Flying termites descended on and throughout West Bay Thursday evening, as the insects’ annual spring breeding got under way.
The evening’s balmy, still night offered ideal conditions for Asian subterranean termite breeding, explained University of Florida professor Rudolf H. Scheffrahn.
“Like any bug, they are attracted to light. They start flying right when the sun sets and emerge very quickly from infested trees or structures,” Mr. Scheffrahn said.
The invasive pest was first discovered in Grand Cayman near Governors Harbour in 2000. By 2014, the pest had already been found in 102 locations on the main island, in addition to detections on the sister islands.
Researchers believe the insect was likely brought to Cayman by infested boats. The highly prolific species is expected to spread to most of western Grand Cayman by 2050.
Mature colonies, reaching up to a million termites, disperse in mass before the Caribbean rainy season to find new locations to infest.
While the termites have a short reproductive window, lasting only about half an hour, Mr. Scheffrahn said only a couple of termites are needed to start a new colony.
Department of Environment manager Frederic J. Burton said most of the termites die in flight.
“Lizards, birds and other critters eat most of them, and then many of the survivors fail to establish new colonies and die,” Mr. Burton said.
He recommended mosquito screens to keep the insects out of homes. For a long-term solution, he said subterranean bait sticks are effective at detecting new infestations.
Mr. Scheffrahn said infested boats may be fumigated, but he did not recommend the method for homes. Since the insects often burrow into trees and soil, building fumigations are often ineffective.
The pest is now found in most of the Caribbean, he said, with established colonies in Jamaica and Cuba.