May 3, 2024 - News

Time to turn off your lights and hide from the termites

Photo shows two dead termites on a tissue in the bathroom.

The two termite intruders snuck into Carlie's bathroom this week and promptly met their maker. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios

Flying termites have returned to New Orleans, adding to our critter woes of stinging caterpillars and sneaky cockroaches.

Why it matters: We share this city with our bug friends, but we can still be grossed out by them.

The big picture: Many residents reported seeing swarms of Formosan termites this week in metro New Orleans.

  • Mother's Day is the peak time for swarm season, and the termites can stick around through June.
  • They prefer warm, humid, windless conditions for swarming, the LSU AgCenter says. They fly at dusk and a few hours into the evening.

Threat level: Formosan subterranean termites cause millions in damage annually and are one of the most destructive structural pests in Louisiana.

  • They are an invasive species that came to New Orleans and other U.S. port cities from eastern Asia after World War II, according to information from the city.
  • Formosan termites are more aggressive and greatly outnumber the native subterranean termite species.

Yes, but: They don't physically hurt people.

Photo shows termites swarming around a street light.
Formosan termites fly toward lights and swarm around streetlights in New Orleans. Photo: Edward Freytag/New Orleans Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board

Be prepared: You can prevent termites in your home by sealing doors and windows.

  • Turn off porch lights, close your curtains and keep windows and doors closed when they are swarming.
  • Professional treatment methods are the most reliable prevention, the AgCenter advises.

State of play: Termites emerge from the ground in their winged form to look for a mate, Mark Janowiecki, a research entomologist with the city's Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board, previously told Axios.

  • They come out at night and head toward lights. You can see them swarming around street lights, porch lights and lights at nighttime events, such as sporting matches.
  • The vast majority that leave the colony to swarm are going to die, he said.
Photo shows winged termites around a ball of larvae.
Formosan subterranean termites are an invasive species in Louisiana. Photo: Edward Freytag/New Orleans Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board

Threat level: It's common to see a few termites or termite wings indoors by window sills, in bathtubs, along door jambs and near lights during swarm season.

  • If you see several dozen, it's not cause for alarm, Janowiecki said.
  • If you see at least a hundred, get your house checked out.

Bottom line: This is one of the many — ahem — joys of living in south Louisiana, but it will be over soon enough.

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