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Flying termites

While termites are active all year round, flying termites, along with their discarded wings and droppings, are most visible in the warmer weather. Termite swarms mark the start of termite season. This happens once a year during a select period of time which differs between species and geographic location, with seasonality playing a big factor. 

Termites can remain hidden and cause damage for years without notice, resulting in expensive structural repairs. But there is one key warning sign that might be able to alert you before it’s too late – flying termites. Also known as termite swarmers, these winged termites around your property could be the indicator of much bigger problems.


What does a flying termite look like?

Flying termites appear in a range of colors depending on the species, but they are generally the same beige/tan color as the other termite castes. They have two straight antennae and two sets of wings that are equal in length. The wings are white and translucent with a veiny appearance.

Termites, in general, can be defined by their body shape. Both flying termites and wingless termites have a thick body made up of one part. They do not have a constriction between their thorax and abdomen like ants do. Termite swarmers are typically darker in color, but it can vary depending on the species.

Can all termites fly?

No, not all of them. Only a small set of termites can fly and they only do so for a short period of time before they shed their wings.

Out of the termite castes, it is only the winged alates that can fly. It is their flying patterns and habits that we have come to know as termite swarms. Alates are also the only sexually-developed termites, enabling them to become the future kings and queens of next season’s termite colonies.

What are termite swarmers?

Termite swarmers, or alates, are winged termites whose main role in life is reproduction. Emerging from tubes built by worker termites, these future termite kings and queens will swarm to find suitable locations for their new colonies.

Termite swarmers are an unwelcome sight for any property owner. If you have seen what you believe to be a termite swarm in the vicinity of your property, we highly recommend bringing in a termite control professional. Contact Western Exterminator to schedule a termite inspection with a licensed termite Technician today.

When do termites swarm?

Termites usually start to swarm in the early, often rainy days of spring when the weather is warm. They use environmental cues as a signal to start swarming and also synchronize with other termite colonies of the same species to reduce the possibility of inbreeding.

The time of day termite swarms occur depends on the species of termite. A majority of subterranean termites swarm during the day while Formosan termites swarm at night.

Termites aren’t very good fliers, so termite swarms don’t last long. Termites generally rely on the wind to help carry them and thus don’t usually get far from the originating nests. Winged termites are particularly attracted to light sources, so they can often be found swarming around street lamps, windows, etc.

Why do termites swarm?

Termites swarm to breed and start new colonies. A termite swarm marks the beginning of the termite life cycle. During this period the sexually developed male and female winged termites leave their nests and take flight – often referred to as the “nuptial flight.”

After leaving their nest, the winged termites congregate in the air and mate with termites of the same species from other colonies. After they have successfully mated, the termites land, shed their wings and start the process of creating a new colony.

Flying termites vs. Flying ants

Accurate identification is the first step in determining your course of action. Termite swarmers are easily confused with flying ants. Knowing the difference between flying ants and flying termites could help home and business owners save time and money, while providing peace of mind.

While both insects are similar in shape, size and color, there are some differences in appearance if you know what to look for.

Termite swarmers:

  • Straight antennae that appear to be made of tiny beads
  • Broad, straight waist
  • Two sets of wings, equal in length
  • Shed their wings

Flying ants:

  • Bent antennae
  • Hourglass waist
  • Two sets of wings, unequal in length
  • Do not shed their wings

Termite swarmer technicians

So you’ve spotted swarms of flying insects around your property and you are worried they might be termites. What should you do?

A licensed Technician will be able to conduct a proper inspection of the property and recommend the best termite control solutions for your needs. Termite treatments vary depending on the type of termite, but your Western Exterminator termite control expert will be able to provide you with comprehensive termite treatment options and recommendations that suit your needs.

Contact us to schedule a termite inspection today, as a termite infestation could be imminent.

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