Baton Rouge residents are in the middle of termite season and the swarming going on now won’t let up until August, said LSU AgCenter entomologist Dennis Ring.

Formosan subterranean termite alates, or winged termites, begin to swarm during late April and early May.

“What they’re doing is trying to find a mate to begin their own colony,” Ring said. “They are attracted to light, and when they find their mate, they will drop to the ground and begin a colony nearby.”

The first year, there will be only about 70 termites in this new colony, but they will increase each succeeding year.

It takes about five years for them to build up enough to swarm. Termites don’t move very far on their own. They are normally moved by people in paper or wood, Ring said. “The farthest I’ve ever seen one move was about three-quarters of a mile, and that is extreme.”

Ring said Formosan termites were brought over to the U.S. via seagoing vessels that reached four main sites after World War II — Lake Charles and New Orleans in Louisiana and Charleston, S.C.; and Galveston, Texas.

Ring said termites can be found in residential and rural areas.

The three major types of termites that cause problems in Louisiana are the dry wood termite, native subterranean termites and Formosan subterranean termites, with the Formosans being the most destructive, Ring said.

These termites are estimated to cause more than $1 billion damage in Louisiana every year — more than $300 million annually in New Orleans alone, he said.

Termites can be found in railroad tiles, utility poles, wood structures, lumber, pallets, firewood, trees, mulch, potted plants and paper.

Ring said the sure sign that a house has been infested with Formosan termites is the sight of mud tubes up and down a home.

The soil tubes protect the insects as they migrate from the soil to a home.

“These termites have to live in high-humidity environments, and the tubes allow them to move from the ground into structures while maintaining the moisture required,” Ring said.

Ring said termites will move with wood and paper.

“Remove all wood, cardboard, paper and cellulose-containing material from around the home,” Ring said.

Ring said residents can protect homes from termites by getting a pest-control business to form a chemical barrier around the house that will kill the termites before they get to the house.

Termites also can be baited and killed by pest-control businesses, Ring said.

“Termites are here. You can’t eradicate the problem. You can’t kill them all,” Ring said.

Louisiana homeowners may learn more about Formosan subterranean termites by visiting the Environment and Natural Resources section of the LSU AgCenter’s website, and clicking on the insects and relatives link.