Swarming agriculture termites in Texas pose no threat to buildings

Oct 1, 2009, 13:04 PM by User Not Found
Termites traipsing through turf grass in urban areas of South texas
Published: Monday, September 28, 2009 1:05 AM CDT
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Termites traipsing through turf grass in urban areas of South Central Texas are most likely no cause for alarm, said a Texas Cooperative Extension expert.

"If you see termites in your lawn, there's a good chance they are what are known as agriculture or desert termites," said Molly Keck, Extension entomologist for Bexar County. "These are not the same as subterranean termites, which are the kind that do serious damage to homes and other property."

However, many local homeowners are confusing the agriculture termite with the more destructive variety, according to officials at Boerne Pest Control, David and Ivy DeSpain and technician Brett DeSpain. They say they've received a flood of phone calls in the past 12 days from homeowners describing termite problems that have turned out to be swarming agriculture termites.

The agriculture termite is slightly larger than the subterranean termite and is reddish brown in color with tan, semi-transparent wings twice the length of the body, the DeSpains explained.

Agriculture termites are usually found in large fields in rural areas, Keck said. They are most attracted to pasture areas used for grass or hay production, especially coastal Bermuda grass fields.

"These termites are generally found in a more arid and dry climate like West Texas," Keck said. "But they're fairly common in South Central Texas too. Normally they're prevalent in rural areas, but we've been seeing a lot more of them in urban areas."

Agriculture termites are being found in urban areas such as San Antonio because the drought has forced them closer to the soil surface in search of moisture and nourishment, she said.

"Unlike subterranean termites, which usually feed on dead wood, these termites prefer live forbs, weeds and grasses," Keck said. "They eat soft plant tissue, and in urban settings they feed almost exclusively on grasses."

The DeSpains warn homeowners not to be fooled into thinking they need a treatment against wood-destroying subterranean termites when they are seeing swarms of the plant-eating variety.

Agriculture termites in urban areas pose no threat to structures, but in large numbers can damage or destroy turf grass and may require control. "If control is needed, people in urban settings should use a pesticide labeled specifically for termites," Keck said. "Those in rural settings should look for pesticides labeled for use in the appropriate location and which contains Malathion as the active ingredient."

Meanwhile, the DeSpains also recommend a preventive treatment against the wood-destroying variety of termites.

"In Texas, having a preventive treatment for subterranean termites is recommended to protect your home, the largest monetary investment you will make in a lifetime," David DeSpain said. "Billions of dollars are lost every year just from termite damage to homes and other structures."

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