Termite Swarm

Termite Swarm

What is a Termite Swarm?

It may sound like a scene out of a science fiction movie, but termite swarms are a common and necessary occurrence for the survival and dispersal of termites.

When swarming termites, or alates, venture out of a nest inside a home, they will try to squeeze through cracks and crevices in the walls and foundation to reach open air for the first time. Since swarming termites are attracted to light, they often can be found near windows or light fixtures.

Termites swarm only after the colony reaches a certain size and weather conditions become optimal for flight. If you see a swarm of termites around your home, then there likely is a well-established colony of termites living in or near your home.

For many homeowners, a termite swarm may be the most visible sign of a termite infestation.

Why Do Termites Swarm?

Termites swarm after their original colony has reached a certain capacity level and is ready to expand. For most colonies, this happens once a year. Hundreds or even thousands of swarmers, called alates, are produced with the sole purpose of reproduction and expansion. The swarmers include both males and females, and the number bred each year varies based on colony size and termite subgroup. They live in the soil near the surface of their nest until conditions are right to take flight. These swarming preparations are made around the same time throughout colonies in the area.

When conditions are right, the swarmers launch into the air and pair off. Once paired, the couples shed their wings, mate and find a new place to start a nest to populate, if available. This occurs even if there are no nearby colonies to exchange alates with. The launches are typically spread out over a few days, with one large release the first day and smaller ones on subsequent days.

When Do Termites Swarm?

The timing of flight varies by subgroup — subterranean termites often swarm in the spring and during daylight, drywood termites wait until the late summer or early fall and dampwood termites swarm in the summer.

Regardless of species, most wait until a day following a rain shower when the weather is overcast and winds are under 6 mph. Damp soil aids in the nest-building process for newly paired mates, and survival rates are higher when there is more humidity. Termites don’t have to be outside to swarm, though. They can sometimes miscalculate their launching point and swarm indoors.

Drywood Termite Swarms

Drywood termite swarms are typically significantly smaller than subterranean termite swarms – often with no more than 100 swarmers. Due to the limited size of the swarm, you may not see this common warning sign for a termite infestation. However, you may notice drywood termite wings near window sills immediately after a swarm.

Drywood termites tend to swarm during the late summer or fall months.

Dampwood Termite Swarms

Dampwood termites swarm in the summer. However, dampwood termites are less of a concern to homeowners since they do not damage homes often.

Dampwood termites rarely nest inside homes because the moisture content in the wood is not high enough for them to survive. However, dampwood termites do produce swarms and can be present in wood surrounding homes, such as utility poles. A termite expert can identify signs of dampwood termites in or near homes, provide recommendations to reduce moisture conducive to termites, and create a customized treatment plan.

Check for an Infestation

Because termite swarms indicate that a current colony is flourishing nearby, it’s important to inspect your home and property if you see a swarm close to your home. If you think you may have termite activity, be sure to call an Orkin termite control specialist for a free inspection as soon as possible.


Why Flying Termites Mean Serious Trouble

Why should you care about flying termites?
Well, I might go as far as to say that seeing winged termites are the insect equivalent of having a black cat cross your path – in other words, a sign of bad luck. I’ll explain why.

If you see swarms around or inside your home, it really should act as a warning sign for 2 potential dangers:

  1. you may already have an existing termite problem
  2. your home may be at risk of potential termite infestation

The actual swarmers themselves do not cause damage. It is their off-spring, which have the power to damage your property once they land back on solid ground and search for a suitable location to start a new colony. If they are successful within two years they can begin causing significant damage to your home.

Termite Swarmers

Flying termites are one of the clearest signs of a termite problem, and they could mean trouble to you and your home!

Experts are always telling us how difficult it is to tell if you have termites. However, when winged termites emerge from the nest to take flight, all of a sudden, you are presented with a very obvious, and not at all subtle, sign of termites.

Although as some ant species also swarm around the same time of year, you could be forgiven for confusing the two. And, of course, treatments for termites and ants differ enormously.

If you see winged termites indoors, the alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear – You may have an existing problem. In other words, you may have termite damaged timber or damaged furniture in your home.

On the other hand, seeing a termite swarm outdoors may not be too much of a concern apart from the obvious nuisance if you happen to be caught in the middle of it. More on this later.

When Do Termites Fly?

Usually in the spring, summer and periods of humidity. You may have witnessed swarms of winged termites, especially when the ambient air temperatures start to rise. This change in temperature triggers the winged termites to emerge from their nest (within some form of timber) to embark on a nuptial flight.

What is the point of flying termites?

It basically signals the start of a new termite colony. Swarming is the means by which sexually mature termites with wings leave their nest due to overcrowding or lack of sufficient food.
Both male and female winged termites (or alates, to give them their technical name) will take flight and essentially procreate mid-air, before then falling back down to the ground. The now impregnated female has the role of finding a suitable location in which to start a new termite colony as the Queen.

In some species the male might die shortly after this nuptial flight, and in others they will survive to become the King in the new colony (alongside the Queen of course).

Have you ever found discarded wings by a window?

Once back on solid ground, the female of the species discards her wings and looks for suitable wood to attack and build her nest in.
In the case of Drywood termites, this could be timber within your roof – this is where the potential damage begins…..and can continue unnoticed for months and even years!

In the case of Subterranean termites, once back on the ground, they will dig into the soil to start new colonies underground.

