Formosan termites swarm south Hancock County
By Geoff Belcher
May 23, 2014, 19:58
Thousands of Formosan termites swarmed through southern Hancock County on Thursday.
If you saw a lot of bugs on Thursday night, it wasn't a Kafka-esque hallucination – thousands of Formosan termites swarmed Lakeshore, Bay St. Louis and Waveland beginning at about dusk on Thursday.
"It was probably the worst swarm that we've ever experienced in south Hancock County," David Mayley, a veteran pest control specialist from Bay St. Louis, said Friday.
Formosan termites are not a native species and were only introduced to Mississippi about 40 years ago, Mayley said. However, they do reproduce quickly.
Thursday's swarm was a part of that.
In late spring or early summer, Formosan colonies may produce swarms of winged males and females called reproductives or “swarmers.” They are about 15 millimeters long, including their wings. They can be differentiated from winged ants by their straight antennae, equal-length front and hind wings, as well as their straight-sided waist.
"The winged Formosan's mission is to fly away from the colony, land, mate and start a new colony," Mayley said. "When a male and a female meet, they become the king and queen of a new colony."
The female then begins laying eggs at a rapid rate for the remainder of her life, Mayley said, producing thousands more.
"Every year it's going to get worse, because every colony releases approximately 10,000 swarmers," he said.
After the swarm, the termites "shake off" their wings, Mayley said, and most die within about 12-24 hours.
Homeowners shouldn't panic, Mayley said, since the swarmers don't eat wood. However, their offspring very often do.
"When you see swarmers around your house, it means you have active, mature termites in the ground around your house," Mayley said. "It's a sign you need to be concerned. It's not a sign you need to panic, unless you see thousands inside your house.
"If you just have 30 or 40 or 50 – let's say 100 – in your house, and they're kind of scattered around your house, we call that 'accidental introduction.'"
In other words, he said, the termites accidentally got in your house because they're attracted to light and flew or crawled in through an open window or crack under the door.
If thousands are in your house, however, it's a sign you may have an infestation, and you should immediately call a certified pest control specialist, Mayley said.