A swarm of termites with wings might make homeowners break out the can of fly spray, but don’t panic. Winged termites, also known as alates, are a sign that established colonies are ready to reproduce.
During nuptial flight, male and female swarmers leave their existing colonies in search of mates to establish new ones elsewhere. Look for piles of discarded wings around light fixtures, windowsills, or wooden furniture.
In order for termites to reproduce and establish new colonies, they must develop into swarmers with wings. These swarmers leave their existing nests, mate, and start their own colonies. Unlike the worker caste, swarmers don’t cause damage to wood and cellulose containing materials, instead focusing on mating and reproducing. They also don’t enter homes to begin a new infestation, but rather swarm in order to find an ideal place to live.
In many cases, swarmers are a good sign that the colony is healthy and ready to expand. However, if a homeowner sees a mass of flying swarmers outside their home, they should immediately contact a pest control company. These swarmers look similar to flying ants and can easily confuse the average person. However, well trained pest control professionals will be able to distinguish the difference between ant and termite swarmers.
Depending on the species of termite, some will swarm more often than others. For instance, dampwood termites (Neotermes jouteli) will produce swarmers twice a year. However, these swarmers will only be present for a short time before they shed their wings and die.
When a termite colony is ready to swarm, nymphs will mature into alates with wings of varying lengths. The length of the wings will determine the season when they will leave the nest. After the swarmers shed their wings, they will look for an area that is dark and moist. Typically, these locations will contain plant material or roots or a decaying log. The swarmers will then build their nests in the dark spot and mate. The females will then lay eggs, which eventually become workers and soldiers in the new colony.
While swarmers can be seen all over the house, they are often found on windowsills and in the crawl space of the home. They can also be spotted in mulch and other wood products around the home. Those who have a bird feeder or compost pile in their yard might also notice swarmers there as well.
Seeing these masses of swarmers can be unnerving for homeowners, but it is important to remember that swarmers don’t cause any damage to the home. The swarming only lasts about a half hour and will quickly disperse after the mating process is complete. If you notice discarded wings in your home or on the ground, it is likely that there is a nearby termite colony.
Termite societies, or colonies, consist of distinct groups called castes that perform specific tasks. Castes include soldiers, workers and reproductives. The caste system regulates social behavior in changing environmental conditions, and is an example of polyphenism (a condition in which multiple discrete phenotypes occur within a species).
A termite colony may contain thousands or millions of members. Each member of the colony, including swarmers and queens, belongs to one of three major castes, which are soldiers, workers and reproductives.
Each swarmer has the potential to differentiate into any of these three castes, though some are more likely to become soldiers than others. When termite nymphs hatch, they are genetically identical and have the ability to develop into any of the three major castes. Once the nymphs mature, they undergo a process of molting into soldiers, presoldiers or workers. This process of molting into different castes occurs over a period of weeks.
Once the nymphs reach a certain stage in their developmental path, they shed their wings and mate. After mating, the male and female swarmers pair up to form new colonies. During the mating flight, the swarmers release a scent known as a pheromone. The female pheromone attracts the male to her. The swarmers then mate and shed their wings. They then look for a nest site in moist soil.
When a swarmer reaches the correct caste, it is referred to as a “primary” reproductive or a “secondary” reproductive. Primary reproductives are the dominant sex and produce eggs. Secondary reproductives are non-dominant sex and produce sperm, which fertilize the eggs of the primary reproductives. Both types can reproduce, but only the primary reproductives are able to lay eggs.
The caste system in a termite colony allows for more efficient functioning of the colony. The specialized roles in the caste system allow a swarm of termites to be effective in finding food and building and maintaining a home.
Each of the termite castes has a role in the survival of the colony, and each caste contributes to the success of the overall society. A society without a caste system is unlikely to survive for very long, and it is important for the individual members of a termite colony to maintain their respective roles.
At certain times of the year, subterranean termite colonies that have reached a sizeable maturity produce sexually mature swarmers with wings. These swarmers are called alates and it is the presence of these wings that is most often the first indication of a termite infestation in a house. The swarmers leave their colony in a large group, shed their wings and pair off to start new colonies in locations with a good supply of food and moisture. This is where you will typically see discarded termite wings, especially near light fixtures and windowsills.
Termite wings are clear or slightly smoky in color and have very few veins. They are elongated, with a pointed tip and a thicker front edge known as the costa that stiffens the wing and prevents it from bending or folding during flight. The wing’s surface has a ruffled appearance, and the wings of older reproductive termites are generally longer than those of younger ones.
Like ants, winged termites are poor fliers. They may be seen flying around in your home during the day when conditions are right for swarming, and you might also find discarded wings outside. They are a good indicator that the colony is active, but it’s important to understand that swarmers are not the cause of any damage, and only the termites that crawl inside your house will do that.
Swarming is an effective way for a termite colony to avoid overcrowding, and it’s also the reason that most homeowners first become aware of a termite problem when they find discarded wings in their home or on window sills. If you see discarded wings outside your home, it’s a good idea to call a professional for a termite inspection immediately to determine the cause of the problem and take appropriate action.
It takes three to five years for a subterranean termite colony to mature to the point where it can begin producing swarmers. Once these swarmers develop their wings, they are likely to be seen on the exterior of the house at various points in time during spring and early summer.
After a termite colony matures, a percentage of the population develops into winged reproductives called alates. After shedding their wings, these swarmers fly off to find mates and start new colonies. Swarming typically occurs during the daytime and happens in spring, although some species of termites are active year-round. During the swarming process, male and female swarmers fly in groups or “swarms” together until they find suitable places to begin a new colony. The female in each pair becomes the queen of her new colony.
While swarming termites do not attack humans, they can cause serious damage to wooden structures on your property. Termites are attracted to moisture, and when conditions are right, these swarmers may enter your home. Seeing a mass of white-winged termites crawling in and out of your windows is one of the telltale signs of a problem.
When swarmers are in the open air, they will flutter around a bit before landing and dropping their wings. Once they have shed their wings, these swarmers are highly motivated to start a new colony and will search for a suitable location to do so. Generally, they will search for areas with wet soil and a nearby wood source. This is why swarmers are most often seen in and around homes.
The termite swarming process can be a very disturbing experience, but it does not necessarily mean that you have a severe problem. In most cases, you will only see a small number of swarmers entering your house. These swarmers will most likely come in through cracks in your foundation walls. However, it is possible that other entry points are used as well.
Termites are vital to the ecosystem because they decompose fallen timber and other woody debris, allowing it to return nutrients to the soil. In addition, they protect underlying vegetation from harsh elements and predators by tunneling beneath them. As a result, many species of plants and trees depend on them to survive in certain environments.
However, if you see termite swarmers in your house, you should contact an experienced professional immediately. Termite infestations can be very dangerous to your family and the structure of your home, and they are best dealt with by professionals.