When you think of the word “swarm,” the image of a group of insects flying together may come to mind. Yet when it comes to swarms in the termite world, the word means something very different.
What is a Termite Swarm?
A Formosan termite swarm is not aggressive or tightly grouped together. Instead, a swarm occurs when the environment triggers a large number of winged termites to leave the colony. What these swarmers do is mate and find new places to look for food. When a female becomes impregnated, she burrows into the ground with her mate, laying eggs and starting a new colony.
Since swarmers have two things on their mind – reproducing and survival – you can expect that these pests know exactly what they’re doing. You can just imagine how many Formosan termite colonies would burrow into the ground and start eating away at wood if they all survived, but Mother Nature plays her role here. Many swarmers are eaten by predators like birds and bats. Others die from natural causes before they’re able to find a mate. Only the strong survive.
Still, there is a good number of swarmers that live on and are able to find a mate and a place to start a new colony. These Formosan termite colonies don’t just emerge overnight, however. In favorable conditions, it can take 4 years for a new colony to produce swarmers. If the conditions are not favorable, it will take longer. It’s true that to humans, Formosan termites are certainly nuisances and damaging pests, but they are actually quite delicate in the chain of life.
What Triggers a Termite Swarm?
In many cases, it’s something in the environment that triggers a large number of termites to leave the nest. Swarmers are most common in the spring months, following suit with the natural swarm cycles. However, there are other factors that can trigger a swarm beyond the traditional cycles. Surprisingly, one of these factors can be a pesticide that is being used on the home.
If a Formosan termite colony has a lack of food or water, a swarm may be triggered. These circumstances can be brought on by using certain types of pesticides, so in order for the termites to survive, the termites will leave the nest. When Formosan termites are stressed, either in the soil or inside wood, they will leave their colony and seek food and water somewhere else. These termites depend on moisture, so they can’t go long without some type of water.
Where do Swarms Occur?
Swarms are very common in Louisiana, primarily in the spring and fall. Formosan swarmers prefer to fly in the warm evenings of the spring and summer, and they especially enjoy the climate after a light rain. Swarmers are attracted to lights, so it’s not uncommon to see Formosan termites flying around the lights of Baton Rouge in the evenings. Flying times for these termites is sundown to midnight, whereas other species of termite swarmers prefer the daylight hours. No matter where you are – home, work or out shopping – swarmers flying around is a sign that a termite colony is nearby.
What Should I do to Protect my Louisiana Home?
The best step is prevention. Turn off lights around the home or business at night in order to avoid attracting Formosan swarmers to your area. Make sure that windows and doors are screened and sealed, and look for other cracks or gaps around the home’s exterior. Formosan swarmers are very small, so they look for open areas to get underneath the home to start a new colony.
If you notice swarmers around your home, call a professional exterminator. There may be a colony nearby, but that doesn’t mean your home is infested. Still, it’s important to be proactive, and if the exterminator does think you have a problem, a product like Sentricon or Termidor can be offered for control and elimination of Formosan termites.