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How Do Floods Affect Termites?

08/25/2016

Subterranean termites need moisture to survive, but can too much water hurt them? Terminix takes a dive into flooding and how it affects termites.

Photo by: Shutterstock

Termites are an expensive nuisance that cost homeowners an average of $8,184 in treatments and damage repairs. Recognizing the signs of a termite infestation is the first step in protecting your home against termites. Because subterranean termite nests are usually hidden deep underground, the best way to locate and identify termites is to schedule a professional termite inspection.

Termites prefer warmer weather and are most active from spring through fall. Subterranean termites require a constant supply of moisture to survive, so they are drawn to damp areas. But can too much water hurt termites? What happens to termites in a flood?

How do Floods Affect Termites?


1. Termites can drown.


Yes. Termites can survive underwater for an extended amount of time, but they can’t do it forever. According to Dr. Gregg Henderson of the LSU AgCenter, subterranean termites do not move to higher ground in a flood situation. Instead, they avoid drowning temporarily by entering an immobile state to conserve oxygen. In this immobile state, subterranean termites can survive underwater for up to 16 to 30 hours, depending on the type of termite.

2. Can termites survive a flood?


Yes, under certain conditions. Termites can survive in saturated soil, as long as standing water doesn’t flood their tunnels. Termites can also survive in trees. According to a study on the effect of flooding on the survival of subterranean termites that examined termite activity in a New Orleans park one month after flooding due to Hurricane Katrina, Formosan subterranean termites cannot survive in their underground galleries or in wood after they are submerged in water, nor do termites attempt to move up out of their underground galleries to escape rising water. However, termites that were living in a block of wood at the time of the flooding were able to escape slowly rising water. The researchers concluded that the Formosan subterranean termite colonies survived the flooding because these colonies were living in trees when the area flooded.

3. How do floods affect termites?


Flooding causes damp conditions that are attractive to moisture-loving termites. Standing water in your crawl space or attic and wet insulation attract termites. In some cases, wood that is wet for extended periods of time may lead to an above-ground termite infestation as the termites move into the damp wood. If flooding damages your foundation or footing, termites can gain access to your house. They only need a tiny opening (1/32 to 1/16”) to enter your home. Therefore, homes and other buildings that have flooded are prone to termite infestation.

Do I need to repeat termite treatment after a flood?


Maybe. According to the Department of Pesticide Regulation, simple flooding alone is not a sufficient reason to repeat termite treatment. However, you may need to repeat termite treatment if certain conditions exist. If your home originally received a conventional liquid termiticide treatment, your home will need to be re-treated if:

  • The soil within the treatment zone (the area six inches deep by six inches wide right next to your foundation) shows signs of being physically disturbed by erosion, displacement, shift or disturbance of the treatment zone during repairs, rewiring HVAC work, etc.

  • Significant sediment (mud, sand or silt) has been deposited over the treatment zone. Termites move across the mud or silt bridge, avoiding the termiticide-treated soil underneath.


If either of these conditions exist, contact your pest control specialist for a termite inspection and treatment.

If you use a termite baiting system, the baits may become completely covered with soil or may get washed away. Water-logged monitoring devices may become contaminated with chemicals in the water. Termite bait may become contaminated, moldy or otherwise unappealing to termites. Therefore, the termite baits and/or monitoring devices may need to be replaced after a flood.

Contact your pest management professional today to schedule a termite inspection and protect your home against termites.

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