Subterranean Termite Swarming Season

 February through May is termite-swarming season for one subterranean termite genus, Reticulitermes, in Texas. Subterranean termites are social insects that live in colonies underground in order to avoid sunshine and outside air. Their caste system consists of workers, soldiers, and reproductives. Each caste member within a termite colony has distinct physical and behavioral characteristics. The workers build shelter tubes from tiny pieces of soil, wood, and debris glued together using secretions and fecal material. These shelter tubes form an extensive tunneling system underground that allows food resources to be carried back into the colony. The soldier termites protect the colony from other insect intruders, and the winged reproductives are responsible for starting a new colony.

A termite queen, Reticulitermes sp. (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Photo by Bart Drees, Professor and Extension Entomologist, Texas A&M University.

Termites feed on any cellulose material, such as roots, paper, and cardboard. They are important to our ecosystem, since they decompose cellulose; however, they become economic pests when they invade human dwellings and structures. Termite damage may be detected by the presence of mud tubes, damaged wood, and the swarming of winged, reproductive termites.

Preventative Practices

• Remove any stumps, scrap wood, grade stakes, cardboard boxes, and newspapers found around structures.

• Avoid storing firewood, landscape timbers, and compost piles around foundations of structures.

• Minimize moist areas by grading the soil and installing gutters to allow water to drain away from buildings.

• Do not allow shrubs, vines, tall grasses and other dense vegetation to grow against structures.

Thick vegetation makes it hard to inspect for termite activity and these plants tend to trap moisture.

A winged reproductive, Reticulitermes sp. (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Photo by Center for Urban and Structural Entomology, Texas A&M University.

Chemical Approaches to Termite Control

 If termites are found around structures, measures include the application of liquid termiticides and/or the installation of baiting systems. When soil termiticides are applied, they provide a continuous chemical barrier around the structure. There are both repellent and non-repellent liquid termiticides that can be applied. Termites attempting to tunnel into the chemically treated area will either be killed or repelled, thus preventing them from entering the structure. Termite-baiting systems can also be installed around structures and in conducive conditions within the area. The station will initially contain a piece of untreated wood until termite activity is detected. Once termite activity is observed, then the untreated wood is replaced with a plastic tube containing a termiticide within a cellulose matrix. The worker termites feed on the cellulose matrix and then exchange this material with other members of the colony, resulting in death of the colony members.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Cathy says:

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    1. curb01 says:

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