COLLEGE STATION — The recent rains in much of Texas will be bringing out swarms of subterranean termites over the next several weeks. Homeowners have several options when choosing how they will control them, said Dr. Roger Gold, urban entomologist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.
There have been reports of termites already swarming in Galveston and Houston; other areas of the state should be seeing them soon.
If homeowners suspect there’s a problem with termites, the best thing to do is have a thorough inspection, Gold said. That can either be done by a professional pest control operator or by the homeowner by looking for swarms or the mud tubes in the ground.
Houses or other buildings can be treated for termites in several ways. If termites are found after the house is built, it may be necessary for the pest control operator to drill holes in concrete to inject the termiticide into the areas of the home. That may disrupt family activities if the operator has to cut into walls to get to bath traps and shower stalls.
The second treatment is effective against the subterranean and the Formosan termite, another species found in Texas. Cellulose, or wood, that’s been impregnated with a pesticide is used as a bait to draw termites in. The bait is carried back to the queen and other reproductive termites to wipe out the entire colony.
Preventative treatment takes place before the house is constructed. During pre-treatment, some of the termiticide is applied to the ground and around the structure where the home is to be built and lasts about four to five years, according to research at Texas A&M.
“That acts as a chemical barrier to the invading termites,” he said.
Swarms are the result of the mating season of the subterranean termite. That termite is fairly recognizable, Gold said. They’re dark black and slightly larger than a queen fire ant (about 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch). They initially have two pairs of wings which are very transparent when they swarm, but they lose the wings very quickly.
The queen termite normally will try to find a place very rapidly where there is damp wood that has contact with the soil.
“That’s why it’s important on building sites that we break the ground to wood contact,” he said.
Even though a swarm or colony can strike fear in a homeowner’s heart, Gold said, it may take quite a while for termites to destroy a house. “The major problem is that people fear them because they devalue the home, or (an infestation) indicates that there is going to have to be some type of a treatment,” Gold said.
However, there is really no rush to take the first bid or estimate that comes from a pest control company. “Take your time, get the facts, have several different companies come out and appraise the situation.
“And then, deal with the company that proposes the best approach,” he said. “Don’t get in a hurry, because the termites are actually fairly easy to stop.”
Even though the chemicals to treat the home can be purchased legally, Gold recommended homeowners not attempt this job. Most people don’t have the equipment necessary to tackle the job, he said, and a professional pest control operator knows how to do the job in compliance with safety regulations.
Before buying an older home, Gold suggested having a licensed inspector go over the home thoroughly. The inspections need to be made correctly, he said, because a house is a major investment for a family. “And if there is a mistake made, this can be very serious for a family,” he said.