Very soon panic will set in for millions of homeowners across this great land of ours. Our homes, the very safe and secure place in which we live is under attack from a stealthy, silent, subterranean intruder who neither cares about the pain he’ll cause you or the shock and horror that besets your beleaguered mind when he is found out. For months perhaps years they have quietly weakened the very foundation of your once mighty castle and now they choose to launch an all out assault sending 1000’s of assailants deep into enemy lines as if to indignantly proclaim what you’ve spent years to build as their own. Sadly, the damage at this point may have already been done and you wonder; “If I had only seen them coming, I could have done something to make a difference.”
If your worried that this article was proclaiming the vast government take over relax, it’s not quite that drastic. (although it seems more likely than ever) What I’m speaking of here is the annual swarms of subterranean termites and hopefully alerting you in time to take some action. In Florida it has already begun and with spring on its way the rest of the nation (void in Alaska) will soon be experiencing this seasonal exodus which is one of natures greatest spectacles.
While termites live in complete darkness this is the one time of year they head for the exits to embrace the light for a few short hours only to slip silently back into their underground abyss never to be seen again. In 2 to 3 years if the new colony which they have formed is successful the king and queen will send out their hoards to repeat the process. Since termites live in concealment it is sometimes next to impossible to even have the slightest hint that maybe tens of thousands of these swarmers are just on the other side of your family portrait hidden in the walls waiting for just the right moment to fill the air in a grand mating scheme.
There is one clue however that any home owner can and should be looking out for at this time of year. Exit holes for the subterranean termite are usually spotted on drywall, door frames or other places in the home but often discounted. Normally you notice what seems like a tiny speck of dirt and wipe it away. Later that day or the next you may see that the dirt is back and now you are scratching your head. Wiping it away once again you may now see tiny antenna or a small bugs head popping in and out of the hole and now your brain is really going. What you’re actually looking at is the ‘doorway’ termites use to send swarms of reproductive termites out into the air where they can complete their life cycle and keep the species alive. These holes are made especially for the swarmers and usually built a short time before the swarm. It’s hard to imagine so many bugs come out of one tiny hole but it is also common to have other exit holes near by. Behind the hole may be what is called a swarm castle. This area is usually smoothed by the workers and all areas of possible ‘friction’ is either mudded over or groomed. Swarmer termite wings are very fragile and if they become torn or damaged that could impact the
success of the event. I have scooped out as much as 5 shovel fill’s of castle mud from walls that were opened. We opened the wall to asses the damage but much to everyones surprise there was very little, instead the area was smoothed out almost as if someone sanded it with a fine grade of sand paper. It is ‘my theory’ that drywall areas are chosen most often because the surface is almost already prepared for the termite and very little additional work needs to be done.
There seems to be no real rhyme or reason to where termites will choose to swarm out of. I have found them coming out of stumps, the open ground, pianos, ceilings, baseboards, floorboards, you name it. What I do know is that it is normally a springtime event, sometime in the mid morning almost always the day after a rain shower. While clues of their presence is sometimes no bigger than the tip of a sharpened pencil and sometimes you can’t find it at all. At least you can keep your eyes peeled this spring for that perpetual speck of mud which may be your only clue, of the coming invasion.