Bug of the Month December 2008 – Western Subterranean Termites Swarming on Thanksgiving

Ed. Note: 30 November 2008
Since we heard about other Southern Californians noticing the swarming Western Subterranean Termites over the past few days, we decided they would make an excellent Bug of the Month for December 2008

27 November 2008
Today while splitting wood at our Mount Washington, Los Angeles offices, we noticed the Western Subterranean Termites, Reticulitermes hesperus, emerging from the logs at the bottom of the wood pile. After two days of heavy rain, the late autumn sun triggered the nuptial flight. With the sun so low in the sky, the feeble flying swarm filled the air for several hours, emerging from nearby properties as well as our own. Charles Hogue has written in his wonderful book, Insects of the Los Angeles Basin: “on warm sunny days following the first autumn rains, swarms of the winged adult forms of this termite are commonly noticed emerging from frame houses, fence posts, and other wooden structures that touch soil. The species has a high humidity requirement, which forces it to maintain contact with the ground, traveling up and down between its subterranean galleries and the wood through protected cracks in mortar or concrete foundations, or through earthen tubes that it constructs from soil, saliva, and chewed bits of wood. In Los Angeles and much of the West, this is the species that causes the greatest damage. It is probably safe to say that the majority of older houses in the Los Angeles area are infested to some degree with this termite. In general, however, damage is not noticeable until tunneling activity has proceeded to the point of weakening structural members in stressed areas, such as flooring and stairways. Severe damage requires a period of years to develop: our termites do not reduce a house to a pile of sawdust overnight! Homeowners are urged to have periodic inspections to determine the presence of termites. This is simply good insurance and should be done regardless of how many preventative methods were employed in the original construction. This species is distinguished from others that are prevalent in the basin by the black heads of its sexual forms, its earthen tubes, and the fact that it does not make pellet piles. Its tunneling pattern is also different: the workers attack wood only in the soft spring growth region of the annual rings. Thus a cross-section of an infested timber shows a characteristic pattern of concentric circles or arcs.”

Western Subterranean Termites Swarming
Western Subterranean Termites Swarming
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BugMan aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. WhatsThatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

2 thoughts on “Bug of the Month December 2008 – Western Subterranean Termites Swarming on Thanksgiving”

  1. Termites are Delicious! They — especially the alates — are much esteemed in many African countries, and I had some this summer that were collected in Louisiana. They were netted at a mercury vapor lamp and saved for me, about a pound of them. I’d love to get a steady supply…


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