Spring time is when most termite colonies begin to swarm. This typically occurs after a rain storm followed by sunny warm weather at this time of year. Swarming is a natural occurrence that happens when a subterranean termite colony grows to a “mature” size. Seeing these massive flying termite swarms can be quite terrifying to some people, when in reality the swarmers do not cause any structural damage.
Swarmer termites are all potential kings and queens of new colonies. When a subterranean termite colony gets to a certain size (a mature colony–which can take 3 to 5 years), they start producing the alates (aka swarmers), or winged forms. These winged termites are larger than the worker termites, darker in color, and have compound eyes to allow them to see during the nuptial flight. Worker termites are the small, white, blind termites that actually do all the damage. Typically, a colony can produce several hundred swarmer termites that just hang out until the conditions are right for them to all leave the colony at once. Swarmer termites are not very good fliers so they leave, flutter around a bit, then land and break off their wings soon afterwards since they don’t plan on flying anymore. The now de-winged swarmer termites then begin searching for a suitable place to start a new colony. Males will follow females in tandem until she finds a place (usually in wet soil next to a wood source) to dig out a chamber and begin mating. Even though several hundred swarmers are produced, only a very small percentage survive long enough to produce new colonies. Most get eaten by birds, lizards, and other small animals and many die when they land on parking lots, roads, building roofs, and other surfaces that get hot.
If the swarm happens inside your home, keep in mind none of them will survive to make new colonies. However it does mean your home is currently infested with termites and you need to get it treated by a professional termite control company like Terminix Service, Inc. If you happen to find a handful of swarmers or even just a few discarded wings present inside your home, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a termite infestation. You most likely have several termite colonies living in your yard and when conditions are right more than one colony may swarm at the same time. It is not uncommon for a few individuals from these swarms to end up crawling into your home. Again, these will not do any damage and will most likely die fairly quickly but it’s always a good idea to contact Terminix to perform an inspection just to make sure.
Ants and termites have similar life cycles as they are both social insects that live in colonies. Ant colonies will also produce swarmers (winged ants) at certain times and swarming may take place the same time termites are swarming. To the untrained eye, ant and termite swarmers may look the same. However, there are ways to distinguish the two types of insects and well-trained pest professionals are able to do so quite easily.
So next time you see flying termites there is no need to panic because they will not cause any damage to your home. This only indicates that a termite colony is nearby. When this happens in or around your home, be sure to call Terminix for a free termite inspection. Our termite control experts will check for a current infestation as well as prepare a plan to protect your home in the future.