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Flying termites

While termites are active all year round, these unwelcome pest are most visible - through swarms, discarded wings and droppings - 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 location, with seasonality playing a big factor. Termites create nests both above and underground, and should they gain access into your home, could cause costly termite damage in structural repairs.

Termites can remain hidden and cause damage for years without notice. If you live in areas such as Phoenix or Los Angeles, there is one key warning sign you should be on the lookout for - flying termites. Also known as termite swarmers, these winged termites around your property could be the harbinger of much bigger problems.

What are termite swarmers?

Termite swarmers (also referred to as alates) are winged termites whose main role in life is reproducing and creating new termite colonies. In order to find a mate, these future termite kings and queens will swarm to find suitable locations for their colonies.

Emerging from tubes built by worker termites, termite swarmers range in color- from yellow to black - depending on the species. Like many other flying insects, termites are attracted to light and are often noticed around exterior lighting and window sills.

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 property inspection with a licensed termite exterminator today.

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. This is often referred to as ‘nuptial flight’ and is also common and practiced by other insects such as ants.

After leaving their nest, the winged termites congregate in the air (swarms) 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.

When do termites swarm?

  • Termites usually start to swarm in the early days of spring when the weather is warm and after a rain shower. Termites use environmental cues as a signal to start swarming and also synchronized with other termite colonies of the same species to ensure the possibility of inbreeding is reduced.

  • The time of day termite swarms occur depends on the species of termites. The majority of Subterranean termites swarm during the day while Formosan termites (a breed of subterranean termites) swarm during the night time.

  • Winged termites are highly attracted to sources of light such as street lamps and can often be found swarming around these sources.

  • Termites aren’t very good fliers and generally rely on the wind to help with air mileage. Because of this, termite swarms don’t last long, and can be found close to the originating nests. However, if the wind is strong, the future king and queen termites will often travel far before starting a new colony.

What does a flying termite look like?

Flying termites differ in appearance from other flying insects and can be identified by examining them closely.

Flying termites appear in a range of colors depending on the species. Generally, flying termites appear in the same beige/tan color as the other termite castes. They have two antennae which are often straight with a slight curve and have two sets of wings which are equal in length and white and translucent in color 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. Termites do not have a constriction between their thorax and abdomen like ants do.

Can all termites fly?

No, not all of them. Termites don’t fall into the category of flying insects like wasps and mosquitoes do. Only a small set of termites can fly and they only do so for a short period of time before they lose their wings.

A termite colony is split into groups known as castes. Each caste has a particular role in the colony:

  • Workers
  • Soldiers
  • Alates

Out of the termite castes, it is only the Alates which can fly, as they are the only ones with wings. Alates are the only termites which are sexually developed, to become the future kings and queens of next season’s termite colonies. It is the Alates’ flying patterns and habits which we have come to know as termite swarms.

Flying termites vs. Flying ants

Accurate identification is the first step in determining your next. Termite swarmers are easily confused with flying ants. Knowing the difference between flying ants and flying termites could help homeowners save time, money and provide a peace of mind.

While both insects are similar in shape, size and color, they do differ in appearance if you know what to look out for.

Termite swarmers characterised by:

  • Straight antennae that appear to be made of tiny beads
  • Broad waist
  • Two sets of equal length wings

Flying ants characterised by:

  • Elbow shaped antenna
  • Hourglass waist
  • Two sets of unequal length wings
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Termite swarmer exterminators

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 exterminator 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. Western subterranean termites build colonies underground so a treatment targeting the soil would be needed; conversely, a property infested with drywood termites would often termite fumigation services. Western Exterminator termite swarmer exterminators will be able to provide you with comprehensive termite treatment options and recommendations for termite removal.

Termites are prevalent in cities on the West Coast, locations such as Anaheim, Apple Valley, Bakersfield, Escondido, Fresno, Hayward, Palm Springs, Santa Maria, Temecula and Van Nuys. Contact us to schedule a termite inspection today, as a termite infestation could be imminent.


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