Monday, May 4, 2009

For Mother's Day, It's Swarming Termites

I wish I could say that I moved back to Louisiana, bought a nice house on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, and now sit on my porch in the evenings drinking Mint Juleps as I'm fanned by a sexy, shirtless man. But that's not what happened.

This summer I will have been back in the New Orleans metropolitan area for nearly two years and what do I have to show for it? Lizards, tree frogs, black snakes, and swarming termites for Mother's Day.

Tonight I will not step outside. Around 10:00, my son came in and said, "Mom, I just want to warn you that I'm hearing lots of talk on Facebook about termites."

"Oh, that reminds me. Your grandfather told me to get the house treated for termites," I said and thought no more of it. Twenty minutes later I heard the WDSU TV anchor team talking to weather reporter Margaret Orr.

It was all good, they said, until the termites. And then Orr goes into how we're being plagued with swarming Formosan subterranean termites that show up as soon as the ground gets warm. Hmm. I don't remember those growing up.

I remember the stinging caterpillars, but not the swarming termites. I recall the cockroaches, mosquitoes, salamanders and "Lizard, lizard show me your blanket." I remember the toad that jumped on my foot and peed when I was 8, the nutria, and the mice. The ticks. The fire ants and chiggers/red bugs eating me up on the levee.

I recall the black snake in my garden last year, the wasps that took up residence by my front door, the swarms of black "love bugs," the bright green tree frogs that like to come and watch us while stuck to the living room window at night, and the alligator I almost ran over on I-10, but I do not remember swarming termites!

So, I looked the little nuisances up and found this 2008 article.

Heavy rains recently triggered the swarming season for Formosan subterranean termites in Louisiana. These evening swarms typically start around Mother’s Day and can last into July as the winged termites, called alates, look for mates to start new colonies. (emphasis added by the blogger)

According to LSU AgCenter entomologist Gregg Henderson, Formosan termites can swarm up to 100 yards from their nests.

“If you see swarms, try to locate where they are coming from,” Henderson said. “And most importantly, are they coming from your home or a tree nearby your home?”

An infestation in the home should be treated right away, he said.

For 20 years, the LSU AgCenter has been monitoring termite swarms and population shifts.

Believed to have entered Louisiana and other Southern coastal states in wooden crates that were returned from the Pacific Rim during and after World War II, Formosan subterranean termites have steadily increased in number over the past 60 years. They have moved north from New Orleans and Lake Charles and now have been found in all parishes south of I-10 and I-12 as well as in some areas of Central and North Louisiana.

“Weather patterns and climate changes affect the termite population,” Henderson explained. “A drought will reduce their numbers.”

Following Hurricane Katrina, Henderson started looking for areawide control measures around levees. (Extension Service, 2008 article)
What? They start swarming around Mother's Day? That's this Sunday. So, I think this must be an accurate article from last year.

I also found this video from which I determined the termites will meet me in daylight.

And perhaps my memory's not so faulty after all. More than likely they weren't quite as bad 20 years ago, which means when I moved away nearly 30 years ago, they may not have been so prominent in the city.

I'll just add this new information to my notes from The Exterminators on A&E. While watching it I learned Louisiana is flush with black widows and brown recluse spiders.

Wait, my daughter just walked in. "Mom! I just killed two termites in the kitchen and three in the bathroom." ... Lovely. Just lovely.


This article is cross-posted at, where Nordette Adams is a Contributing Editor. She is also the New Orleans Literature Examiner. Her other personal blogs this one, which is WSATA, and The Urban Mother Book of Prayers at which she's recently posted a mother's poem, "Song of the Near Empty Nest."


Blue State Cowgirl said...

Ick. Just ick. Our old wooden houses in San Francisco can be plagued with termites. Even if you are trying to be crunchy granola green, there's nothing to do but call in the experts, get the house tented and sprayed.

Meanwhile, you need to find a porch somewhere and a Mint Julep!

le0pard13 said...

I'm the official spider terminator in my household--too bad because spiders (for the most part) prey on other insects you don't want around. But, I'll kill a black widow in a heartbeat because I don't want them anywhere around my children (kids, elderly, and the sick are at most risk of serious effects). Brown Recluses are shy but find their way to to clothes and bedding (which causes them to bite when people slip into them). They have necrotic toxin (vs. the muscle spasming venon of the widows)--meaning it destroys tissue. Learned that one from a co-worker that had a missing tip of a finger (from a recluse bite). I don't envy those in LA. ;-)

Marvalus said...

Aack! Dang...I was thinking of making Louisiana my next place of residence...I wanna go down south.

I can't deal with snakes and bugs...ewww...

Vérité Parlant said...

Marva, if I can take it, so can you. :-) I used to be afraid to touch a picture of a snake as a child.

le0, my cousin who also lives down here, was bitten by a brown recluse on her leg. She has a story to tell. Yuck!

Lisa, I hope the ones we saw during the swarm just found their way in through a crack, but I will be calling the exterminator.