The earwig is 6 inches below the soil nestled in a chamber she picked out months ago while the newly crowned yellow jacket bides her time to take the throne huddled beneath the bark of an old stump. The icy air and and piles of snow have put a full stop on the kingdom of insects and even though they have ways to cope with the cold and wait out the winter – many won’t make it when the sunshine finally smiles on the land and brings the warm weather of spring.
There is however one horde of insects who has been busy over the long cold season. Below the frost line where temperatures stay steady they’ve expanded the nest, created new tunnels and found an old stash of 2×4’s in some construction debris under the house next door. Foraging deeper under ground the termites have planned well to make it through the time when they’ve been cut off from surface food. Subterranean termites don’t hibernate, they don’t over winter but their activity above ground does slow down- or does it?
Busy All Year
Unseen and silent, this is the time of year when thousands of termites are working on a special project which is above grade and one that is right under your nose. With the warmth of your home heating the walls subterranean termites spend the last few weeks of winter building swarm castles where alates will emerge in a frenzied swarm. All this just behind the flat screen TV or the family portrait hanging on the wall.
A swarm castle is an area especially groomed for the winged termites to give them every chance for a successful mating flight. Wood is smoothed so wings don’t catch, break or tear and the choice of walls is usually on the side of the home where the sun shines longest and is warmer. Drywall or plaster board is a favorite because it is smooth already and the paper backing is something they can eat. The ‘staging’ area where the flying termites wait for the word to go is often one very large mud cave rather than many little tubes which is what they normally travel in.
Eastern Subterranean termites almost always swarm in the morning between 10 to 12 a day after a rain. (this can vary). Most often the homeowner has no idea of the legion of flying termites just on the other side of the wall that they’ve looked at all winter long. Sometimes however, they may notice small specks of mud appearing somewhere on the white wall but wiping it away they don’t give it a second thought. After-all it’s been cold outside so long and they haven’t seen a bug for months. Termites are the last thing on their minds.
Well it’s been a long week sloshing to work and it’s a beautiful Saturday morning with the sun shining brightly. You just might head out in the yard to plant some flowers later but right now it’s you, a cup of coffee and the morning paper. Sitting in your coziest chair, the suns rays feel so good coming through the window. It’s gonna be a great day with no worries and you have a peace from feeling safe in your solid but comfortable home. Hopefully for you the day ends well and no troubles arise but for millions of Americans every spring, it is just the calm before the swarm.