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The most destructive, widespread and economically costly termite species in the US is easily the eastern subterranean termite, which inhabits the entire eastern half of the US, as well as southeastern Canada. While the eastern subterranean termite’s habitat range is not believed to extend farther north than central Maine in the northeast US, this species is relatively tolerant of the cooler mid-Atlantic climate, and they are abundant in all northeastern states located south of New Hampshire, Vermont and upstate New York. Termite pest activity is categorized as “moderate to heavy” in Massachusetts, and older historically notable structures in the state are often found to be infested with termites. Since the northeast coastal states often see hurricanes and other heavy storms that sometimes result in flood conditions, many residents of the region are curious to know how well eastern subterranean termites stand up to harsh weather conditions of this sort.

All termite species, particularly subterranean termite species, require heavy amounts of water and high-moisture conditions in order to survive, but it is possible for the insects to get too much of a good thing. According to researchers, excessive amounts of rainfall, and especially flood conditions, have been shown to reduce eastern subterranean termite foraging activity. In other words, there are far fewer subterranean termites tunneling toward residential homes in areas that have been inundated with water due to heavy storms. One laboratory study showed that eastern subterranean termites, unlike cockroaches, do not make an effort to escape to areas of higher ground during flood conditions; instead, the termites respond to rising water levels by entering into a dormant state where they remain until water levels decrease or until the termites die. This is generally how eastern subterranean termites react when their subterranean habitat becomes inundated with water during typical storms. Most storms end in time for termites to regain activity and survive, but obviously this is not the case when it comes to floods, hurricanes and long-lasting storms. Researchers documented 99,000 foraging termites in one study area during the summer of 1992, but this figure decreased to 21,000 foraging termites by 1993. The reason for this sharp decrease in foraging termites was believed to be caused by numerous heavy storms during the winter of 1992 and 1993, which resulted in heavy termite fatalities.

Have you ever placed an insect below water to see how it would respond?