It's not a Biblical plague; it's just one of the more pesky aspects of Lowcountry life.
These ever warmer and wetter late spring days are proving a boon for the Formosan termite population, and new swarms have been seen congregating around the lights at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park and hovering in and around local homes.
Ledford's Termite & Pest Control did about 15 checks Monday from Mount Pleasant to Summerville to Ravenel, and exterminators found swarms but no serious damage, said owner Charlie S. Ledford.
"We've been running the wheels off the trucks today," he said. "It's mainly just because of the heat. Everything is warming up, and they're just looking to start new colonies."
These swarms, while unnerving, won't necessarily do harm: The bugs need to find an above-ground water source to start a colony.
Ten to 12 bugs swarming around a window isn't a problem, Ledford said. "But if you start seeing a couple of hundred of them or thousands of them, chances are you have a problem. If you start seeing a couple of hundred in your floor, chances are you have a situation."
The Charleston area has had fairly significant Formosan infestations for decades. Last year, a colony was found in the rafters of Bethel United Methodist Church, forcing the congregation to hold services in its fellowship hall while $3 million in structural repairs are done.
The bugs first arrived here in 1958, probably carried by ships returning from the Far East. They are at least six times more voracious than the native Eastern subterranean termites.
Formosan colonies average 2 million to 4 million termites and can fell a house in 10 months if left unchecked. An average Eastern subterranean colony numbers at most 200,000.
The Clemson University Department of Pesticide Regulation suggests Lowcountry homeowners get a termite contract or bond that will cover treatment and repairs to any infested house. It also suggests asking friends or neighbors to recommend a company and getting several bids before choosing one.