If you’ve ever seen a large swarm of winged termites in your house, it can be intimidating. However, they’re not as dangerous as you might think.
The first thing to understand is that only one of the three castes in a colony–the reproductives–have wings.
They’re the reproductives
Termite colonies consist of at least three different castes: workers, soldiers and reproductives. These castes perform specific tasks that help the colony as a whole, such as gathering food and supplies and defending the colony from other insects.
Unlike other insects, termites are social insects that live and work in colonies, which can contain millions of members. Reproductives, which include the queen and king, are responsible for mating and laying eggs.
A queen termite can live for a decade or more, producing thousands of eggs a day. She lays them in a small, hollow, wooden nest inside a chamber of wood or underground.
The female termite releases pheromones to attract male termites, who then mate with her. The new couple then leaves the parent colony and flies away to start a new one.
Reproductives are the only members of a termite colony that have wings. They are also the only ones that leave the protective environment of their nest and become exposed to sunlight.
These reproductives are often called alates and fly out of the colony during the spring. They will travel a short distance from their nest before breaking off their wings and finding a place to burrow themselves into the soil.
Once they find a suitable location for a nest, they break off their wings and start building a colony. This can take a long time, so they may not survive to establish the colony on their own.
Usually, termites will only swarm once or twice a year. This is a natural part of the termite’s life cycle.
For the most part, termites will forage for food by tunneling through the top few inches of soil around their nest. Occasionally, they will tunnel deeper in the soil and use wood as a source of food. If a wood source is detected, they will recruit workers to exploit the site and build feeding tunnels to the source.
When a colony is mature, it will begin producing reproductives from nymphs. These nymphs will eventually grow wings and develop into reproductive swarmers. Some nymphs do not develop wings and are referred to as secondary reproductives or tertiary reproductives, depending on the needs of the colony.
They’re on the move
If you’ve ever spotted a termite flying across the sky, it may have left you wondering whether it’s a winged insect. While many people are under the misconception that termites are ground pests that only come out of their underground nests in spring, these insects can be active and destructive all year long.
Termites are known for their ability to tunnel into wood and destroy it by eating the cellulose-rich organic compound inside, which makes it strong and stiff. They can cause billions of dollars in damage to American homes and other structures each year, requiring major repairs or full replacement of affected wood.
Although a termite’s wings aren’t necessary for flight, winged termites do make it easier for homeowners to identify them as a sign of an infestation. They’re also a good way to spot a colony’s reproductive stage (known as alates).
These reproductives are the only termites within a colony who have wings. Other termite castes, like workers and soldiers, don’t have wings.
Reproductive termites swarm during mating season, typically in spring or summer. During this time, they’ll fly out of their existing colonies and search for new places to live and reproduce.
Once they’ve found a new place, they’ll shed their wings in order to establish a new termite colony. Because they aren’t able to fly far, you’ll likely only see them near your home, especially if it already has an established infestation.
You can find the discarded wings of swarming termites in piles, usually on windowsills or near exterior doors that are located close to an area where the insects can find light. This is because reproductive termites are on the move and leave their old dark colonies to search for a new light source to establish their next colony.
If you’ve noticed a flying termite swarm, be sure to call a professional pest control service to inspect your property. Besides the swarmers, you’ll want to check for other signs of termite activity around your home. Other warning signs include mud tubes, cracks and rot in the wood of your home’s interior walls and crawl spaces.
Wings are a key indicator of termite infestation. They’re often found near windowsills and light fixtures, since reproductive termites swarm out of their colonies of origin and head for the light when they need to reproduce.
Termites have three castes: kings and queens, workers and soldiers. The king and queen termites are the adults in a colony who produce food, mates, and regulate temperature. Without them, the colony would not survive.
The other two castes, workers and soldiers, are blind or have poor eyesight. They are responsible for feeding everyone in the colony, regulating the temperature of the nest, and taking care of the eggs and larva.
They also communicate with one another by tapping their heads against the walls of the colony, creating a vibration that alerts the rest of the termites that there is a threat. These soldier termites also create a variety of different pheromones that tell other caste members how to respond to a situation.
Flying termites, also known as alates, are a special type of reproductive termite that flies during mating season in order to reproduce and start a new colony. They have two pairs of wings that are equal in length and translucent in color with a smoky membrane that extends over them like a thorax.
Their wings are also slightly longer than their bodies and curved at the midpoint. Their antennae are broken into small, bead-like segments that look straight from beginning to end and curve slightly at the middle.
When they are not flying, they’re mainly ground termites that forage much like ants. They eat the soft interior of wood supports and other wooden building components, causing damage to their surroundings.
They are pale in color, although a few species have a yellow or brown hue to their skin. They have powerful mandibles that eject a white sticky repellent from an opening on their head to deter predators.
They’re the most common type of termite in homes, and they’re easily spotted because of their large thorax and abdomen. They are also known as swarmers because they often swarm out of their colony to find a mate and reproduce. If you see winged termites in your home, contact your local professional pest control expert to learn about extermination solutions for your home.
Swarmers are termites with wings who fly out from their nests to mate and find new colonies. This mating process is natural and occurs during the spring. During this time, female alates release “mating pheromones” to attract male termites. After they locate a suitable mate, these insects break off their wings and fly away.
During a mating swarm, you may see thousands of termites fluttering around your home or garden. Usually, these swarmers are only around for a half hour and do not travel very far.
You might also see piles of tiny wings that have been discarded by swarmers. They will be white in color and are mostly equal in length. These discarded wings will be found on window sills, the floors underneath windows and glass doors, or anywhere else that termites can settle down.
In the same way that flying ants shed their wings, reproductive termites do the same. These insects leave their dark, unsanitary colonies in search of fresh air and a new mate.
Both subterranean and drywood termites can swarm during the spring. This is the time when the weather is warm and there is plenty of moisture in the soil.
When swarming termites leave their colony, they usually find their new homes at high points on a property such as an attic beam or a roof. They’re also attracted to the light and will likely be found in places with light fixtures or on windowsills.
Swarming termites are usually not dangerous to your property but they can cause a lot of damage when they become an infestation. If you notice swarming termites, it’s important to get them treated by a pest control professional as soon as possible.
Identifying swarmers is often difficult, but there are a few signs to look for that can help you differentiate them from other termites. First, check the waist of the insect. Ants have a narrow, pinched waist while termites have a thick waist and short thorax (upper body).
Next, check the antennae. Termites have straight antennae while flying ants have prodded antennae angled at 90 degrees. Finally, look at the length of the wings and their veins. If the wings are long and have veins, they are most likely a swarmer.