Friday, April 27, 2007

Termites and Fire Ants on Friday

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 ants

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.

A swarmer

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.

Luf, Maw


The Meezers or Billy said...

all our mommy can say is "fank goodness we doesn't lif there". We has small ants in our yard, not fire ants, but they drive mommy crazy. their colony goes halfway around our house, but they doesn't come in. We also haf hornets- ferst they ate frough the lifing room ceiling, then they ate frough the front bedroom dormer, now there's a hornet's nest unner ground next door - and those people haf tiny beans. they is furry hard to get rid of. Mommy has to spray this weekend to make shur they doesn't come back. The nest in the front bedroom dormer hadded about 50,000 hornets in it.

Kaze, Latte, & Chase said...

Oh buggies are BAD! We also live in a very termite prone area and our house has had problems with them in the past but it is a 90 year old house so that kind of makes sense. The LL was bit by a fire ant once...she still has a bad toe joint that hurts her because of it.

Yes, the vet thinks my gums are related to my herpes....yet another FUN thing I have to deal with.


Shaggy and Scout said...

Good Lord!
People weren't meant to live there.
We invite you to Minnesota.


50000 hornets?


I udderstand ALL about fireants. I have been biten by fire ants. THEY are nasty little creatures. We have an 1 1/2 acres and we haven't been able to saturate the yard to take care of all the mounds...I also have some armadillos I would like to have some adopt!

Abby's Mom

Gemini said...

Oh Momma would hate to live there. She is not thrilled with bugs. We have had problems with termites but ours don't swarm at all.

Christine and FAZ said...

Oh my goodness, I had heard of termites but these fire ants are something else and you have to deal with both. Good luck. FAZ

Unknown said...

Ooh, that sounds absolutely awful! I haven't ever lived where there are fire ants, but the family has. All we get now are those little bitty ants. All of us here wish you good luck with exterminating the buggers.


Icon Baxter Bentley said...

I'll take a few fun to chase beetle-bugs over fire ants any day! Mammacat hates beetle bugs (aka roaches!!)
I think they are fun! Katie likes to eat them.
I can't wait to hear about the Okapi! I saw them on Animal Planet once.


Dragonheart, Merlin, Devi, and Chloe said...

Oh my goodness! I'd never heard of those creatures before, and I'm very glad that I've never encountered them. They sound horrible!

Good luck dealing with these nasties!

Anonymous said...

ewwwwww! termites is evil! we duzzn't haf fire ants, but we gots little ants livin' in our walls an they come in efurry once in a while. Grr likes ta poke 'em.

HRH Yao-Lin said...

My slave has a real phobia of all things flying and buzzing and stinging and she thinks some of those fit the criteria! They look EVIL!!

Pearl C. Pritchard said...

Oh - we've had our share of bug problems (when we lived in NY)

And I know about fireants too. Not nice.

I wish I had some good, practical advice but I don't. They're just a constant pain.

Tara said...

Mom is running and hiding..she hates ants and she hates termites, and she is a biologist!

We don't have fire ants, but lots and lots of the little Mexican brown ants. They say all of these ants in California are the same colony! Anyway, they are always getting into my food, so mom put cinnamon in the cracks they were coming up in, that solved the problem. We have termites here to, but so far not in our house.


Daisy said...

I never heard about watering your foundation before! That's very interesting.

I HATE fire ants. Their bite is very hurty. My Mommie has gotten bitten and it is not pretty. Fire ants and termites, you are bad!

Lux said...

Fire ants are definitely Bad Things! One day when Mom & Dad went to photograph City of Rocks here in NM, Mom needed to put a new compact flash card in her picture box so she plunked her bag down and knelt down. THAT FAST she was covered up to her neck in big biting ants. They were INSIDE her clothes, which she said she almost took off! Mom and Dad had to go home immediately, stopping on the way for some Benadryl stuff. She had welts for days!

Oscar the Puppy Cat said...

I have to admit the my Mommy was chuckling as she read a lot of this. She grew up in Southern Louisiana and could totally relate to everything you were saying! She feels for you!

I would like to say thank you for the info. We visit Grandma and Grandma in Southern Louisiana a few times a year. As a kitty of delicate fur and skin, I will be weary. My Mommy didn't tell me about the ants! I could have gotten eaten! AND I would be a very large meal!

Have a great weekend!

The Crew said...

All I can say is "EEEWWWWWWW"!

Oscar the Puppy Cat said...

OMG!!! Imagine being eaten to death by fire ants! My Mommy shivered!

Kim here: I know, the fire ant issue worries me. They are moving farther north and those who don't really know what they are or those who think they're just a "bunch of ants" are in for a rude awakening! I've been stung so many times. When my husband and I first moved in together, we treated an ant mound. The chemical worked GREAT! And the next moring the mound was gone. Then the morning after that, a new mound was about 5 feet from the old one. So we treated that one, too. Well, you know the rest of the story. You can't treat the mound, you have to treat the whole yard!

Parker said...

Move to Kansas City, MO. Live next door to us and we'll get a combined blog - 56 paws!

Unknown said...

your made our mom itchy now!

MaoMao said...

Hi, Maw and kitties at Forty Paws! I'm feelin' itchy, too. Termites and fire ants are wayyyyyy ewwwww. And hornets -- don't even say the word "hornet" around my momma. She was stung by one a little while back and eeee-yOUCH!

LSP Grammie said...

I feel your pain with the bugs. Last fall while doing a remodel on the bathroom, the contractor discovered termites. $1300. later, we are protected from them with the Sentricon system, plus they drilled through the concrete slab. For fire ants, we use Amdro & mix in with the fertilizer & treat the whole yard. Have had much success that way here in Ft. Worth. A solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water work great to relieve the ant bites/stings (from one of the TV news station's doctor). Give it a try.

Lone Star Purrs said...

Heehee....Grammie beated us heer!!! Momma has had BAD experiences wif those stoopid fire ants!! She gets big welts frum then and is now all itchy thinkin' bout them. The bleach trick DOES work though. Those things always get me (Momma) between my toes! That's one thing about TX that I DON'T miss!! Good luck!
~Meeko, Kiara, & Momma

Tara said...

Mom has no idea why you roll around in ant trails (she is not an antymologist..hehe). Might have something to do with the pheromones ants emit, but I don't roll around in them, and we have tons of them here. People also call 'em piss ants.


Around Your Wrist said...

ooooohhhhh. you poor beans and kitties.

you're welcome to teleport up here where there currently aren't any bugs worth mentioning.


JT said...

You all are so educational for me! Cedar waxwings, fire ants and termites! I'm sorry to hear about the troubles you have with the fire ants and termites.

It sounds similar to a problem we have here in NYC apartments, except here we have problems with cockroaches, mice and rats. Our apartment has never had a problem, but Ernest and I can here things moving up and down the building through the walls. They don't stop here though, because Ernest and I are very good at patroling any exit points from the pest railroad. If something comes out, Ernest kills it (I was raised as a Buddhist and don't kill things).

Good luck with the new plans! How do all the kitties react to the fire ants and termites? Or do the bugs stay outside your house?

Memories of Eric and Flynn said...

Eeeeeew those fire ants sound terrybull. We only haf ordernurry ants heer and they don't bite yoo unless yoo don't see their nest and go to sleep on it. Then yoo can wake up wiv a big sir purrize when they are crawling all ofurr yoo and hiding in all yer furrs. We don't haf nuffin like termites here. Mum sez fank goodness. We do haf hornets though, and they haf made a nest in our faverit oak tree, so we haf to be keerful of them when we climb it.

Alex Parker said...

Sign the petition to get Congress to enact Fire Ant Awareness Day!