Insect Budding and Why You Want to Avoid It

Most bugs are social, including ants, wasps, termites and even cockroaches.

ants budding

Underneath the anthill and within infested walls, a complex hierarchy dictates which bugs perform which tasks: harvesting food, defending the nest, caring for the young, etc. This ensures the survival of the entire group. Entomologists are still unraveling the mystery of how this behavior evolved in some species and not others.

For homeowners, however, the consequences of this insect intelligence are as worrisome as they are fascinating. For, where there’s one ant or termite, there’s bound to be many, many more. And where there’s one colony, there’s the potential for another.

What Is Insect Budding?

Insect budding occurs whenever one group of social insects splits and some of its members depart to start a new colony elsewhere. Often, only certain classes or castes within the colony are able to colonize in this manner. In some cases, social insects are forced to split up and start new colonies due to unexpected circumstances like flooding.

However, in some ant species, such as the invasive Argentine ant, worker ants can bud without a queen. These sterile worker ants will transport eggs to a new site and raise new reproductives (kings and queens) in order to expand their territory.

Why Do Insect Colonies Bud?

Insect colonies will bud for a number of reasons:

The existing colony has matured

Once some ant and termite colonies reach a specific age and/or population, instinct kicks in. This is highly characteristic of termite behavior. While there is no universal age at which all termite colonies mature, a subterranean termite colony typically buds when the colony is between three to five years old.

The colony is under distress. 

Any number of factors can create environmental pressures that might cause an insect colony to bud. Food may be scarce or the ground may be becoming so dry that the insects themselves are threatened with complete dehydration. Subterranean termites, for example, must maintain a certain level of moisture to survive. Maintaining contact with moist soil may be one way for them to stay hydrated. Unfortunately, some over-the-counter pest repellents can actually promote budding, as the insects will simply spread out in order to avoid sprays, powders and poison. A professional pest control company, like Terminix®, can control the current pest infestation and help prevent future ones.

Insect Budding Warning Signs

How can you tell if social insects are trying to establish a colony, new or old, in or around your home?

Be on the lookout for winged termites and ants.

If you notice these pests in your home, especially out of season, chances are that an existing colony on your property has budded.

Follow the leaders. 

Ants and termites communicate with each other using chemical signals called pheromones. If you notice foraging ants in your kitchen or discover termite mud tubes in your basement, you’ve come into contact with a colony’s “scouts.” Traffic along these insect highways should be two-way, as the bugs at the head of the column are trudging back to the nest to inform their neighbors of the presence of food, and those neighbors are following the tracks laid down by the advance guard toward that food.

How Can You Prevent Insect Budding?

The best method of preventing insect budding is to eradicate any existing insect colonies.

Handling pesticides always requires caution, and the instructions for application can be complicated and require the use of special tools. The best way to control infestations of social insects is to contact a pest management professional to recommend, handle and apply all forms of pest control. Pest management professionals aren’t only trained in the use of the most effective pesticides, they’re also experts in insect behavior and know the best methods for rooting out insect colonies.



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