Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Termite Swarmers


Horticulture Hotline 06/22/21

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


We had a very dry spring, so the termite swarm season came later than it normally does. Termite swarms are a crazy phenomenon of nature. All the sudden usually after a spring rain, termites come flying out of an old stump, firewood pile, or some other area of dead wood by the thousands!  Which is not really a problem itself; however, swarmers could indicate a problem. In New Orleans the termite swarms can be so thick that nighttime baseball games can be suspended or cancelled because the swarmers block the lights. The streets will also go black as the termites fly to the street lights.


Swarmers are winged, flying termites that are generally attracted to light. Certain times a year, termites come out of the ground and fly. These termites do not eat wood, but they are a good indicator that an active colony is nearby. Usually, you will see them swarming near an old stump or woodpile. No reason to worry, termites are just Mother Nature’s decomposers.


When you see them in your house or building, there may be colony underneath your structure. First, identify the nuisance to be sure they are not flying ants (look at online pictures, take them to your local Possum’s or local Clemson Extension Office). Ants have a constricted abdomen (like the waist of a body builder) and a termite’s body tapers straight down (more like a middle-aged person). You will usually find termite swarmers and their wings in window sills because they fly towards light.


If you determine that you do have termite swarmers and your house or building is under contract (bond) with a Pest Management Professional, contact them right away. If your house is not under contract, call 3 companies and get estimates. Do not necessarily go with the lowest bid, this is your house we are talking about, look to see what their warranties are, how long they have been in business or do they have referrals you can contact, how often they propose to retreat, do they cover Formosan Termites, who pays for damage, who pays for retreats, how much does the yearly inspection cost … 


Remember the swarmers are a nuisance. They do not eat wood. Kill them just to clean up the mess; however, a soil treatment or a baiting system by a professional is going to be your long-term fix. Remember your house is probably your biggest investment.


It is a great time to apply SeaHume and Cotton Burr Compost by Back to Nature (watch out for imposters of the Cotton Burr Compost) to your lawn and beds. It has been a few months since some of you have fertilized your lawn and shrubs. We have had some very heavy rains recently as well. If you are not on a program based on a soil test, 17-00-09 that is 100% slow release will keep your turf, trees and shrubs healthy. Have you pruned your azaleas and camellias for next year? You want to complete this pruning by the Fourth of July. Did you apply your preemergent for late germinating weeds? Mosquitoes, flies, wasps, and especially fire ants are stinging topics at Possum’s.