A client was repairing water damage on his front porch last week when he believed he found termites in one of his posts. When Joe inspected the home he found a small suspended colony of Formosan Termites in the bottom of the post. We treated the home about a year ago and successfully stopped the subterranean termite colony. So why were termites in the post?
At the time of a soil treatment the subterranean colony (colony in the ground) is cut off from the termites inside the structure. In rare cases when there is an artificial moisture source available in the structure, the termites that were cut off from the subterranean colony can colonize above the ground inside the structure. For this to happen a supplementary reproductive termite (queen in waiting) has to be present in the above ground population of termites. Normally the primary queen is in a nest with other termites, deep in the ground several feet to a hundred yards from the feeding site. She constantly produces pheromones which control functions and activities of the colony, such as how much they feed, where they feed, which ones become workers, soldiers and swarmers. If the queen is cut off from the termites in the structure due to a soil treatment, her pheromones are no longer able to control the termites in the structure. By design the supplemental reproductive (queen in waiting) turns into a queen because the pheromones suppressing her royal ascent are no longer present.
Joe found the supplemental queen (see picture below), about one hundred workers, two soldiers, and several nymphs in the bottom of the post with no tunnel connecting the colony to the soil–letting us know that this was a suspended colony. Before a follow up treatment could be done, the contractor had to remove all water damaged wood and stop all water leaks. Joe and a technician drilled and treated all connecting wood beams, posts, etc with termiticide to make certain there were no other suspended colonies along the front porch.
Formosan termites are known to be able to live suspended above the ground almost indefinitely if there is a water source. Other species of subterranean termites can be suspended above ground for limited periods of time depending on water conditions, but not as successfully as Formosan termites. A visible inspection of this home would not have indicated a suspended colony. Make sure your home is treated by a professional. And if you have active termites at the time of the treatment, make sure all water leaks and rotten wood are repaired.