NEW ORLEANS — For much of this spring, outdoor lights have remained mostly swarm free.
The Formosan termites that typically haunt New Orleans late spring nights haven’t shown themselves.
But while the respite has been a relief, don’t expect this to mean this old city has escaped unscathed.
The recent cooler weather has merely pushed the activity to a later date.
“In the next few weeks,” said Dr. Carrie Cottone, a research entomologist who heads the city’s termite division. “I think as soon as it gets warmer. Typically this time of year we get really, really warm weather and it’s a night after a good rain, that’s when we typically see them, especially as the winds are calm.”
Both Cottone and Dr. Claudia Riegel, the director of the New Orleans Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board, said that while the cooler weather has kept the swarms from appearing, termites are still a problem.
In fact, both stressed that termites are active year round, just out of sight underground or in the wooden structures that make up the buildings of the city.
Termites thrive in warm, humid, calm areas, Cottone said, which New Orleans is beginning in April most years.
New Orleans has about 35 traps spread throughout the French Quarter, ones that have ensnared only a few termites so far this year.
In spite of the end to Operation Full Stop, a federally funded program that helped treat the French Quarter that finished its run in 2012, there are enough funds for the city to keep an eye on the pests. The money currently comes from the general fund and other work contracted by the Control Board, Riegel said.
“It’s a pretty minor expense,” Riegel said. “Just a few folks checking on a routine basis every couple of days, checking the sticky traps in the quarter.”
From April 1 through July 1 – roughly termite swarm season – the city monitors those traps, baiting them in an attempt to help control the colonies. Termites, Riegel said, are a social insect that will share its food with others.
The bait has an active ingredient called a chitin synthesis inhibitor, which keeps the termite from molting.
The board can’t rely on this cool snap to eliminate them.
In other words, enjoy it while you can. Sooner rather than later they’ll be out, swarming around the lights.
“They haven’t been bad this year but I have to say they haven’t been bad yet,” Cottone said. “They’re still coming.”