Just how far will termites go?

I’ve got a couple interesting questions from our ‘Ask the Bug Doctor’ page in the last couple days and one in particular I experienced first hand on 2 seperate days this week myself.

Lisa from Orlando writes;


I was at the mall today and had to park quite a distance away from the doors-the parking lot is huge and almost all asphalt except for a few tiny islands with grass and small trees. I parked near one and literally millions of winged termites were coming out it. My question is how could so many termites live in that island and how could they find enough food to eat since there was only a little bit of mulch? Also could these termites attack the mall stores even they were so far away? (Probably 500 feet)


This would be a great question in and of itself but for me it’s even better since I saw the same exact same thing twice in one week and the questions that ran across my mind were pretty much the same as Lisa’s. Fortunately I had my camera in my truck and I also found a pretty good video of termites in a tunnel so hopefully we’ll all come to a greater understanding of termites and just how they can live even in seemingly impossible places. Here is my response;

Lisa, I too saw this same thing twice this week in 2 different parking lots and wondered about the same things you did. As for the termites finding enough to eat, they must be doing fine if the colony has grown enough to produce swarmers. Only a mature healthy colony will produce this caste of termites. ie: All termites start out the same (workers) and can change into either a soldier or reproductive later down the line by molting according to the colonies needs. If say an ant colony does some serious damage and a ton of soldiers die-the colony will begin to make more soldiers to replenish what was lost. So for them to make swarmers, I’d say they have found plenty of food. In fact I’d say there is plenty of food (wood) underneath the asphalt surface. Most malls and shopping centers were at one time just land with trees and while I’m sure most were hauled off with construction there would probably be many roots, stumps or other buried food sources for them to find including the mulch that they constantly replenish in the parking lot islands. For the length of distance they will go most agree that about 200 feet is pushing the limit but in nature you should never limit any creature to a set number-they’ll fool you every time.
Thanks for a GREAT Question and Happy shopping!

I appreciate all my readers and the great questions they have–keeps me on my toes– If you have a question about a bug or anything pest control related please ask me. I’ll do my best to answer it from what I know and if I can’t we have quite a group of professionals on our Facebook group pestcemetery.com. Pest control can be a challenge but the answers are not very far away.

Quick video of tunneling termites

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.
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  • Mel

    Would a satellite colony extent the foraging distance another 200+ feet?

  • The Bug Doctor

    Wow, what a great observation-I hadn’t even given that a thought. I hardly think of satellite colonies for termites especially this time of year with all the swarms but I know they have them. Either as a back up or if a disaster strikes and the queen dies or something like a flood separates the workers from ‘home base.’ The other reason is for exactly like you so alertly said… They are always looking for food and these ‘forward stations’ are places where all castes exist and definitely puts the 200 feet or more rule in play.
    GREAT CALL !

    I hereby declare Mel’s thoughts as commentary of the day!