Officials say be on guard for termite season

Published 5:00 am Thursday, April 22, 2004

Recent reports of termite swarms throughout the South couldindicate an unusually strong termite season, according to theNational Pest Management Association, but other officials are notso sure.

“We received reports in Mississippi that indicated termiteactivity as early as the end of February this year,” said Dr. JamesH. Jarratt, extension specialist entomologist at Mississippi StateUniversity. “In Mississippi, termite swarms traditionally beginfrom the Coast and spread throughout the state.”

Jarratt said the unseasonably dry month of March, one of thedriest ever, may impact termite infestation in the state thisyear.

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“Termite populations are here in Mississippi and are ready toswarm as soon as we get some warm, wet weather,” he said.

Jarratt does not believe the swarms will have a greater impacton the state than in previous years, however.

“I don’t know that the season will be any stronger than normal,”he said. “I think it will be pretty much what we see on an annualbasis.”

The average termite season begins in early to mid-February whenwinged adults emerge from their nests and seek food and shelter, hesaid. The termite season ends in fall when the weather turnscold.

“Homeowners should always be aware of potential termite damageduring that time,” Jarratt said.

The entomologist recommended homeowners continue their contractswith pest removal services or consider taking out a contract tohave their homes protected.

The most effective preventative method, Jarratt said, is abarrier treatment. Professionals treating with this method dig atrench next to the home’s foundation and flood the trench withanti-termite chemicals, which soak into the earth and form abarrier.

“The problem we have today is that the chemicals used are onlygood for about 5-10 years,” he said.

In the past, exterminators used a chemical called Chloradanethat prevented termite infestation for up to 30 years, but itslongevity caused environmental concerns and it was taken off themarket, Jarratt said.

One of the most common methods used by homeowners because of itscost is to spray over-the-counter chemicals on the surface of theground, but “that’s almost a waste of time,” Jarratt said. “Thenext rain will wash it away. Those same chemicals can be used inthe barrier treatment.”

The entomologist also recommends that flowerbeds be placedapproximately six inches away from the foundation of the home toprevent the destruction of a barrier.

“Make sure the soil within six inches of the foundation remainsintact to keep the barrier strong,” Jarratt said. “I would alsorecommend they not cover it with mulch and give termites a way toburrow into the home above the barrier.”