Yes, termites have wings when they are in the reproductive stage. These winged termites are called alates and swarm during warm weather to mate and start new colonies.
Seeing these flying termites around your home may be alarming, but they do not pose a threat to your house’s structure. Rather, they are a sign that you have a mature termite colony nearby.
Aside from a noticeable difference in color, there are a few other distinct characteristics to set termites with wings apart from similar-looking pests. The first is their body shape and size. Winged termites, known as alates, have long bodies that are slender and wide at the waistline, straight antennae, and wings that are twice as long as their bodies. This gives them a butterfly-like appearance that is easily recognizable.
Unlike most other members of a termite colony, which are workers that destroy wood as they tunnel through it, swarmers have one job: to leave the colony and find a place to nest. This is why you see them swarming around homes and other structures at certain times of year, most often in the spring when conditions are right for mating.
The second unique attribute of swarmers is their wings, which are translucent and milky in color. They are also much longer than their bodies, making them stick out far back past the insect when at rest. In fact, swarmers are often mistaken for flying ants because they can look very similar.
Lastly, there is a slight difference between the wings of drywood and subterranean termites that can help distinguish them from one another. Swarmers from a subterranean termite colony tend to have two main wing veins on the basal side of the forewing, while those from a drywood termite colony have three.
Once swarmers have mated, they shed their wings and move on to establish new colonies. This is why you may sometimes find piles of discarded wings near light fixtures or windowsills. Despite their fragility, discarded wings are a good indication that you may have an active termite problem in your home.
Because they are attracted to light, swarmers are frequently seen swarming around exterior lighting fixtures, windows, and other wooden structures. However, swarmers can also infest your home through cracks and crevices in the walls, attic, or basement of your home. For this reason, it is important to take proactive measures to prevent a termite infestation from developing. A professional can help identify areas where a termite colony is most likely to form and provide solutions to protect your property from these destructive insects.
The color of a termite’s wings is often a giveaway to the pest’s identity. Unlike the wings of carpenter ants, which have a distinct orange tint, termite wings are generally clear and can appear almost translucent in some light conditions. They’re also typically twice as long as a termite’s body and extend from the insect’s thorax.
The wings of a termite are designed for short-term flight and to help the insects find a suitable place to establish their colonies. During the mating process, termite swarmers (often called “alates”) use their wings to fly from their current homes in large numbers in search of mates and new locations for new termite colonies. Once they successfully mate, the male and female termites lose their wings and become the proper King and Queen of the new colony.
While a termite’s wings are designed for flight, they’re not very effective at it. They’re usually not able to carry the alates very far from their originating nests. This is why discarded termite wings are often found near windowsills and other entry points into a home.
In addition to their size, the wings of a termite have a number of other distinguishing features that can help homeowners quickly identify them. For example, the wings of a termite are usually more uniform in appearance and tend to be noticeably longer than those of an ant. Additionally, the antennae of a termite are typically straight and lack the elbowed shape characteristic of ants.
Lastly, the wings of some termite species, such as those of the Drywood termite, are actually iridescent, which means they reflect and change color in response to changes in lighting and angle of observation. However, iridescence is not present in all wings of the termite species that have been studied.
Seeing a swarm of winged termites is the most common sign that homeowners have termites. During the swarming season, which happens when weather is cool and damp, termite alates will leave their existing colonies in search of mates and new locations for colonization. These swarms can be quite large and are an important indicator that the time for new termite colonies is approaching.
Termite wings vary in size depending on the species of termite and can range from about 1/4 to 1 inch in length. This is a result of both the size of the male and female insect. The front wings are narrower and longer than the hind wings. The wings of a termite are also ribbed and contain raised veins that stiffen the wing, allowing it to hold its shape during flight. The front of the wing also has a thicker, harder, front edge, called the costa.
If you see a large number of winged termites, it could indicate that the colony is swarming. During a swarm, sexually mature termites, or alates, leave their current nest to find mates and establish new colonies. During this process, the alates shed their wings, revealing the adult male and female that will become the king and queen of the new colony. The rest of the alates lose their wings and settle down to become worker or soldier termites. As a result, you may see discarded wings around the ground, window sills, and other cracks and crevices in your home.
When it comes to shape, flying termites resemble ants. However, if you’re able to examine the insects in your home, it shouldn’t be difficult to tell them apart. Termites have a wide waist and thorax with four wings that are equal in size, while ants have a constricted waist and four wings that are double the width of the body. Additionally, the antennae of ant wings bend at 90-degree angles while those of flying termites are straight.
Other insects that can look similar to termites with wings include green lacewings and carpenter beetles. Both of these bugs are common backyard insects that feed on pests like aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs. Green lacewings are bright-green in color and have four wings of equal size, while carpenter beetles are brown, have two pairs of wings of different sizes, and have near-transparent wings. If you suspect you have a bug infestation, contact a pest control specialist to perform an inspection.
The termites you see flying around your home are reproductive members of the colony, known as alates or swarmers. During swarming season (February through July in Florida), the colony produces winged male and female alates that leave the nest to find mates and start new colonies. Swarmers have wings that are transparent and double the length of their bodies. They also have straight antennas.
Swarmers don’t eat wood and serve only the purpose of reproduction. They can fly only for a short distance and for a limited time. Once they land, they shed their wings. This is why it’s important to look for discarded wings in and around your home. Seeing them is an indication that there’s a mature termite colony nearby and that you need to take action.
Termite swarmers can cause significant structural damage to homes and businesses. If you notice signs of swarming in your home, you should call a professional immediately. Termite infestations are best prevented by scheduling regular onsite inspections, as well as termite treatments in the area of your home where you’re noticing a swarm.
While many people think that all termites have wings, only a specific caste of the termite has them. This caste, known as the reproductive nymphs or alate nymphs, develops into swarmers with wings when they’re ready to mate. When they’re ready to swarm, the nymphs release a pheromone that attracts other male and female alates of the same species. Once the swarmers locate a mate, they settle down to begin a new colony.
Once the swarmers land, they break off their wings and burrow into the ground to start a new colony. Then, they mate and shed their wings once again. Because they can’t fend for themselves once their wings are gone, they need to settle down somewhere protected from predators and other natural elements.
If you’re concerned about a termite infestation in your home, contact Hulett immediately to schedule an inspection. Our technicians are trained to spot the swarmers and other warning signs of a serious termite problem. Don’t wait to act — these insects can do significant damage in just a few years.