Blinding Termite Swarms Can Suddenly Appear Within Homes And Buildings In New Orleans

New Orleans’ historic French Quarter is well known for containing numerous architecturally tasteful structures. During the late 18th century, a widespread fire destroyed much of the quarter’s original Creole-style houses. During the early 19th century, houses constructed in the Greek Revival style came to replace many of the original first generation Creole structures. These houses still remain standing today and they account for a majority of the French Quarter’s structures. Nearly 20 years ago, researchers learned that 80 percent of structures in the French Quarter were infested with termites. This may seem like an unrealistically high number, but the massive and blinding termite swarms that emerge from infested homes each spring makes this number seem relatively low.54_formosan-termite

Termites in New Orleans are attracted to the moist and porous bricks and the centuries-old wood materials that historical structures in the French Quarter are made of. Formosan subterranean termites account for a vast majority of infestations in the French Quarter. These cryptic termites are not often spotted by residents of the area, but come late spring, millions of winged termites (alates) descend upon the French Quarter. Not surprisingly, the area’s residents find this annual bombardment distressing to say the least, as it is normal for alates to suddenly materialize within homes.

A colony of Formosan subterranean termites can grow to contain millions of individual termites within one single home. Every year, these massive colonies consume 1,000 pounds of wood, while native termites only consume a paltry 7 pounds of wood per year. Considering these figures, the alates that emerge from long-running infestations within homes can come as quite a shock to residents. These annual swarms are so large that they can blind drivers, potentially leading to car accidents. One longtime resident, Roland Behan, who lives in an apartment building that dates back to 1851, claims that he cannot have people over due to the risk of falling through areas of his floor that have become weakened by excessive termite activity. Jimmie and Marie Cahn, residents of an 1840’s Creole cottage, can vividly remember the time when a dinner party that they had thrown became interrupted by clouds of swarming termites. The alates had emerged from a small hole in their wall before gravitating toward their fan lights. Needles to say, the couple now avoids throwing dinner parties during swarm season.

Have you, or anyone you know, ever been caught in the middle of a termite swarm?

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