Ok. Today we need to discuss subterranean termites. Not dry wood termites, and not the nasty Louisiana Formosan termites, but subterranean termites. These "lovely" little underground bugs have colonies of thousands, some in the millions. The male and female adults swarm during spring months when the temperature and soil moisture conditions are just right. Like NOW.
When I first moved to Texas 19 years ago, I was told there are 2 types of houses in Texas. Those with termites, and those that are going to get termites. For many years, my new home was in the latter category, only because my neighbor had a colony that would swarm from his fireplace mantel into his living room every spring. Thing was though, this guy had a guarantee program from many moons ago when they still did those guarantees and so the company kept coming back to try and rid his home of termites. Well, when the company finally succeeded, we had our first swarm coming in at the dining room window. And it happened again the next year. Well, panic ensued naturally, and we went with an environmentally friendly control system. The bait station in the ground every 5 feet or so. Trouble was, these bait stations are primo food to fire ants.
With the bait station program, the company comes out monthly year round and "monitors" the stations. If they spot termite activity in a station, then they quickly insert several more stations around that one to entice more termites to take the bait. The bait is an insect growth regulator (IGR) and the theory is that the worker termites take this bait back to the colony and feeds everyone and they eventually die out. Yeah right.
Well, one month the monitor guy knocks on my door and says to the effect, "Hey lady, you've got a fire ant problem and they are eating all the bait for the termites." The large amount of money I was paying this company didn't cover them treating for fire ants so that their termite bait wouldn't get inadvertantly eaten by fire ants. After a few years of this baiting system, I dropped the contract.
Now the thing about fire ants is that there are all kinds of products out there to deal with them. And all kinds of wives tales to deal with them and their stings. Fire ant mounds appear in your yard overnight after a good soaking rain. Some people drench their mounds with gasoline or boiling water. With either method, you'll have a huge dead patch in your lawn. Some people spread IGR, insect growth regulators over their entire yard and wait months to see if anything happens. Some people treat the mounds only, which I've discovered through trial and error only serves to move the mound to a less poisonous spot in your yard. Some people broadcast fire ant killer over their whole yard. Personally, I've found this to be the most effective way to deal with fire ants. And the whole reason is that as long as your neighbors aren't doing the same, you have chased your mounds onto their property!!!!!
For years the neighbor who gave me his termites used to broadcast fire ant killer on his yard. So I had 5 mounds of fire ants that I couldn't get rid of. Of course, I was only treating the five mounds and they were moving around my yard continuously. Over the last few years, this neighbor quit treating his yard, and I've finally gotten smart and started broadcasting fire ant killer on my whole yard. Tee hee.
Now, anyone who has been unfortunate enough to learn about fire ants the hard way doesn't soon forget these nasty creatures. I used to work in the yard in bare feet. After stepping in a fire ant mound and getting stung several times, I started wearing Tevas or flip-flops. Those aren't very effective either because really only your soles are covered, and you can still get a gazillion fire ants crawling up your legs. Now I go out in full body armor.
Fire ant bites sting like crazy when they first bite, then it turns into a white pustule within about 12 hours. Of course, you aren't supposed to drain these pustules because of the risk of infection, but dag gone it they ITCH SO BAD!!!!
Here are some pictures I pulled off the Texas A&M site.
Fire ant mounds in a yard
Fire ant stings on an ankle/leg
So, the whole reason I bring up this crazy subject the day after discussing Cedar Waxwings is that the same kitchen window through which I took the photos of the Cedar Waxwings last month now has swarming termites!!! Which is driving me nuts because that window is above my kitchen sink and that is where I prepare food and I get to look at these nasty little swarming bugs and now I've got the creepy crawlies and I was scratching all over last night while watching Grey's Anatomy because I kept thinking about the swarming termites and fire ants. And what do you think about all the couples having so many relationship issues in Grey's Anatomy last night? Holy cow!! But I digress.
So, I'm going to have to call several companies to come out and give me estimates on termite eradication. But this time I'm going with the foundation drilling or the soil trenching or something more deadly and effective. Of course, the chemicals that they treated my childhood home with some 40 years ago that were guaranteed for like 30 years and would kill termites in houses the next block over and left people sterile for the next 5 generations are no longer available. Dag nab it.
And reading up on subterranean termites, various experts say to direct water away from your foundation, remove all mulch or landscape products for a foot from your house, etc. Except that here in Texas, we have the unique problem of having clay soil because this area was once a seabed a gazillion years ago, and so homeowners must WATER THEIR FOUNDATIONS to prevent their foundations from shifting and their walls from cracking apart, which results in thousands of dollars in foundation repair, etc. So, even during the severe drought, homeowners are allowed to run soaker hoses for an hour each day to water their foundations. Yes, I really did say that.