Why do Formosan Termites Swarm
Why do Formosan Termites Swarm?
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 can be offered for control and elimination of Formosan termites.
Main features of formosan termite swarmers
The Formosan subterranean termites are the cause of the biggest economical damage to properties in the US in the last century.
Imported from south Asia in the 40s they exceed the native species in numbers of individuals in the colony which makes them the fastest in destruction of the wooden structures.
One fully grown colony of Formosan termite can have up to several millions of termites and accordingly up to several million mouths to feed.
This result in the colony being able to chew abound 400 grams of wood every day, and if that’s not enough – then remember that they can cause an irreversible damage to your property in less than 3-month time.
So what can you do, facing the enemy so small and so overwhelmingly numerous? The best way of dealing with termites is to prevent an infestation.
The best way of prevention – is to have a plan of protection of your structure while it is still in construction. That way you have all kinds of barrier and soil treatment methods at hand.
And what if you don’t build from scratch and just want to live in the house and be able to recognize the danger?
Ants or termites?
Let’s start with the easy one – once noticing some insects in your home check that it’s really a termite and not an innocent ant.
The winged form of the insect is the one that can seem confusing.
So if you want to know the difference between termite swarmers and winged ants – here’re some points for you:
- termites do not have a narrow waist like the ants;
- the termite alates wings are similarly shaped and can be folded strait along the body, the ants have the wings which are significantly longer on the outer side and cannot fold on each other;
- the second pair of the wings of the flying ant is noticeably smaller, the termites have both pairs of wings the same size;
- ants antennas look like bent strings and the antennas of the termite have an appearance of straight string of pearls.
And how can you notice the infestation and tell if it’s a Formosan termite threatening your household or a native one?
The worker termites of different subterranean species look quite similar, so for seeing the difference you will need the alates (winged termites).
Before we get to this, let me tell you a little bit about the structure of the colony of the Formosan subterranean termite.
See formosan termite swarmer pictures below:
The termite colony structure
There are three casts in any termite colony:
The workers are the foraging food providers – they’re the ones who pose the danger to wooden structures. All the members of the termite colony are feeding on the cellulose the workers bring.
The soldiers are the protectors of the nest. They attack mostly the invaders of the other species, but might bite even a human if they have no choice.
And the reproductives are simply designed to reproduce, to form the new colonies and lay more eggs. The reproductives in the termite colony are:
The swarmers appear in the colony not earlier then in 3-5 years after its establishment, when it’s fully mature.
The single colony can produce up to 70 000 alates who are all determined to establish new colony wherever they land.
The Formosan subterranean termites are the most spread in the south-east states, such as Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia and Hawaii.
Now, we will be speaking about formosan termites swarming season. The typical time for the swarms to appear in the air is from April to July, when the weather is warm and humid, and the conditions are ideal for the new colonies to settle and thrive.
Identification of the swarmers
The swarmers are the members of the termite colony that can be used to surely recognize the species of termites infesting the house. The alates of the Formosan termite are pale yellow brown and about 12-15mm long.
All this better be determined by a professional unless you have a good magnifying glass and interest in entomology.
The swarm normally takes off from the nest all at once, usually in the warm and rainy early morning or night. Termites are the day swarmers, so after the short flight they lose their wings and start looking where to build a new nest.
As they need to use their wings for only one day, flying is not the strongest side of termites. So, once in the air, they just flit for some meters and fall. The thing you should pay attention to is where the swarm comes from.
If it goes out of the tree roots or a stump, there’s a good chance the house is not infested yet – but, of course, it’s a signal that the colony is nearby and you have to keep your eyes open. Or better start the preventive barrier measures straight away.
But even if there is no notion of alive swarmers inside or around your house, it doesn’t mean that there are no termites present.
The alates are attracted to the light, so after the swarming day, check your windowsills and doorsills for any sign of wings.
The same goes for the places where the moisture is accumulating in the house: In the sink, shower or bathroom.
Here you can learn more information about effective treatment method called tenting (fumigation): dangers for termites, preparing for fumigation and cleaning after, how long does this procedure last?
Once on the ground, the alates lose their wings, find a mating partner and bury themselves in the ground to start setting up a new nest and lay the eggs. There are only two things needed for the new colony to take off – enough food and enough moisture.
Most of the subterranean termites meet these conditions as they biologically should underground.
But there’re also plenty of so-called aerial colonies, which are occurring on the flat roofs of modern buildings where the rainwater is always collected and the entry points for food foraging are present.
And for the entry points – just few cracks in cement will do. That’s why there are so many problems with termites in seemingly hardly achievable from the underground modern industrial buildings.
Obviously, not all the swarmers are surviving to establish a new colony. The absolute majority is eaten by the birds or another insect or the swarm might arise in the conditions which do not let any of winged termites to survive, for example inside the building. Sadly, if this happens it’s a clear sign of the infestation.
How long do formosan termites swarm? Once settled, the couple of new king and queen mate and the female lays 15-30 eggs which hatch 2-4 weeks later. All this time the couple is taking care of them, as they also do for the next couple of generations.
When there’re enough workers and soldiers in the new colony, the queen devotes herself to lying eggs only and can be laying from hundred to thousand eggs a day.
If you interested in more information of termites we recommend you to read the following articles:
This video features Formosan termite alates swarming outdoors near a home:
The swarm is an unpleasant thing, but if you look at this the other way – it’s one clear sign that can tell you that your property is in danger.
