For Release May 4, 1999

Termite Swarming Season is Here

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

We’ve seen some of the early signs, but cool, cloudy and rainy weather has kept the problem suppressed. But now with all that rain, and finally some warm and sunny weather, we’re going to see a lot of them. Swarms of ants and termites will be popping up everywhere over the next few weeks. And with every termite swarm there usually comes an anxiety attack for a homeowner!

The first thing to do is to learn to tell the difference between an ant and a termite. Briefly, an ant is related to a wasp, so look for the thin pinched in waist. Termites are thick all the way through their body segments. Next look at the antenna. Ant’s antennas are elbowed with very obvious bends or joints. Termite’s antennas are not elbowed and look like lots of little segments connected together. Finally, winged termites will have two pairs of wings with all four wings being of equal length. Winged ants will have two pairs of wings but there will be an obvious difference between the lengths of the two pairs of wings.

Swarming ants and swarming termites are very common and are how a colony that has grown large expands and spreads. The survival rate of these swarms is quite low with probably less than 5% ever surviving and starting a new colony. Merely seeing a swarm of termites in your yard or outside your house does not mean that you have termites.

Termites are very, very common in this area. Drive a piece of untreated wood in the ground almost anywhere around here, come back in five months and you will probably find termites in it. Termites work very slowly. It is estimated that if all the termites in an average colony worked together on one piece of wood it would take them two months to completely eat a one foot length of 2 x 4.

Now for the part that panics most homeowners, which is why I told you how slow they worked first. The average termite swarm in Kansas has been established for seven years before they swarm the first time. Termites don’t normally "live" in buildings, the building is simply the kitchen and dining room. The queen, her attendants and nursery, exist outside the building in the soil. Tunnels are developed into homes to collect food (wood) and bring it back to the colony.

If you find termites swarming outside your home but do not find them swarming from the house itself it may mean nothing and probably means nothing. If you find the swarm inside your home, and not just one or two, but dozens or hundreds, then it is probably a good sign that you have termites in your house. Don’t panic and don’t try to treat it yourself! It is too important not to bring in professionals.

Contact several firms to obtains bids. Ask for references in your community. Follow up on those references. While traditional barrier treatments are fine I would also encourage you to seek bids on the newer baiting system. Unlike traditional barrier treatments, the baiting system actually kills the entire colony. By using much less chemical, it uses a growth regulator, it has much less potential for negative environmental impact.

Termites are here, in fact they’re everywhere. There are houses that have termites, and there are houses that will have termites. Keep an eye out for signs of an infestation, if you become suspicious call a professional for an inspection, if termites are found have them treated, but take your time and don’t panic!!


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