What Do You Do If You See Termites with Wings?

by | Apr 5, 2024

Discovering termites with wings, also known as swarmers or alates, inside or around your home can be unsettling. These flying termites are a clear signal that a termite colony is not just nearby, but also mature and looking to expand its territory. When an existing colony matures, termites with wings emerge en masse during swarming season. This often occurs after a rainstorm in spring or other times of year depending on the species and regional climate. This swarming is a natural dispersal strategy that allows fertile termites to mate with termites from other colonies to create new colonies. This typically indicates that the termite population in the area is large and potentially overwhelming their current residence. If you spot these flying termites, the first course of action is to remain calm and promptly assess your property for further signs of a termite infestation.

Alates are not focused on destroying wood like the workers that make up most of a termite colony. Their purpose is to reproduce and find new locations to colonize. When you observe them, it is essential not to disturb them and to document where they are found and where they appear to be heading. If swarmers are seen, contacting pest management professionals like Absolute Pest Management is a critical next step. We are trained to evaluate the extent of the termite presence and recommend effective treatment plans designed to target existing colonies or prevent new ones. Proactive engagement with specialists can significantly mitigate the damage termites could cause and help maintain the integrity of your home’s structure.

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How Are Flying Termites Different from Normal Termites?

Flying termites serve a distinct reproductive function in the termite life cycle that sets them apart from their earthbound counterparts. After progressing through the stages of the termite life cycle, termites differentiate into specialized roles when they reach maturity:

  • Workers are responsible for constructing tunnels and expanding the colony
  • Soldiers are tasked with defense
  • Alates are the only members of the colony capable of reproduction and establishing new colonies

All termites consume wood but alates are not solely focused on expanding the structures within a colony. Their purpose is singularly focused on reproduction, so they are not as focused on destruction as the workers who excavate wooden structures. Once the termites with wings are fully developed, they leave their original colony during the swarming events to mate and locate new sites for colony establishment.

Contrary to workers and soldiers, which can live up to a couple of years, flying termites have a transient existence after their swarming flight and most do not survive long afterwards. This is due to predators and harsh environmental conditions killing off an overwhelming majority of the swarmers that take flight. The ones that do survive become the successful kings and queens that create and govern new termite colonies.

What Do Winged Termites Look Like?

termite alate

Winged termites bear distinctive characteristics that set them apart from other household pests. As their name suggests, all winged termites sport a set of wings, but their appearance can vary depending on their species. For instance, drywood termite swarmers exhibit a color palette ranging from red to dark brown to pale tan and are complemented by wings that may appear transparent or smoky grey. In contrast, subterranean termite swarmers are generally darker and show off shades of dark-brown or blackish coloring and are recognized by wings that extend past the length of their bodies.

The physical specifics of flying termites include a body size of about three-eighths of an inch long, though variations can occur. All flying termites possess four wings of equal length that protrude beyond their body, short and straight antennae, and a unified width between their thorax and abdomen which gives them a stocky appearance. These winged invaders can often be found congregating around sources of wood, cracks in structures, or openings where pipes penetrate walls. Identifying these insects correctly is the first step in addressing what could potentially be a serious termite infestation.

What is the Difference Between Winged Termites and Winged Ants?

Distinguishing between winged termites and flying ants is crucial for homeowners seeking to identify a potential pest problem. Although both may appear similar at a glance, especially during a swarm, there are distinct anatomical differences that set them apart [1].

Winged Termites:

  • Antennae: Straight and beaded in appearance.
  • Waist: Broad and uniform in width, similar to the rest of the body.
  • Wings: Four wings of equal size and length, which they shed after swarming.
  • Behavior: Swarm to mate and establish new colonies, potentially causing significant damage to wooden structures.

Flying Ants:

  • Antennae: Bent, resembling an elbow in shape.
  • Waist: Pinched and narrow, similar to wasps.
  • Wings: Two sets of wings of unequal length; they do not shed their wings.
  • Behavior: May swarm but do not consume wood

Not all termites are granted the gift of flight. Within the termite colony’s structured caste system, only a specific group of termites capable of reproduction can take to the skies [2]. These alates embark on a nuptial flight when a colony has reached maturity and needs to expand its presence to new locations. Their purpose is singular and crucial: to disperse, find mates, and establish new colonies. After these nuptial flights, the alates shed their wings, mate, and embark on the task of building a new colony.

Why Do Termites Take Flight?

Termites with wings

The act of flying in termites is an essential reproductive strategy designed to ensure the survival and propagation of their species. Specific environmental conditions like rain, high humidity, and optimal temperature signal to the mature reproductive members of a colony that it is time to embark on their nuptial flight. This flight is a calculated dispersal mechanism that enables termite colonies to expand beyond their current boundaries. By flying out en masse after rainstorms, these termites maximize their chances of survival and successful reproduction.

