Termites can unexpectedly explode from a tiny hole in a wall or a crack in cement creating a horrific scene for homeowners known as a termite swarm. The swarm is the emergence of large numbers of reproductive termites from a termite colony, usually in the spring when conditions are just right. These winged insects, brownish black and about the size of a grain of rice, surface in Kansas on a warm (around 80° F) afternoon usually after a rainy period. They emerge in large numbers, sometimes totaling hundreds of insects.

Why are the termites streaming out of a crack in the basement or garage, or gathering on a window in a living room? Termites have a caste system where the colony creates certain members who take care of specific tasks. The colony has produced a large numbers of alates, or reproductives, and they are leaving the colony to start new families. The swarmers are like sexually active teenagers that have launched and are looking for a mate to hook up with and start a new clan. The colony has matured to the point where it has produced a brood of “prince and princess” reproductives through the winter and conditions are just right to allow these insects to succeed in their natural task.

How do I handle a swarm if it occurs in or around my home?

By the time you notice a swarm of termites, usually the emergence of insects is over. It’s a lot like having one of your kids throw up- you can’t put the mess back where it came from, you just need to clean it up.

The first thing to do is capture a few of the insects for identification later. You can do this by using a piece of transparent tape, or scraping a few bugs into a zip lock baggie. Certain physical characteristics are keys to telling if the specimens are ants or termites. The easiest is to look at the body segmentation. Ants have an easily identifiable segmentation with a sort of hour-glass look where you can see definite body parts: head, thorax and abdomen. A termite has an unbroken silhouette that resembles a grain of rice and is about that size. There are several other keys, such as antennae and wing length, but these are a bit more difficult to determine. The County Extension Office in each county has literature and personnel which can help identify which species you have, or, good sources can be found on the internet. A seasoned pest control professional can also provide identification.

As far as what to do with all of the bugs crawling around, a vacuum cleaner is your best tool for dealing with the mess. Just vacuum up the insects. It’s much better to vacuum up the bugs rather than spray a bunch of insecticide. You’re still going to have to clean up the mess. The trauma of being sucked up in a tornado-like wind, forced through a long tunnel and flung into a dark, prison-like bag will usually do in termite or ant swarmers.

What are other signs that I might have termites?

Termites are cryptic, which means that try to remain hidden. Subterranean termites live in a closed system to control humidity and heat. Swarming is one of the few times termites will expose themselves to the outside world with light and uncontrolled heat and humidity.

Termite mud tubes, or shelter tubes, are used by termites to span open spaces. They use these dirt constructed tunnels to move from the soil to wood while remaining contained in a controlled atmosphere. These tubes, constructed of soil and termite sputum, are about the size of the wire on a phone charging cable when they are first started. The tubes are used by moving wood back to the colony where it is consumed by the all members.  They can be seen running up foundation walls.

Also, soft wood with mud caked to it can be a sign of termite activity. Termites also eat the sheetrock paper behind wallpaper or painted surfaces. If you see wrinkled areas of wallpaper or painted walls where it appears to be hollowed out, this can be a sign of termites.

What are the best termite solutions?

The best response to a termite infestation in your home or business is to contact a professional pest control expert. Controlling termites that invade your home is a task that is beyond the expertise of most homeowners.

In the past 80 years, most termite activity was treated with liquid termiticides. These treatments usually required hundreds of gallons of insecticides to be injected into the soil in and around a home. During the past 20 years, chemical companies have developed baits, such as Sentricon© or Advanced© Termite Bait which work to stop termites from feeding on homes and other structures. Baits like Sentricon© offer the advantage of controlling termite activity with ounces of materials instead of hundreds of gallons of insecticides.  Sentricon© has been proven to kill the termite queen. It has the advantage of being environmentally sound while being less intrusive when being installed. Patton Termite & Pest believes that the Sentricon© Termite Colony Elimination System with Always Active™ Technology offers the best solution to stop termites from eating you home.

If you have termites in your home, call Patton Pest & Termite today at (316)773-3825 or visit them online at https://www.pattontermiteandpest.com/.