Pest Alert: Weather and Insect Pests

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension

Date: March 31, 2013

From: Mike Waldvogel, Extension Entomologist

For those of you who answer pest questions –

Sunday’s rain in many parts of the state coupled with warmer temperatures on Monday are likely to trigger some termite swarms. As I have said in past years (and it hasn’t changed), termite swarms that occur outdoors are just nature’s way of reminding you that termites are all around you. It does NOT mean that you should spray your yard (which wouldn’t really help anyway) or even have your house treated. HOWEVER, if you haven’t had your house treated or inspected in recent years, having it inspected might be a good idea. You can do the inspection yourself if you’re confident and careful about checking the foundation (crawlspace and exterior) which may require pushing back fiberglass insulation so you can check wood framing that rests on the foundation. You should also check “critical areas” around plumbing. Calling a professional to inspect your house has its obvious advantages. Remember, a termite treatment isn’t needed unless you find evidence of termite activity, although some people may decide to act proactively and have one done if they feel more comfortable knowing that they have a treatment in place.

If termites swarm indoors, then you most likely have an infestation that should be addressed within a few weeks. Bear in mind, that even if you find swarmers, you don’t need to rush a decision. Call in a few companies and get estimates. Depending on the size and nature of your home’s construction, termite treatments can cost $500 or exceed $2000. Take the time to make an informed well-founded decision about the type of treatment and warranty being offered. Damage repair warranties sound great but read the contract and understand that the warranty excludes “existing damage” which means it excludes damage that is identified as already present at the time of their initial inspection OR damage that wasn’t visible (e.g., inside a wall) and there are no live termites present when the damage is discovered. While that may sound unfair, it’s simply a matter that the company can’t be accountable for damage that wasn’t visible when they initiated the warranty and so there’s no way to know when it occurred. Serious termite damage takes years to occur. Many companies can take 7-14 days to get around to treating a customer’s during peak termite activity. So, if your floor was going to fall in because of termite damage, it would happen regardless of whether you have the house treated today or in 2-3 weeks. However, if there is significant structural damage due to termites, then you may want to do repairs before proceeding with any treatment in case the repairs require any soil excavation (which could also disrupt any termite treatment in the process).

We have information about termites at: http://insects.ncsu.edu/wood.htm

You may get calls from the news media (usually desperate to fill newspaper space or time on the air) inquiring about the cooler spring’s impact on pests such as mosquitoes and whether that means we’ll have fewer mosquitoes. Tell them to call you back in July because we have a lot of time between now and then for drought or adequate/heavy rains to impact on mosquito populations. You will see mosquitoes out there even with these cooler temperatures, but those mosquitoes are species that overwinter as adults and respond more quickly to rises in air temperature. In most of North Carolina, our major problem is the Asian tiger mosquito and it spends the winter in the egg stage which means we need water (for the larvae to use as a habitat), plus temperature (water and air temperature) and an increasing day length to trigger Asian tiger mosquito activity. So, we still have time before we start seeing any real problems. However, it’s a good idea to add “habitat modification” to your list of spring chores:

– Get rid of (or repair) those objects that collect water. Fix tarps covering boats, cars, etc. so they don’t collect water. If you’re going to use rain barrels to conserve water for use in your garden, make sure they have been cleaned of all leaf debris and other organic matter and that you cover them with screening to keep out debris and exclude mosquitoes.

– Clean out your gutters (which trap water and leaf and organic debris that attract mosquitoes).

– Clean out drainage ditches in front of your property. They’re meant to catch and drain run-off, not become breeding pools for mosquitoes.

And convince your neighbors to do the same because mosquito control takes a community effort.

Updated on Mar 17, 2014
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