Do I Have Termites?

David Yost, Merrifield Plant Specialist

The signs of spring are everywhere! The cherry blossoms are spectacular. Wild flowers are popping up. The dogwoods are opening. And termites and ants are swarming.

Termites are a popular topic this week at our Plant Clinic. Everyone seems to be asking us: Do I have termites?

If you find these winged insects congregating around your doors and windows, you can:

1. Freak out and spray them with a household cleaner, pesticide or anything else within reach

Most people choose this option. This offers some immediate gratification, but may not fix the problem and can cause damage to you or your home.

2. Make an accurate and informed assessment of the situation and your control options

We can help with this option. Termites and flying ants look alike, but their impact on your property and the control options can be vastly different.

We suggest that you collect samples of the insects and place them in a crush-proof container with a small amount of rubbing alcohol and bring them to our Plant Clinic for identification. We’ll examine the intruders under a microscope and determine if they are termites or ants. Once we know, we can suggest ways to eliminate them. The Plant Clinic is a free service we offer to our customers.

Most of the time, these swarms are not causing any structural damage and the problem can be easily treated with a household insect spray. If there is evidence of structural infestation, please proceed to the third option.

3. Call an exterminator

If you need the services of a pest control operator, take enough time to check references and consider all the control options. Termites can pose a serious threat to your home. But damage proceeds slowly and there is no harm in taking a few days or a few weeks to make a decision.

Occasionally customers are concerned about termites being in the mulch used for landscaping. Termites are social insects and survive as a colony in a cool, dark, damp below-ground environment. Because much is shredded, mixed and turned repeatedly and reaches high temperatures before making it to your home, it is nearly impossible for a reproductive queen to survive this process.

As always, please come visit us often to learn about all the great gardening products and services we have to offer and let us know about any concerns or questions you may have.