Monday, May 19, 2008

Termite swarm!

A few nights ago Colin and I experienced what I believe is a uniquely gulf coast phenomenon, a Formosan termite swarm. It all started around 8:30 at night when I noticed a few bugs flying around our ceiling fan in the bed room. I thought they were small moths and did not pay much attention to them. Then I went into the bathroom to talk to Colin for a second while he was shaving and noticed half a dozen more of the 'moths' around the bathroom lights. This was when I began to become nervous, it seemed unlikely that a whole flight of moths would have entered our house at once. After dispatching of the insects in the bathroom I reentered the bedroom to find about 40 insects on our bed spread and around the fan. As the apartment had been inspected for termites just one day earlier I became nervous that these were termites emerging from the house due to an insecticide treatment. I called our landlord who confirmed that the insect I was describing was a termite, and that they seemed to be "swarming". She said she would call the termite control company and have them return the next day.

Luckily for us (and our landlord) the termite swarm we saw did not actually originate from inside the house. Instead it consisted of termites who were attracted to the light in the bedroom from the outdoor porch. The termite control guy told me that had there been an actual swarm inside the house, thousands of termites would have been in the bedroom, not the 50 or so we saw. He gently chided me for my concern and told me that seeing my first swarm, was in fact, my real introduction to New Orleans.

It turns out that the termites were the adult male and females who emerge from their subterranean lairs to mate and create new termite colonies. The adult termites come out of the soil searching for light, which signals that they have reached the surface. (Which is how they ended up in our bedroom, they were attracted to the lights from the porch of the bedroom.) They have wings and can fly for short distances, but loose their wings quickly when they land. Formosan termites swarm in spring, and can be so numerous that they can resemble a heavy fog in terms of visibility. For more information on the Formosan termite, click here.

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