Termites are the arch-nemeses of many homeowners, costing billions in damages each year. But can these wood-eating pests fly? The short answer is yes, but only during a specific reproductive phase. Winged termites, called alates, swarm during warm weather and at certain times of the year.
You may see them clustering around wood trim or in mud tubes near your home’s exterior. Learn what to look for and how to treat them.
Once a termite colony reaches maturity, it begins producing alate nymphs with wings. These swarmers help the colony expand by mating and founding new colonies. They’re the termites that you see swarming around your home during warmer days. These swarmers are known as winged termites and can be mistaken for flying ants.
Winged ant and termite wings are very similar in shape and size, but it is important to differentiate between the two insects to prevent false alarms. The main difference is that termite wings are uniform in size and are twice as long as the insect’s body, while ant wings have a larger pair up front with a smaller set behind. Additionally, ant antennae are bent, while termite antennae are straight.
Unlike worker termites, which can only be seen as they forage for wood and create tunnels under the surface of your home’s exterior, swarmers emerge from the ground in large numbers to mate. The fertilized swarmers then shed their wings and burrow into soil to establish new colonies. As they burrow, the swarmers can cause damage to wood structures inside your home.
When swarming occurs, the swarmers can be seen emerging from cracks in your walls or foundation. You may also notice mud tubes along the ground outside your home. Typically, swarming takes place in spring and summer and after heavy rains.
The swarmers are easily distinguished from workers by their wings and color. They’re a light gold in color and translucent, with veiny appearances. In contrast, ants are darker in color and have thicker bodies with a distinct waist.
While swarming, the swarmers have the ability to fly for short distances. They shed their wings once they find a mate. After they mate, the male and female swarmers will each break off their wings and enter their new colony. If you spot discarded insect wings in your home, you can collect them and bring them to an exterminator for testing. The discarded wings will also provide an indication of the location of a nearby termite colony. The discarded wings can be collected using a vacuum cleaner although you may not be able to collect all of them.
Pile of Wings
When termites swarm, they grow wings to help them search for new nesting sites. Once they find one, they shed their wings and settle in. The discarded wings often collect in piles near the area where the termites swarm. These piles of wings are a sign of a potential termite infestation and should be taken care of immediately.
Termites don’t just fly around and leave piles of wing droppings; they also tunnel through wood, creating mazes of passageways. Depending on the type of termite, these tunnels can lead anywhere in the home, including the attic and walls. A termite inspection should include an examination of the tunnels and any wood damage found throughout the home.
Many homeowners mistake carpenter ants for termites because both insects have two antennae and three body parts, but only termites have wings. The front wings of flying swarmer termites are long and equal in length to the back wings, unlike carpenter ants’ wings which are shorter on the front than the back. Termite wings are also a uniform width from the head to the abdomen, while ant wings are more segmented.
Subterranean and drywood termites produce winged swarmers to populate new colonies. Once the swarmers settle, they lose their wings and become wingless worker and soldier termites. If you see a pile of discarded termite wings near your home, contact a pest control professional for a complete termite inspection.
During the course of an inspection, a trained pest control technician will look for evidence of swarming, such as the piles of wing droppings. He or she will also check for mud tubes, which are small tube-like structures made of soil and wood bits that termites use to bridge between their underground colony and the wood they consume. Mud tubes are especially important to look for in garages, basements and other damp areas of the house.
Lastly, the inspector will inspect the surrounding area to ensure there is no termite activity outside the home. If there is, a termite treatment plan can be put into place to protect your home from these destructive insects.
Signs of an Infestation
Termites are inherently drawn to wet, rotting and decaying wood. Because of this, they swarm in search for new places to colonize and mate. Although swarmers do not cause the damage that eventually leads to the destruction of wooden structures, they are one of the first signs of an infestation. If you spot a bunch of these flying creatures, it could mean that a mature termite colony is nearby and that it is growing rapidly.
Swarming occurs during the spring and summer when reproductive males and females shed their wings and head out to find a place to set up their own colonies. They are most apt to swarm at night and in warm, moist conditions such as after rainfall.
Because of this, they are often mistaken for flying ants and vice versa. But while they are similar in appearance, there are distinct differences. For instance, ant wings are broad and opaque in color, while termite wings are narrow and translucent. Termite wings also have a distinct pattern of veins that radiate out from the costa. The wing venation of termites is usually arranged in a zig-zag pattern.
While swarmers do not have eyes, they can sense vibrations and sounds. They have specialized antennae that detect and orient themselves toward sources of food. They can even detect certain fungi and other mold spores.
When swarmers see light, they instinctively move toward it. This is why it’s important to keep light out of your home or building and use curtains, blinds and window treatments. It’s also essential to ensure that any deck, fence and other wooden structures that touch the ground are properly pressure treated.
Termite swarmers may be difficult to spot because they are so small. However, if you see piles of transparent wings lying around, it is a good indication that a swarm has passed through your property and headed towards a future nesting site.
Seeing a swarm of flying termites is a clear sign that a mature termite colony exists in or near your house. It is important to contact your local Ehrlich Pest Control office immediately, and get a termite inspection. We can help you to prevent serious problems before they begin.
Termites are the bane of many homeowners. The munching wood-eating pests can cause serious structural damage to homes and buildings if left untreated. And while most people know to watch out for flying ants, few realize that swarms of termites with wings also indicate a possible infestation.
When termites swarm, they shed their wings to allow them to fly to new colonies and find mates. They’re also looking for a place to set up their own colony. Spotting a swarm of alates in your yard is a good reason to call in a professional for a thorough inspection and treatment.
Swarming termites may look similar to flies and ants, but a trained eye can tell them apart. Unlike flies and ants, which have one set of wings that is proportional to their body size, swarming termites have two sets of equal-sized wings that are translucent. They’re also a much darker shade than ants, which have wings that are brown and more proportional to their body size.
If you see a pile of wings in your yard, it’s important to take action before the swarmers move into your home. This can be accomplished by spraying orange oil around the exterior of your house. The natural solution is safe for pets and children, and it will keep swarmers from entering the interior of your home.
It’s also a good idea to install termite bait stations in your yard. These can be placed by a certified Terminix pest control specialist. Bait stations work by using termite-specific bait that is eaten by the termites and carried back to their colonies, where the bait kills all of the termites, including swarmers. This is a comprehensive approach that’s effective in killing both swarmers and workers.
Another way to deter swarming termites is by taking steps to reduce moisture in your home. Keeping soil and mulch away from the foundation of your house, keeping basements and attics well-ventilated, and installing water barriers in crawl spaces and basements are all ways to keep termites from gaining access to your home.
The best way to protect your home from a potential termite infestation is by working with a trusted Terminix pest control expert. Having an experienced technician perform a comprehensive inspection and provide treatment is the most effective way to eliminate termites.