Spring is here. The flowers are blooming, the birds are singing, …and the termites are swarming! Many people are predicting a very active swarm season this year based on weather patterns. Don’t worry though, there’s no need to panic. Swarming is a natural phase of a termite colony. When the colony gets to a certain size, winged reproductive forms called alates, termites with wings (also known as swarmers) are produced. The alates hang out in the termite colony (usually underground) until certain weather conditions prompt them to leave. Usually this is a warm spring day following a rain shower. The alates disperse from the colony en masse – thousands at a time. They are males and females that flutter around looking for a mate. Paired couples fall to the ground and break off their wings. The male follows the female around while she searches for a suitable location to start a new colony. Typically this would be moist soil next to a food source, such as under a log or wood pile. There, they create a nuptial chamber and begin producing a new colony that may take several years to become large enough to produce alates.
So why not panic? Even though a termite swarm may contain thousands of individuals and can be quite unnerving to watch, a very small percentage of them actually make it to the point of producing a new colony. Most of the alates get eaten by birds, reptiles, and other insects. Many will land in areas unsuitable for termites such as the top of a building, in a lake or pond, or in a parking lot and they perish. Of the survivors, only a small number will actually find a place with the right conditions to start a new colony. Those that do make it to that point will have to worry about ants, frogs, and small mammals until the colony is large enough to produce soldiers to help protect them. It’s tough being a termite!
It’s not uncommon for some individuals of a termite swarm to wander inside your home. Sometimes they will fly in through openings around windows and doors, vents, or chimneys and you may see a handful of termite alates wandering around, especially in bathrooms where they are drawn to the moisture. Once they come inside they will most certainly die because there are no suitable places inside your home for them to start a new colony – unless you have a really bad water leak and then you would have more problems to worry about. On occasion I have found two wingless alates floating in my toilet. This was probably a male and female that wandered in from the outside, was attracted to the water in the toilet and fell in and drowned. What a horrible way to go! I have gotten strange looks from my wife as I sat crouched over the toilet, staring inside and contemplating the demise of these termites.
Sometimes termites will swarm inside a structure and it can be frightening having thousands of bugs fluttering around, crawling all over everything. These will all die shortly and not have a chance to create a bunch of new termite colonies in your house. There is no need to spray insecticides and the piles of dead bodies and wings can be removed with a vacuum. However, this is an indication that you do have an active termite infestation and you need to have your house treated.
If you have flying termites swarming in your home you definitely want to call an experienced termite control company, like Terminix Service Inc., to inspect and treat. If you find a few termites wandering inside and you just want to be sure that you do not have an active infestation you can also call us to schedule a free termite inspection. Sometimes they can swarm in the attic or crawlspace so it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Let us worry about the termites and you get out and enjoy the warm weather!