This mass exodus from the nest is a clear indication of a mature and potentially overcrowded colony seeking to establish new settlements. Upon finding a suitable mate, a pair of flying termites will land and shed their wings as a sign of pairing and commence the founding of a new colony as the new termite queen and king.

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Do Flying Termites Appear During Certain Times of the Year?

Winged termites make their appearance once a termite colony reaches a certain stage of maturity, typically between three to four years after its establishment. The timing of their appearance is closely tied to specific environmental conditions depending on the species and the environment they are in. Most species swarm during spring and summer, with some species continuing into late autumn. The precise timing of these swarming events often follows periods of rain [3], when the air is still, and humidity is high as these conditions create the optimal environment for flight and mating.

How Long Does a Termites Swarm Last?

The phenomenon of termite swarming is a fleeting moment in the reproductive cycle of a termite colony. Once a colony reaches maturity, it produces winged reproductive termites destined to become the future monarchs of new colonies. These swarmers embark on their nuptial flight, which lasts typically between 30 and 40 minutes. Guided by light, these termites use their wings solely for the purpose of distancing themselves from their original nest to find a suitable location for a new colony. However, they don’t go far as most flying termites typically disperse up to 300 feet away from where they emerged from [4]. Should termite swarmers fail to find an appropriate site to establish a new colony, particularly one that provides necessary soil moisture, they face

What Happens to Termites with Wings?

Flying termites dead from dehydration

Once successful termite swarmers have completed their nuptial flight, they land and shed their wings which indicates their readiness to establish a new colony. This process involves the female leading and the male following closely behind in a rapid search for the perfect nesting site. Upon finding an optimal location that offers suitable conditions for egg-laying and colony development, the pair begins the construction of their new home either by burrowing into the ground or into the wooden structures themselves. Although it might seem like termites establishing colonies away from residential areas pose no threat, the reality is that the swarmers produced by these new colonies can become a problem for nearby homes over time.

Not all flying termites are successful though. Termite swarmers are delicate, soft bodied insects that make the perfect snack for predators like birds, bats, and lizards. Those that manage to survive predation also have to avoid dehydration. Termite bodies are used to being contained within the safety of their colonies which have optimal temperature and humidity within the termite galleries from which they emerge. Once they take to the sky, they are exposed to conditions that can desiccate their bodies quickly making flying termites extremely sensitive to outdoor conditions. This is why they generally take flight after rainstorms when outdoor humidity is higher. Even with optimal conditions, these flying insects are extremely delicate and will dry out and die if they are not able to find a suitable mate quickly [5].

Where Did the Flying Termites Come From?

termite swarmers on a piece of wood

Encountering flying termites within or around your home often points to the presence of an established termite colony nearby seeking to expand. Observing a swarm of flying termites near your home typically signals a probable termite infestation in the immediate vicinity or already within your home but the origin of these flying termites can vary. They may arise from subterranean nests located in your yard, your neighbor’s property, or even a wooded area further away. Once they emerge from their colonies, they will be attracted to the lights around a home which help guide them to a place to establish a new colony.

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Are Flying Termites a Sign of a Termite Problem?

Seeing flying termites near or within your home doesn’t always directly point to a termite infestation, but it’s a sign that shouldn’t be ignored. Flying termites can be carried by the wind, making it possible for a few to appear near your property without a nearby colony. However, a swarm of flying termites around or inside your house is a more significant indicator that there may be an established termite colony in close proximity, potentially even within the structure of your home itself [6].

The emergence of these swarmers typically signifies that a termite colony has reached maturity and is ready to expand, suggesting that termites could have been in or around your property for some time. Whether these termites are venturing out from within your walls to start a new colony or are attracted to your home as a new site for colonization, the appearance of swarmers is a strong hint of a larger termite presence. To safeguard your home against possible structural damage, it’s wise to consider a professional termite inspection as soon as flying termites are spotted. This proactive approach can help identify and mitigate any termite activity before it becomes a more severe problem.

How Serious Are Flying Termites?

The appearance of flying termites serves as a critical alert to homeowners about the potential for serious structural damage. These winged termites signify a mature colony that has been developing over three to six years and is now ready to expand through the establishment of new colonies. While the sight of alates themselves does not cause direct harm, their presence indicates an underlying termite infestation that could be silently compromising the integrity of your home. The worker termites from these colonies feed on the cellulose found in wood, targeting the softer interior while leaving the exterior facade deceptively intact. Over time, this can lead to significant structural damage that is often discovered only when visible signs of termites appear.

Therefore, flying termites should be taken seriously as harbingers of potential damage. Their swarming is a sign that termite workers may have been weakening your home from the inside out for years. The detection of flying termites often necessitates immediate action to assess and address termite activity before further damage ensues.

How To Tell if You Are Dealing with a Termite Invasion?

