Termites Swarming in Texas

Writer: Edith A. Chenault, (979) 845-2886,e-chenault1@tamu.edu
Contact: Dr. Roger Gold, (979) 845-5855,r-gold@tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION -– It’s spring, and termites are swarming. With that comes another chance for termites to invade homes and businesses in Texas.

This photograph shows Formosan termite damage to a section of a treated cross tie. The damage goes to the treated area – or the black band around the edge – then stops. (Texas Cooperative Extension photo by Edith Chenault)

Two major groups of subterranean termites – natives and Formosan, – make Texas their home.

Native subterranean termites have already swarmed in South Texas, and it is now swarming season in Central and North Texas, said Dr. Roger Gold, Texas Cooperative Extension entomologist.

Considered the most destructive insect wood pests in the U.S., subterranean termites cause more than $2 billion in damage each year. Subterranean termites are found throughout the U.S., with the greatest concentration in the Southeast.

Native subterranean termites live in nests or colonies in the soil, Gold said, and feed on dead trees and brush. But when land is cleared of this material for construction of buildings, termites will attack these structures, he said.

These insects enter buildings through wood in direct contact with the soil, shelter tubes they build or directly through cracks or joints in and under foundations, he said.

The primary native subterranean termite – which is swarming now – is coal black to yellow-brown, about one-fourth to three-eighths of an inch in length (a little longer than a pencil eraser), and has wings with a few distinct veins, he said.

Formosan termites swarm in the summer. This termite is a newcomer, having only been in Texas for a little more than 50 years

The ones that swarm are yellowish-brown, about a half-inch long, and have wings with two heavily pigmented veins near the front edge and no connecting cross veins.

Formosan termites often make aerial nests – commonly called a carton – of wood, saliva and fecal material. These can be as large as several cubic feet and may not have ground contact.

Even though they cause the same type of damage as native subterranean termites, they inflict this damage more rapidly.

Also, more than 47 plant species – such as pecan, citrus, wild cherry, cherry laurel, sweet gum, cedar, willow and wax myrtle – have been attacked by Formosan termites.

“Formosan termites also have been known to eat through non-cellulose material, such as thin sheets of soft metal such as lead or copper, asphalt, plaster, creosote, rubber and plastic searching for food and moisture,” Gold said.

If termites are found swarming around or inside a home, don’t panic, Gold said.

“Termites usually work slowly, so your house will generally not collapse or be ruined overnight,” he said.

He advised following these steps:

- Take the time to learn more about termites, their biology, inspection techniques and treatment options.

- Do not permit anyone to rush you into buying termite control services. Take the time you need to make an informed decision.

- If you are unsure about termites being present, arrange for a thorough termite inspection with a licensed, reputable company.

“Know that costs of inspections, estimates and terms can vary significantly among companies,” Gold said. “Ask for inspections from three or more companies. Ask for recommendations from your friends and neighbors. This is the best way to get an honest opinion about a termite control service.

More information is available from http://termite.tamu.edu .

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