Termite swarms invade southern Louisiana – Houma Courier

Posted: June 14, 2017 at 5:44 pm


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By Dan Copp Staff Writer

Its like a scene from a B horror movie: Swarms of flying invaders establish an underground colony that aims to multiply and destroy everything in its path.

Only this is not a movie, and its happening in your own backyard right now.

An invasive termite species called Formosans are still swarming and making life a veritable nightmare for local residents such as Brittany Boura, 32, from Cut Off.

A few weeks ago they were horrible, Boura said. I went to Frank’s Supermarket and if they didnt have a million of them out there, they didnt have one. Makes my skin crawl thinking about it.

Termites swarm during different times of the year, but what makes the Formosan colonies different is their vast numbers.

Unlike Louisianas native subterranean termites, which contain 300,000 to 400,000 members in each colonies, Formosan colonies can have up to 5 million, said Dan Foster, general manager of Terminix Pest Control’s Houmalocation.

The thing that makes the Formosan so dangerous is that their colonies are so large, Foster said.

Formosan termites are native to East Asia but stowed away on military ships and crates shortly after World War II and made their home in Louisiana and other states along the coast.

They had an Army base out at the lakefront, where the University of New Orleans is today, Foster said. They brought back a lot of equipment from the Pacific, and the termites were inside the wood crates. Thats how they got to New Orleans, and they just spread from there.

The pesky invaders are also plaguing Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and Texas. Because theyre not native to Louisiana, the Formosan termites have no natural predators, Foster said.

Theyll fight with ants, but they pretty much go unchecked if we dont kill them with poisons or baits, he said.

These unwelcomed guests enter your home by building mud tunnels from their nests, and they can eat just about anything from wood to bricks. The insects can come through the plumbing in your bathroom or through a crack in your homes foundation.

Anywhere they can find an opening they will come up from the ground outside and come on in, Foster said. If the Formosan termites land on a roof when they swarm and the male and female can get together to find a spot where theres sufficient moisture, they can create an aerial infestation. That means they actually come from above. The native subterranean termites dont really do that. Thats also one of the ways they are different.

A termite swarm is composed of a colonys reproductive members called alates. Their sole purpose is to mate and spawn even more termites, which create additional headaches for homeowners.

Once they swarm and hit the ground, they drop their wings, and the males and females try to find a place in the soil to start a new colony, Foster said. It takes several years for a colony to get big enough to where it reproduces. You might have colonies that are one year old and you might have colonies that are 20 years old.

Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes have been plagued by the invasive insect for about 25 years now, Foster said.

Although termite swarms are a nuisance, they dont inflict the most damage, said Barton Joffrion, a semi-retired area agent with the LSU Ag Center.

Its a common occurrence during this time of the year, Joffrion said. The swarms are sexually mature adults that move out of the colonies that have become overcrowded or lack adequate food. Theyre looking for a source to set up shop again. Theyll swarm around lights, but theyre not causing any damage. Theyre more of a nuisance than anything. Its the soldiers and workers that cause all the damage.

To thrive, termites have to have a water source, said Dennis Ring, an LSU Ag Center entomologist

If youre not seeing mud tunnels, there is not much to worry about because they will die, Ring said.

According to the LSU Ag Center, termites cost an estimated $1 billion a year in property damage, repairs and control measures.

Its not uncommon to see swarmers in the house, Joffrion said. The best thing to do is to sweep or vacuum them up. But if you keep seeing them, you might want to check to see if you have any colonies around the pipes or outside the areas of the house.

The Formosan problem became so bad in the Southern United States that the government launched a $5 million program in 2001 called Operation Full Stop. Although studies claimed the program diminished the termite population in treated areas by 95 percent, Operation Full Stops federal money was cut in 2011, and the insects mounted an aggressive comeback.

Every year they spread, Foster said. Now theyre all over Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. What makes them so dangerous is that you dont know theyre there until its too late. Theyre insidious and really know how to hide themselves. When the swarms are over, some people get the impression that the termites are gone. But thats when you really need to worry because the ones that do all the damage are the worker termites, which are in your walls and under your floors.

Foster said the best and easiest defense against termites is to get your home checked by a pest control professional.

You need to get your house checked by a professional to see if you have termites, he said. In south Louisiana, you either have had, do have or will have termites if you dont do something about it. These termites will be around a long time unless someone stops them.

–Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 857-2202 or at dan.copp@houmatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter@DanVCopp.

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Termite swarms invade southern Louisiana – Houma Courier

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