Bugs in the Science Center Basement?

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

by Gabriel Ramirez

A curious Gazette reader recently noticed a hallway full of tiny, dying insects near the Physics 3/4 labs in the basement of the Science Center. Initial investigation linked the bugs to the infestation of ants plaguing Cornell basement this past year, but Director of College Maintenance Ralph Thayer identified the little winged insects as termites, common to wooded areas like Swarthmore.

“This time of year, the breeders and extraneous drones are kicked out of the nest site to go forth and multiply,” Thayer explained. He went on to say that the termites have probably been feeding on wood buried during the construction of the Science Center and are not tied to the ants in Cornell though “ants will attack a termite colony, so they are helpful allies”.

That being said, Thayer affirmed that Facilities is working to treat the termite and ant colonies as they crop up. “The most effective method is treated baits that foragers bring back to the nest to share. It’s a long process, taking weeks, but it’s the best long-term solution,” he said.

Have more creepy-crawly-questions? Ask the Gazette!


  1. So the bugs were termites. The question remains, how did they make it to be on a very specific part of a hall? It was a pretty nasty surprise when I tried to go to the bathroom down there…

  2. I'd love to see a photo of the insect in question. Winged ants are often misidentified as termites. Ants have geniculate (bent) antennae, thin waists, and shorter hind wings (both pairs of termite wings are identical). Both are arthropods; both are members of Insecta, too. Neither are (true) bugs which are restricted to the Hemiptera (stink bugs, etc.).

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