Subterranean termites dwell in the soil below the ground surface where worker termites leave their nest to gather food sources to sustain their colony. Termites will eat any material that contains cellulose, which is a fibrous organic material that can be found in all forms of vegetation, including cactuses, trees, weeds, and crop plants. Most termite species only feed on the cellulose contained within dead plant matter, which is not hard to come by below the ground where subterranean termites feed on twigs, decaying stems and leaves, dead roots, tree stumps, and dead portions of trees. Naturally, subterranean termites frequently encounter the foundation of houses where tree roots, wooden posts, and wood scraps leftover from past residential construction projects are particularly abundant. Once these pests stumble upon a foundation, they build and travel through protective mud tubes that squeeze through cracks in concrete slabs and foundations where it connects to indoor structural wood.
Drywood termites, on the other hand, solely inhabit dead wood, such as decayed logs, fallen tree branches, and dead trees. This is convenient for drywood termites, as they never have to forage for wood scraps due to inhabiting their food source. However, each year winged reproductive termites swarm out of their colony nest in order to locate dead wood sources where they establish new colonies. Unfortunately, these dead wood sources sometimes include wood siding on houses, lumber beneath shingles, and they frequently establish colonies within the indoor structural wood by flying through attic vents.
While only reproductive swarmers (alates) from drywood termite colonies can establish structural infestations, subterranean termites can access structural wood as alates or foraging workers, but the latter is the norm. Swarming alates from Formosan subterranean termite colonies are more likely than native subterranean termite alates to establish structural infestations. This is because only Formosan termite alates swarm around artificial light sources such as street lights, porch lights, and indoor lights, where they are likely to make contact with a home’s exterior or interior wood sources. Formosan termite swarms occur only at night, and they emerge from colonies as early as April and last until July.
Have you ever witnessed a termite swarm during the nighttime hours?