‘You have to think like them:’ Not the season for termites to play second fiddle – Journal & Courier

Posted: June 6, 2021 at 1:52 am

Here's a video of termites. Wochit

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. If insects were teenagers in a high school cafeteria, cicadas would be sitting at the popular table.

Theyre all the buzz right now.

And termites would be far across the lunch room, wondering, What do they have that we dont have?

For one thing, termites didnt disappear for 17 years and show up all dressed and ready to find a date.

Termites, one insect expert said, dont really go away. Even in the cold months, they dont die, said Curtis Rand, a Purdue University graduate and self-proclaimed termite enthusiast.

Yes, there is such a thing.

Termites are one of my favorite insects, Rand, vice president of Franklin Pest Solutions, told the Journal & Courier. I got into termites when I went into this business and learned more about them. Its not what I studied at Purdue, but Ive studied them since. Theyre neat, when you think about it. When you have to treat for them, you have to think like them.

Termites prefer the warm soil that can be found in Central Indiana during the spring and summer, making their way to the top of the earth in search of wood to eat.(Photo: Courtesy of Franklin Pest Solutions)

Right now, theyre thinking about coming up for air. In the winter months, termites go deeper under ground until the top soil begins to heat up again.

For termites in Indiana, things are heating up. You could say that this is their prom season, prime time for you to be on the lookout.

Central Indiana is prime real estate for termites, Rand said, because of the rich soil that drew farmers here in the first place.

Think about the Indianapolis area, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Rand said. Think of all the vegetation you have, especially where you are, with the Wabash River running through heart of the city, all that moisture.

Indiana built up as the farmers tilled up the land, which is very fertile soil. They took away the trees for farming, but the termites didnt go anywhere.

So, the termites needed to munch on something.

When we think about termites, most of our world was wood water, the earth and termites were there to take care of the underbrush, Rand said. They serve a very good purpose for breaking down trees."

Through his professional study of insects, Rand believes all inspects serve a purpose except one. Mosquitoes.

I still havent figured out the reason for them.

Termites prefer the warm soil that can be found in Central Indiana during the spring and summer, making their way to the top of the earth in search of wood to eat.(Photo: Courtesy of Franklin Pest Solutions)

Back to termites.

Unfortunately we put a bunch of houses where those trees used to be, so they eat our homes. We do want termites in our world, we just dont want them in our homes.

Termites especially like Indiana and Illinois, he said, because the ground temperature doesnt get too cold.

In Alaska, for example, you dont find many termites, Rand said.

Termites, beneficial to ecosystem as a whole, aren't considered "pests" until they invade our homes. Remember, they're encountering us in their environment, Rand said.

"Termites are much older than human beings," Rand reminds us. "Theyve lived through a lot."

This particular insect can be a real pest because it only needs about 1/64th of a inch to squeeze into your world. To get that image in your mind, think about tapping a pencil on a piece of paper. That dot you just made? That's as small a hole as a termite needs.

A key to keeping termites from your home is to keep untreated wood at a distance.

"You cant prevent termites," Rand said, "but what you can do is mitigate potential issues. Some people may have a wood fence that touches a house. Make sure theres a piece of metal between the wood pile and your home, five, 10, 15 feet away."

Curtis Rand, a Purdue University graduate and vice president of Franklin Pest Solutions, is fascinated by termites, a "pest" that does serve a purpose.(Photo: Courtesy of Franklin Pest Solutions)

While termites will remain in our environment for the unforeseeable future, Rand described a successful, non-invasive way of removing them from your immediate environment.

And this non-invasive trick plays on a termite's hierarchy of eating: the worker termite eats, then throws up the food for the soldier termite, who then feeds the queen.

The worker termite, according to the experts, is the only type that actually eats wood. The rest the soldier and the queen eat what the worker termite provides.

A Sentricon bait trap, Rand said, for example, attracts the worker termites, who feed on the bait and regurgitate yuck! as the food source for the soldier termites and the queen. When the workers die, they can't feed the queen and/or the soldiers, who then die.

The queen and soldiers die from one of two ways: either from being fed the bait in the regurgitated food or from lack of food, because the workers that feed them have died.

"When a queen dies," Rand said, "the colony dies."

Rand said exterminators aren't in the business of killing pests so much as they are concerned with removing them from our path. In his decades of work, he's encountered many a pest, with any number of legs and eyes.

One memorable visit involved inspecting a commercial kitchen.

"When I removed one of the ceiling tiles, thousands of cockroaches fell on my head," he said.

During another notable inspection, Rand came across some books. On the surface, one particular book seemed in good condition. But when he opened the spine, the inside pages had been eaten away.

And what was the name of the book?

"The Bible."

Deanna Watson is the executive editor at the Journal & Courier. Contact her at dwatson@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @deannawatson66.

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'You have to think like them:' Not the season for termites to play second fiddle - Journal & Courier

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