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Termite swarm season will arrive with warmer weather

Ruth Correll • Dec 15, 2015 at 2:44 PM

Subterranean termites are the most destructive wood-feeding insect in Tennessee, and even though they do their part to recycle dead and fallen trees back into the soil, termites can also attack the wood, paper and other wood scrap sources around a home, according to University of Tennessee entomologist, Dr. Karen Vail.

The National Pest Management Association estimates that it costs the U.S. about $5 billion per year to repair and treat damage caused by these insects.

Dr. Vail says that termite signs should be easy to spot. “The termite swarm season will be starting shortly. Winged termites will fly, drop to the ground, drop their wings and search for a moist, protected area to mate and start their colony. In a home, the swarmers, or a pile of their wings, are often found on the window sill.”

Winged termites can be distinguished from winged ants fairly easily. Termite wings are nearly equal in size and shape, but the ant’s front wings are larger than the hind wings. Winged termites have straight antennae and the ants are elbowed. The termite thorax is broadly attached to the abdomen, but in the ant, the waist is pinched. In Tennessee, termite swarmers are typically dark brown to black.

Termite workers on the other hand are white, soft-bodied wingless insects that travel above ground in mud tubes that are as least as wide as a pencil. It is recommended to search your basement, crawlspace or foundation walls and look for these tubes.

When termites damage wood, they eat the softer wood and leave behind the denser wood giving the wood a layered effect. Mud will probably be present in the layers. Termite-damaged wood will be soft and allow a screwdriver to easily penetrate. Puckered paint may indicate termites are feeding below the surface.

If you do discover termites, it’s definitely time to call a pest management professional. Suggestions for choosing a pest management firm and termite control strategy can be found in the UT Extension publication Subterranean Termite Control. You may download a free copy from the UT Extension publications website: https://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications. Enter the name of the publication into the site’s search engine.

Dr. Vail reminds consumers not to be pressured into signing a contract with a pest control agency immediately. Termite damage occurs slowly. The amount of damage caused by taking an additional day, week, or month to make an informed decision is negligible.

Many structures were pretreated with a soil termiticide before the house was built and, if properly done, treatment should provide at least 5 years of protection. At other homes, a professionally installed and maintained termite baiting system may detect and treat termites. However, if wood or wood scraps were buried in the backfill, or under porches or steps, or if spreader boards or grade stakes were not removed before the concrete set, then termite food was left in place. Construction site preparation, installation and cleanup determine some of a structure’s susceptibility to subterranean termites.

The following suggestions can be followed to help make a home less conducive to subterranean termite invasion:

• Reduce the amount of cellulose around the structure. Keep a 12- to 18-inch bare zone next to the foundation and use inorganic mulches (pea gravel or river stone) instead of plant-based ones “near” the foundation. Replace wooden landscape timbers with those made of other materials such as concrete or vinyl. Don’t stack firewood against the house. Keep tree roots from getting close to the foundation.

• Reduce moisture sources around the home or building. Ensure the irrigation system is working properly. Termites love moisture to make mud tubes and for mating. Repair outdoor water faucet leaks quickly. Keep crawlspaces dry by either using a plastic cover with ventilation or by using an encapsulation system. The finished grade outside the house should slope away from the house to prevent water from collecting under the house. 

Termites can be controlled but total elimination is less certain. The homeowner should be vigilant at all times.

Cattle Market Trends

Report for week ending 3/21. Slaughter cows steady to $4 higher, $75-$104; Slaughter bulls $2 higher, $103-$117; Feeder steers $1 to $6 higher, $136-$257.50; Feeder heifers steady to $6 higher, $117.50-$202.50. Feeder Cattle Index - Wednesday’s index $174.02. Fed Cattle 5-area live price of $150.10 is up $2.18. The dressed price is up $0.31 at $240.11. Cattle Receipts (number sales): This week: 8,362 (12) Week ago: 9,900 (12) Year ago: 7,500 (11) (TN Market Highlights)

Cattle Market Outlook

Calf prices seem to be setting all-time records week after week while yearling cattle prices have experienced small increases and are mainly steady. Calf prices are likely to remain relatively strong throughout the year. However, calf prices will soften in the next couple of months as pastures are filled.

Alternatively, feeder cattle prices are likely to remain fairly steady through early summer with an expected strengthening of prices in late July and through August. Slaughter cow prices have continued to increase week after week with breaker and boner cattle prices being equivalent in the market place this week.

A major reason for the convergence of breaker cattle and boner cattle prices is due to the low supply of slaughter cows. It is extremely likely slaughter cow prices will exceed the $1 per pound mark within the next couple of months as they are only about three cents shy of that mark this week. As producers attempt to expand the herd, fewer cows will be marketed for slaughter which will further increase prices. (Dr. Andrew Griffith, UT Extension)

Grain Market Trends

Report for week ending 3/21. Soybeans, and wheat were up and corn was down for the week. Issues between Russia and Ukraine continue to provide volatility in grain markets.

CORN: Corn exports were above expectations. Ethanol production was up for the week. Cash prices, $4.73-$5.16. May futures closed at $4.79 a bushel, down 7 cents for the week.

SOYBEANS: Soybean exports were above expectations. Cash prices, $13.70-$14.89. May futures closed at $14.08 a bushel, up 20 cents a bushel for the week.

WHEAT: Wheat exports were within expectations. Cash prices, $6.92-$7.41. May futures closed at $6.93 a bushel, up 6 cents a bushel for the week. (Dr. Aaron Smith, UT Extension)

For additional information on these and other topics, contact the UT Extension Office, 925 East Baddour Parkway, Lebanon, TN 37087, 615-444-9584 or acorrell@utk.edu.  UT Extension pro-vides equal opportunities in all programs.  Visit the UT/TSU Extension webpage at http://utextension.tennessee.edu... or look for UT & TSU Extension, Wilson County on Facebook.

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