Identifying a termite invasion early can be crucial in mitigating the damage these pests can cause to your property. While the sudden appearance of termite swarmers indoors is a significant indicator of an infestation, there are other signs that can alert you to termite activity [7] before you notice flying termites. Conducting regular inspections for these termite signs can help catch an infestation early:

  • Mud Tubes Outside Your Property: Often found near foundations, inside or outside walls, around ceilings, and plumbing areas. Active infestations can be indicated by repairing a broken tube and checking for repairs.
  • Mud Splatters: Used by termites to cover small holes to avoid airflow.
  • Odd Structural Issues: Unexplained sagging floors, broken door jambs, or buckling wood can indicate termite damage.
  • Finding Frass: Termite droppings, or frass, are dry, six-sided, tan pieces of digested cellulose that often resemble ground pepper or sawdust.
  • Discovering Dead Flying Termites: Signifies an active termite colony somewhere close by.
  • Discarded Wings: Piles of wings suggest mature termites have swarmed to start a new colony.
  • Wood Sounds Hollow When Tapped: Indicates termites may have consumed the wood from the inside out.
  • Termite “Headbanging” Sounds: A rattling noise within walls, indicating termite communication.
  • Exterior Wood Damage: Visible signs of damage to wooden parts of the property.
  • Bubbling or Uneven Paint: Can indicate moisture from termite nests.

Being vigilant and regularly checking for these signs can help you detect a termite problem early, making it easier to control and limit the damage. If any of these indicators are present, it’s wise to contact a professional pest control service for a thorough termite inspection and treatment plan.

How to Get Rid of Flying Termites

Discovering swarming termites around your property is a sign that requires immediate attention. The initial step upon spotting what you suspect to be termite swarmers is to accurately identify the insects. Upon confirming the presence of termite swarmers, it’s advisable to proceed with a comprehensive inspection of your property. This may involve reviewing the termite treatment history of your home and deciding on the most effective termite control measures, such as soil treatments with liquid insecticides, termite baiting systems, or other remediation techniques approved by regulatory authorities. Given the complexity of termite behavior and the potential for significant property damage, consulting with a pest control professional is a critical step when trying to get rid of termites. A professional can offer expert identification, assess the extent of the infestation, and recommend a tailored treatment plan to protect your home or business from further termite damage. Always ensure that any pest control measures comply with local regulations and standards to guarantee both effectiveness and safety.

Contact Absolute Pest Management if You Are Dealing with Termites

If you suspect you’re dealing with termites, whether you’ve noticed the telltale signs of swarmers or are seeking to prevent an infestation before it begins, Absolute Pest Management is here to provide expert assistance. We offer an integrated pest management approach to termite detection, treatment, and ongoing prevention. Our team of professionals is equipped to ensure your home remains safe and termite-free. Don’t let termites compromise the integrity of your property. Reach out to Absolute Pest Management today to schedule an inspection and take the first step toward effective, long-lasting termite control. We have offices in Austin and Buda, Texas and we serve all of the surrounding communities. Protect your home with the expertise and care it deserves.

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Flying Termite FAQs

  • What should you do if you see termites with wings?
    • If you see termites with wings, it’s crucial to promptly identify if they are indeed termites and not flying ants by observing their uniform wings, straight antennae, and consistent body width. Next, consider contacting a professional pest control service, such as Absolute Pest Management, to conduct a thorough inspection of your property. This step is essential to assess the potential infestation level and to discuss appropriate treatment options to protect your home from termite damage.
  • Should I worry about winged termites?
    • Yes, winged termites, or swarmers, are a sign that a termite colony is nearby and potentially ready to establish new colonies, which could lead to an infestation in or around your home. Their presence, especially indoors, often indicates a mature colony that could be causing unseen structural damage. It’s advisable to seek a professional termite inspection promptly to assess and address any potential termite activity.
  • Why do I see flying termites in my house?
    • Seeing flying termites in your house usually indicates that there is a mature termite colony nearby, which is producing swarmers or alates to expand and establish new colonies. This occurrence often points to an existing infestation within or close to your home, as these reproductive termites emerge to mate and find new nesting sites. It’s a sign that you should promptly contact pest control professionals for an inspection and possible treatment to prevent further damage.
  • Do flying termites mean you have termites?
    • The presence of flying termites, or swarmers, typically means that there is an active termite colony nearby. These winged termites are reproductive members of the colony, emerging to start new colonies when the original colony reaches a certain size or age. Their appearance, especially within a home, is a strong indication of a termite infestation that requires professional evaluation.

Sources

[1] https://www.wikihow.com/Flying-Ants-vs-Termites

[2] https://8billiontrees.com/pest-control-exterminators/termite-swarm-in-house/

[3] https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/termite-swarmers-what-do-they-mean-for-you

[4] https://www.termiteweb.com/the-flying-termites-or-alates/

[5] https://www.lsuagcenter.com/profiles/qsun/articles/page1620966062329

[6] http://extension.msstate.edu/content/signs-termite-infestation

[7] https://rockingham.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/rockingham_ext_vt_edu/files/horticulture/homeownerinfestationlink.pdf

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