Are you spotting flying termites near your home and wondering if it’s time to call the pest control experts? Swarming termites, also known as alates, are a natural occurrence during the springtime.
During this reproductive stage, termites shed their wings and seek out mates to create new colonies. Knowing how to identify swarmers can help you take quick action before a full infestation develops.
The color of a termite’s wings can provide important clues about the type of termite that is infesting a property. For example, if homeowners see a swarm of winged insects hovering near the home or notice piles of discarded wings around doors and windows, it may be time to call a pest control company. The swarm of winged termites is a sign that a new colony is trying to establish itself nearby, and it can lead to serious wood damage that requires costly repairs.
While the vast majority of termites that live in colonies are wingless workers, there is a special caste within a mature termite colony that can grow wings. These reproductive caste members are called alates and have the unique ability to fly. During the mating season, female alates leave their nest to seek mates and start a new colony. They emit a pheromone that attracts male termites from neighboring colonies. A large number of male and female termites that are attracted to the pheromone form a swarm. As they fly together, the swarming termites shed their wings. Once they find a mate, the alates pair up and begin their termite life.
When a homeowner sees a swarm of flying termites, they often assume that there is a serious infestation of the pests in the home or business. However, it is important to distinguish swarmers from other types of flying insects, such as ants. Although both ants and termites have four wings, there are several ways to differentiate them. First, flying termites are usually light gold in color, while ants tend to be darker red to black. Also, a termite’s wings are equal in length and proportion to its body, while the wings of an ant are unequal and longer than the insect.
Lastly, the antennae of flying termites are straight and stand vertically above the head of the insect. In addition to this distinct shape, a termite’s wings have a specific pattern of veining that can help determine the type of termite it is. Subterranean, dampwood, and drywood termites all have wings that are shaped differently with a pronounced front vein and various cross-veins that form a series of rectangular cells.
A termite’s wings are often twice as long as its body and have a translucent look. Its thick body is also made of one piece instead of multiple segments like flying ants’ bodies, making it easier to tell apart when spotted. And its antennas are straight, as opposed to the narrow and pinched ones that distinguish ant wings.
Spotting a group of winged termites could mean that there is a colony in the area looking to expand into your home. Generally, these swarmers—called alates—are attracted to light and can be seen on or around windows and doors at night. If you notice them, it’s a good idea to take some time to examine them and look for signs of wood damage that they may have already caused in your home.
When a termite colony reaches maturity, it will produce alates to help it expand. Unlike the worker termites that destroy wood, these reproductive members are equipped with wings to fly and pair off with a male or queen to start a new colony. Once swarmers land on a new site, they shed their wings and make the final approach to their future home on foot with their king or queen in tow.
It takes three to five years for a termite colony to reach the point where it produces alates. If you have a problem with a mature termite colony, the wood damage it has already caused to your home could be extensive by the time it is producing swarmers.
The swarming process of termites is usually in the spring or summer. Once the weather turns warmer, the swarmers will leave their nests and search for places to start new colonies. When the weather is warm, it is easier for them to travel long distances without having to fight against the wind as they try to find a suitable location.
The wing venation patterns of termites can also be used to identify them from other insects with wings. Termite wings are translucent, and they are often seen with a lacy appearance due to a pattern of cross-veins that form cells. Subterranean termite swarmers have a more pronounced front vein on their wings and a complex pattern of cells, while drywood termites have fewer and simpler wing veins.
The venation pattern of the wings can help differentiate termites from other insects that may be invading your home, such as flying ants. While the wings of both ants and termites are similar in shape, ant wings have a more constricted appearance and bend at 90-degree angles. Termite wings are straight and uniform in appearance. Additionally, while ant antennae have elbows, termite antennae are beaded and straight.
Generally speaking, only the reproductive members of a termite colony have wings. Known as alates, these wings allow them to leave the nest and find a mate to start a new colony. Once they pair up and find a new location for their colony, the alates will shed their wings. This is what causes swarms of winged termites to appear in the spring and other times of the year.
Swarming termites are also poor fliers, so they can often be seen near light fixtures and windows during this time. When they reach a light source, they will fly toward it to seek out a mate and begin their search for a place to start a new colony. Because they can’t fly very far, they tend to run out of energy quickly. As a result, it’s not uncommon for discarded wings to be found on the ground or on window sills.
Once the alates pair up and find a suitable location for their new colony, they will then lose their wings and burrow into the soil to start the colony. Seeing this type of activity is typically the first indication that there is an active or imminent termite infestation on your property.
The swarming activity of the alates can occur at various times of the year depending on species and climate, but it’s most common during warmer weather. It’s also important to note that swarmers are only reproductive members of the colony, so you won’t see them as part of a normal termite infestation.
Seeing swarmers of winged termites inside or outside your home is the most surefire way to tell that you have a termite problem. Be sure to contact your local Orkin office today for a free termite inspection.
During the spring, termite swarmers are often mistaken for flying ants. These insects may swarm around homes at the same time, so it’s important to know what differentiates them. The most noticeable difference is the size of their antennae and wings. While ant wings are slightly smaller than their body, termite wings are uniformly sized and very veiny. They’re also a light beige, nearly vanilla color. Ant wings, on the other hand, are darker and longer in the front than the back.
Termite swarmers grow wings only when they reach sexual maturity and leave their colony in a group called a “swarm.” This process is called swarming because the swarmers are looking to pair up and start new colonies. The swarmers are the reproductive caste of a termite colony, so they’re also known as alates.
The rest of a termite colony, including soldiers and workers, do not have eyes or wings. Soldiers may be a light brown or white in color and have pincers near their heads. Workers are dark brown and lack wings, but they do have antennae.
When swarmers enter a home, they’re usually attracted to light sources. If you notice a large number of winged termites in your yard or house, a thorough inspection by a certified termite exterminator is in order. During an inspection, an expert will search for evidence of termite activity, such as mud tubes in key construction joints and areas of moisture, as well as look for wood damage caused by the pests.
Depending on the type of termite infestation, a professional may recommend different treatments. For example, dampwood termites need moist or rotting wood to survive, while subterranean termites require dry, solid wood. If you’re unsure whether you have a termite problem, Orkin offers a free termite inspection that can help you determine what kind of treatment is needed for your home. Call today to schedule your free inspection! And if you’re seeing termite swarmers, be sure to keep an eye out for piles of discarded wings. They’re a telltale sign that a termite colony is nearby and ready to expand into your living space.