Once you found any alive or dead termites or even just some wings in your house, don’t hesitate – call the pest control.
As much as you might like to save money and protect you house yourself – that’s not the right time for it.
The economic damage the colony can cause to your building in case of your poor judgment will lead to you loosing much more on the reconstruction.
The experts do not know how to recognize NON -OBVIOUS SIGNS OF TERMITES or before it has become an infestation. In 2 years I had 4 different companies come to inspect my condo. Just had the last one here last Monday. He, like the 3 experts before him said I did not have termites in my condo. I asked him about the patio ceiling and what were these peculiar dots all in a row. He had no answer.
Now exactly 7 days later there is about 2″ 2 to 3″ of a mud tube hanging down from the patio ceiling. There are 2 of them plus some others that are not as far along. The dots that I asked him about that I had not noticed before but did notice a week ago when he came to inspect he said nothing about. He did not have any answer. I know more than they do sometimes because I have obsessively studied all about termites for the last 2 years since I 1st suspected termites. I do not know where the colony is but I am certain there is one at least 1 because it only took 7 days or 6 days maybe even 5 days for it to become noticeable, if you looked for it in the ceiling. I can see day to are beginning to develop some things protruding out from the ceiling it is just a matter of days or hours before those dots turn into mud tubes also.
This makes my point that until the signs are obvious whereby anybody could notice it if they knew what to look for the then the experts themselves are not able to tell you that you have them until extensive damage has alredy been done. Although all 4 exterminators said I had no termites I did not believe them because I know my home!
Nobody could answer so many questions I had such as what is eating my furniture? Why is paint chipping on the walls and the baseboard? What is growing in my carpet? No matter how many times A-day or week I vacuum when I roll the lint tape over my carpet AFTER i have vacuumed this area it always comes up with black-and-white or off white things that could look like large salt granules and coffee beans. Under a microscope they look like baby insects that are still sleeping. So i assume they are in the nymph stages.
I even tell them many details and factual information about the condo such that the conditions have been very conducive for termites. My condo has had many plumbing leaks for more than 4 years and the water heater bursted and flooded out my entire condo. furthermore there are many cracks and entry points in to my condo right in the front door because I can see the light through the door underneath where there are large gaps and no seal.
If I waited for these so called experts to tell me whether or not I had termites or not I
Would have spent much more money because so much time has past from the first time 2 years ago the first exterminator inspector man came to inspect in and outside my condo. I treated my home myself I did not need these so called experts who were untrained to tell me what they didn’t know but I already knew without their help
If you are a homeowner and you care about your home and plan to stay there a long be sure to take care of all plumbing leaks right away without any delay. ALSO, do not let any cracks go unnoticed and get it repaired immediately.
You have to do the small things and give your home to TLC it needs through the years. If you take care of your home and are proactive and preventative your home will take care of you for many years to come!
Otherwise you will be in a very badd position later on. Once the infestation occurs when the inspector tells you that you have termites it’s already too late because the damage has been done. IT will cost you thousands of dollars so you best have some treatments every few years to keep your home safe, sealed and sound.
The experts do not know how to recognize NON -OBVIOUS SIGNS OF TERMITES or before it has become manifestation. In 2 years I had 4 different companies come to inslect my condo. Just had the last one hereast Monday. He, like the 3 experts before him said I did not have termites in my condo. I asked him about the patio ceiling and what were these peculiar dots all in a row. He had no answer.
Now exactly 7 days later there is about 2″ 2 to 3″ of a mud tube hanging down from the patio ceiling. There are 2 of them plus some others that are not as far along. The dots that I asked him about that I had not noticed before but did notice a week ago when he came to inspect he said nothing about and I believe because I can see day to are beginning to develop some things protruding out from the ceiling it is just a matter of days or hours before those dots turn into mud tubes.
This makes my point that until the signs are obvious whereby anybody could notice it if they knew what to look for the then the experts themselves are not able to tell you that you have them until extensive damage has alredy been done. Although all 4 injure exterminators said I’d a had no termites I did not believe them because I know my home. Nobody could answer so many questions I had such as what is eating my furniture? Why is paint chipping on the walls and the baseboard? What is growing in my carpet? No matter how many times A-day or week I back him every time I roll the tape lint take over this area it always comes up with black-and-white or off white thing that could look like Lord salt granules or coffee beans. Under a microscope they look like baby insects that are still sleeping. So i assume they are in the nymph stages.
I even tell them many details and factual information about the condo such that the conditions have been very conducive for termites. My condo has had many plumbing leaks for a for more than 4 years and the water heater bursted and flooded out my entire condo. furthermore there are many cracks and entry points in to my condo right in the front door because I can see the light through the door underneath where there are large gaps and no seal.
If I waited for these so called experts to tell me whether or not I had termites or not I
Would have spent much more money because so much fun last. I treated my home myself I did not need these so called experts who were untrained to tell me what they didn’t know but I already knew without their help
If you are a homeowner can you care about your home and plan to stay there a long time it would do you well to take care of all plumbing leaks right away and do not let any cracks go on noticed and and repaired otherwise you will be in a very badd position later on. Once the infestation occurs once that and in specter can tell you that you have termites it’s already too late the damage has been done and it will cost you thousands of dollars so you best have some treatments every few years and keep your home safe sealed and sound.