Friday, September 11, 2009

The Attack of the Termites!

Yes, those flying insects, dropping wings and landing all over your porch are probably termites. But, don't worry, chances are they are agricultural termites. San Antonio has had this happen before - after a wonderful, long, hard rain, following an extensive drought, agricultural termites take advantage of the humidity and swarm. These swarms are mating flights. They fly up in the air, mate, land back on the ground, and drop their wings. The females go off to find a place to lay their eggs, and the males usually die.

Sometimes the termites are attracted to porch lights left on a night. This is probably where you are finding them congregating.

If you are finding termites swarming right now, 99 times of 100 they are agricultural termites. But, if you are concerned, send them into the Bexar County Extension Office for me to identify them.

If you contact a pest control company and they tell you they are structural damaging termites without ever pulling out a microscope or really good hand lens - send them away! It takes more than just a good eye to know if they are friend or foe. Professionals use a microscope, check out the wing venation and little tiny structures on the top of the termites head. None of which can be seen well with the naked eye - no matter how well those eyes work!

Since these termites do not damage structures, I would not treat for them. You don't know where they are exactly and its a waste of time and money and pesticide to spray the yard haphazardly.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mud Tubes All Over My Lawn

Every summer, and especially in drier years, we start to see little tubes or mud tunnels all over our lawn or pastures. If you break them open you may find small darkish insects, similar to ants or teeny tiny beetles. These are actually termites. Agricultural or Desert Termites. And probably the best termites you could ever want to have! These termites do not feed on wood and are not considered structural pests like what comes to mind when we think of termites.

Agricultural Termites are mainly agricultural pests. They feed on forbes, roots, and other types of grasses. They usually only go after dead grasses, but it may seem like they are killing your lawn. Chances are, they are going after the dead grass blades, but taking out anything they can eat.

In an urban or semi-urban area, there is little you can do to control them. Rake over their tubes daily, spray them with water, basically irritate them until they leave your yard. If you spray them, remember that you are only killing the ones you touch and you'll be wasting a lot of time, money, and pesticide. Not to mention, exposing the environment to unnecessary pesticides.

When we get a little more rain (over a long period of time), expect to see them disappear. As the roots travel back deeper in the soil, so will the termites.

You notice that only unhealthy lawns seem to have them. This is because that grass has strong, deep roots, and the termites get all they need below ground. As the roots shrink to look for moisture, termites travel up with them - ending up on top of the lawn.

As with all insects, patience is a virtue.