As we move in to the New Year, preparation seems to be the theme. Therefore, over the next two issues, I hope to prepare you for the Termite Swarm/Season that occurs each year; what you can do now, what you can look for, and how you can properly protect your property to minimize costly repairs. And yes, termites are active right now. They may be swarming, but they are eating…hopefully not your home.

The annual termite swarm, of the Eastern Subterranean Termite, occurs when the temperature and humidity/moisture levels reach the optimum level, triggering the “internal clock” of the termite that it’s time to find a mate and start building a new colony. You cannot stop the swarm! You can only protect your property from allowing the termites to establish their “new home” within yours.

The swarm generally occurs during the daytime, typically during the morning of the day following a warm rain. Additionally, several swarms can occur during the season, but for some reason there tends to be one really big swarm followed by one to three smaller swarms. Furthermore, this event begins in the southern areas and gradually moves north, as the soil temperatures and moisture levels reach the optimum level. For these reasons, in Montgomery County, we normally begin to see the swarm from middle to late April. On the day of the “big event”, should you find yourself outside, it will appear as though it’s “snowing”.

Termite swarmers are terrible at flying. They do not have the strength to fight the wind or really even determine the direction they would like to go. So, the wind direction that day will define their next home. Will it be the wooded lot across the street/next door or your fence line or your flowerbed next to your house? Chances are that since several colonies of termites will be swarming at the same time, they will be landing in ALL of these areas.

Don’t panic (yet)! A large percentage of these swarmers will not survive. The birds will be having a buffet. The fire ants consider these guys as caviar. Spider webs will capture enough food for a few weeks. And, they will just die on the hot pavement/concrete, not to mention our windshields and front bumpers. However, the swarmers that do survive will immediately hit the ground and start their own version of “The Bachelor”…mini series version…find a partner and find a “home” in the soil to begin their new colony.

A colony of termites is comprised of 3 castes members: worker, soldier, and reproductive (primary and secondary) and each member has a defined purpose. The colony may consist of 60,000 to over a million workers. FYI…60,000 worker termites can eat 1/5 ounce or 5 grams of wood each day. At this rate, a colony could consume 2 1/3 linear feet of a 2X4 board in 1 year. The worker termite is the damage maker. The soldier termite is the protector of the colony and the reproductive termite is constantly creating and nurturing new termites.

Now that you know when they swarm and a little about the termite, what can you do to protect your property? As I have mentioned for years, mechanical alterations are a requirement for total pest management. Specific mechanical alterations that need to be completed are as follows:

  1. The foundation line (the point where the top of the slab meets the first layer of brick mortar) should be exposed a minimum of two inches. This requires lowering the soil/mulch next to the home; keeping the ground cover 6-12’ from the foundation; removing the vines being allowed to grow on the wall; relocating the storage building from adjoining the structure; relocating the wood pile generally found by the back door; and, not building the wood decks and pool surfaces at door level.
  2. Repair any water leaks from pipes and AC drip lines next to the structure.
  3. Keep shrub limbs from contacting the home. We would suggest that a two foot gap be maintained between the “mature” plant and the home. Therefore, when planning your landscaping you should know the size of the plant at maturity.
  4. Trim tree limbs back 5-8 feet from the structure.
  5. Repair leaking gutters and clean them out.

Great Cary….now that I have all this work to complete, will this keep the termites away from my property? No. But it will assist in minimizing their opportunity to your home and allow you or your pest control company the ability to better inspect and hopefully minimize the amount of time the termite has access to your walls….not to mention the multitude of other insects. So you ask, “how do I protect my largest investment?’ Answer….There has to be a chemical/product deterrent between the termite and the structure.

Next month I will explain the treatment options. Should you desire an evaluation and estimate to protect your property prior to the swarm, please give us a call. The expense associated with treating is considerably less than the cost associated with repairs and treatment.

Until next time, if you’re tired of ”swatin, stompin and throwin” things (at bugs)…give us a call…we’ll Chase’em away …to your neighbors. We are a full service pest control company providing general pest, termite, rodent and misting system services to homes and offices in Montgomery County. If we can assist you with any insect related issue, please give us a call or email me at