
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