How To Reduce the Risk from Termite Swarms

Built-up moisture in wood resulting from damaged timber or timber with ground contact on your property can potentially attract termites. Regular inspection of your home has to be a key activity to protection against a termite infestation.

Actions to keep your home safe:

  • Keep mulch away from the foundations of your home
  • Regularly check the outside and subfloor areas of your home for mud tubes and damaged wood – common symptoms of a termite infestation
  • Practice good housekeeping and maintenance – repair any damaged soffits, roof tiles, or fascias
  • Keep basements, attics and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry
  • Prevent the accumulation of water – ensure downpipes and gutters are working well to divert rainwater away from your house

Zona Tan-Sheppard

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I didn’t know that termites could fly. I’m also a little worried because my husband heard about someone in our neighborhood talking about an infestation nearby. It looks like I’m going to have to make sure to try out those tips to prevent an infestation in my own home.

I was sitting outside and all of a sudden these flying termites just start falling from what appears to be the over hang of the roof why would they be doing this?

Thankyou very very much for this site on termites, I’m working on a science project and this site is helping a lot.

I’ve done some home treatments last year and seemed to clear things up. But this year new swarmers in the house. What’s odd is they seem to be dead before they have a chance to shed their wings. Looking into pro treatment, but wondering why so many dead all over the house.

My husband brought a fixer upper and started the work without a permit and the home was infested with termites. After a yr we finally got the permits but now my home which is in front of the fixer upper has termites they are in the air at night swams in my home.. I need a new roof but should i have my home tented first then fix the roof

I live in FL. I have been battling the termites for a month. It started off slow but became horrendous. Like tonight. It’s 5:10am. Up all night battling the termites. Dry wood have iridescent wings. Subs seem to have more brown wings. In past years the swarm lasted a week tops. My plan was to tent my house in early 2016. Unfortunately I got hit by a random 35000 pound bulldozer and I had another more important fight. Hillsborough Co FL let an unsupervised bulldozer that size loose in a quaint neighborhood just blocks from a school. I never was involved in a crash before, I went into shock for months and I have had two back surgeries and need more but my KW family I worked for over 25 years total abandoned me. No insurance is a huge problem and using all my funds to live with no job is another. So no tent. I tried to spot treat. I tried everything. People say do it yourself works. Maybe if you have someone who does not mind going in the crawl space (just don’t, there are icky things there and you need a tyveck suit.) Then there is the attic and many are to small to get every price of wood. Never let an unknown piece of wood into your home. That’s hard. I think they can come in on anything including that nice furniture or the toilet paper. The dead wood against your home or the brand new piece you bought for a project. They will come in from anywhere they live. And they eat carpet too. Best bet, the first time you se a little pile of what looks like small pellets scoop them up and have a donit yourself pest person look at it. They will tel you. Then call the professionals. Get four bids and don’t overlook the small mom and pop companies. You may get better treatment from them. Keep your warranty up for the entire time you own the home. Pass it along if you sell. Make sure th me company you choose offers that. Trust me, you do not want termites swarming your home.

Thank you this is the best termite explanation I have ever seen and I’ve read a lot.


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:

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

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.


What Do You Do if You See a Termite Swarm?

Termite Swarms Are a Sign To Get Help

When termites swarm indoors, they will come out of walls or wooden construction (baseboards, door frames, posts, etc.) through small holes. These are called “exit holes” and were created by worker termites. A termite swarm will last about 30-40 minutes and the swarming termites will fly toward a light source, typically collecting around windows and sliding glass doors. If these termites cannot find soil, they will die in a few hours from dehydration. Often homeowners come home from work to find many dead swarmers (or sometimes just their wings) on window sills, counter tops, around furniture, etc. This is the aftermath of a termite swarm.

Most of the time, a termite swarm is the only time homeowners actually see termites or find out they have termites before damage is discovered. Mature termite colonies will produce winged reproductive termites that will fly off from the colony in great numbers. This is nature’s way of termites spreading and establishing new colonies. Termite swarms can occur both indoors and outside.

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Termites Eat Away Your Home and Your Finances

Termites cause an estimated $5 billion in damages in the U.S. every year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). For U.S. residences in 2017 alone, termites were responsible for an estimated $1 billion in damage and approximately $30 billion in total damage to U.S. crops and man-made structures. For the average U.S. residence, termite damage could cost you about $3000 or more depending on the amount of inflicted damage and the size of the swarm.

The sunshine state’s warm, humid climate is the perfect recipe for termite infestations. Understanding the signs of termite activity is critical for home and business owners alike.

Tips On Handling A Termite Swarm:

  • Panic.
  • Spray the swarmers with a can of insect spray. They will die naturally in the air and emptying a can of insect spray is unnecessary.
  • Try to seal the exit holes. Swarmers must escape and be sealing the holes with tape or other materials will only cause them to make new holes to escape from.
  • Try to contain them. This can be done by shutting the door to the room that they are swarming in. Sometimes, a clear plastic baggie can be attached over the exit hole so the swarmers fly into the bag.
  • Vacuum them up and throw the full bag into the garbage. The swarmers in the bag will die and they can not spread.
  • Save a bag full of insects to show a trained inspector.
  • Call a reputable termite company. A trained inspector will be able to make a positive identification of the type of termite and recommend the best control method to solve the problem.

Think you’ve had a swarm in your home? Want to learn more about our Termite Treatment Options? Schedule a free inspection or call us at 1-888-2MASSEY (262-7739).


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