I have had several cases within the past year of people coming into my office, handing me a plastic baggy or jar filled with small, winged insects and saying: "Tell me those are flying ants!" Unfortunately, more often than not, they turn out to be termite flyers.
Each spring, flying stages of termites, called alates, swarm around buildings in Georgia. These termites will form new colonies and start reproducing thousands of offspring. Most termites are subterranean, or underground. They are rarely seen until they are discovered inside infested wood in buildings.
Because they are not often seen like other pests, such as roaches or flies, you may think that there is little you can do to prevent termites from invading your home. However, there are a few tips you can follow to make your home less appealing to potential termite invaders.
Termites usually number at least 50,000 to a colony, and they are constantly moving around looking for new food sources, according to UGA Entomologist Brian Forschler. Most of the time, they end up finding a house by accident.
Termites will often follow ‘guidelines,' such as roots, cracks or crevices to find their way into a home. They do not target homes on purpose, but they are simply following the path of least resistance.
Cracks in the foundation or structure of a home are appealing to termites because to them it means most of their tunnel building work has been done. This is why termites are often discovered near expansion joints, like those between the house and garage and near fireplaces and porches.
Darkness and moisture are two conditions associated with a termite infestation. Keeping the sides of your house clean of excess debris will help discourage termite activity. Stumps, fire wood piles and excessive mulch (more than three inches) should be avoided near the exterior walls of a house.
It is also important to keep your house's foundation as dry as possible. Keep excessive mulch from building up right beside your house.
Try to keep a mulch-free area of at least 1 foot adjacent to your foundation. Make sure your gutter down-spouts are redirecting rainwater away from your house. Condensation from air conditioners should also be redirected away from the foundation. Termites will more than likely avoid building tunnels in dry soil.
Subterranean termites cost American consumers more than $1 billion every year in structural damage replacement and to hire pest control services.
Unfortunately, there are currently no chemical products available to the homeowner that will control termite colonies. You must seek the help of a professional termite control company. Termite control contracts can often seem expensive, but they are much cheaper than replacing infested wood in your home.
Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442.