Why do termites get wings


Termites are very small and similar in size to ants, which often leads to confusion. There are also several different types of termites, which can make figuring out which control method to use challenging. In fact, knowing the key differences between ants and termites is a good starting point for identification. Knowing the types of termites you’re dealing with is the next key factor for professionals to determine.

Owing to their secretive nature, termites can be hard to detect, especially with an untrained eye. You are far more likely to spot the signs of termite damage before you spot termites themselves.

There are different types of termites, but there are some very destructive species that like warm, moist, areas. So, cities and areas like Miami, Atlanta, and Charleston can be affected by these species of termite.

As with any other pest, correct identification ensures the use of the most effective control methods and allows you to choose the most appropriate prevention steps to try and avoid problems in the future. You can discuss options such as chemical barriers or other methods to keep termites away.

Need help identifying termites? Call Ehrlich today at 1-800-837-5520 for advice and to schedule a FREE termite inspection of your home or business.

Think you have termites in your home?

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What do termites look like?

Do termites really look like ants? Termite swarmers can look like flying ants, and they are often confused.

The difference between these two pests will greatly impact the type of service needed to control them in your property.

Often a suspected problem with termites, turns out to be a problem with carpenter ants or fire ants, because they look so similar.

Here’s how to establish the general differences in appearance and behavior between ants and termites:

Waist – Termites have a straight waist, while ants have a pinched waist.

Antennae – Termites have straight antennae while ants have bent antennae.

Wing Length – Termites wings are the same length while ants have wings of different length.

Look for discarded wings around window sills – Flying termites (also known as swarmers) are often confused with flying ants, because both their winged mating cycles occur during the springtime. However, flying ants do not shed their wings. If you have seen these flying insects in your property, you can be fairly certain you have identified termites if you’ve also found discarded wings.

Look for differences in body shape – The image below should help you identify important differences in body shape of termites and winged ants (termite is on the right, ant on the left):

Have you spotted termites in your home or workplace? As these insects are highly destructive, you should get professional advice and termite control from Ehrlich right away. Our termite control specialists know how to spot termite eggs, larvae and which types of termites might be causing the damage.

Why is identification so difficult?

Even armed with the above information, it may still be hard to make a correct identification using the naked eye. Bear in mind that termite swarmers are only about ¼ inch long – about the same size as a pencil eraser.

Identification is made even more difficult by the fact that termites often remain hidden away in properties for years without the owner’s knowledge. As already mentioned, the first indicator of a potential problem is usually visible evidence of termite damage.

Ehrlich’s termite species guide offers greater detail on what termites look like and how to recognize the common features between termite species.

What are the types of termites?

What kind of termites are you seeing in your home? Click here to find out.

Identifying termite species

All types of termites can cause damage to your home, but knowing a bit more about the different species of termites can help identify them more easily. Depending on where you are in the country can also determine the types of termites you may have to contend with.

The location of your property as well as its component structure will both have an impact on the termite species, which you may be at risk of.

Generally speaking, incidence of termite infestation is much higher in the southeastern states, such as Florida, and the west coast states, such as California, and gradually decreases the further north you travel in the country.

Here are some of the most common termite species found in the U.S. Subterranean termites are one of the most common species found throughout the U.S.

The top 3 most invasive species of this type, include the Eastern subterranean, Western subterranean and the Formosan subterranean termites.

Eastern subterranean termites are the most prevalent and can be found on the east coast in states like Georgia and as far west as Utah. Western subterranean termites are mostly found along the west coast and inland through to Nevada.

Formosan termites – are a particularly serious type of subterranean termite, but are not as common. Formosan subterranean termites are found primarily in Louisiana, Mississippi, along the Gulf coast.

Drywood termites – can also be found in the US, sometimes nearer to the coast although they don’t need moisture to survive. They are prevalent along the gulf coast as well as on the west coast in California.

Dampwood termites – live in damp and rotting wood and mulch, and can often be found near open water. They can enter your home through wood that meets damp soil.

Termites with wings

The primary function of termites with wings, or swarmers, is to reproduce and generate new colonies. They have two wing pairs, and the presence of these insects indoors signifies that a building is likely infested. Flying termites can commonly be found swarming around window sills or exterior lighting because light attracts them.

These insects will turn into the queens and kings of new colonies. Termites with wings depart from their nests and fly when the conditions are appropriate. The males and females will swarm together in the air. After they land, the swarmers will shed their wings, mate, and start new colonies.

Control and prevention of termites after identification

Once correct identification is made, the most effective solution plan can be offered to quickly bring the problem under control. Ehrlich offers conventional termite treatment which uses liquid termiticide treatment and other methods include the use of monitoring and baiting systems.

Identifying termites from their damage

At Ehrlich, we confirm the invading termite species through a visual identification rather than just looking at the evidence of the damage to your building and its location.

However, some of the points below could be of help to you, when checking your building for signs of activity:

Subterranean termites begin their feeding process (damage) from the ground up and typically enter a building through the sub-structure. Homes with crawl spaces are at great risk. It is here you should look for evidence of damaged wood and mud tubes. Wood damaged by this particular species develops “galleries” (hollow tunnels), which run along the grain of the wood.

Drywood termites typically enter structures near the roof line or other exposed wood to begin building a colony. Inspect your attic for evidence of damaged wood. Look for tiny holes in the wood with evidence of frass collecting nearby. Probing the wood can also expose galleries as well.

Having experienced a termite infestation, most people will be eager to ensure they do not have the same problem in the future. Ehrlich can give you simple steps you can take to “termite-proof” your home or business and the prevention plans can offer further help.

If you suspect you have termites, call us today at 1-800-837-5520 or contact us online to arrange a FREE termite inspection for your home or business.


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.


How Termites Work

Termite treatments and good building methods can’t completely prevent a termite infestation. Homeowners in termite-prone areas have to keep an eye out for signs of the wood-eating insects. Often, the first sign of infestation is the emergence of a swarm. If you find alates inside your home, they probably came in through your walls. This is a sure sign that there are termites in your home. However, if you find a swarm outside, particularly if it’s coming from a stump or a tree, the infestation may not have reached the building. Alates can look a lot like ants — here’s how to tell the difference:

  • Ants have a narrow waist. Termites do not.
  • Ants’ front wings are significantly longer than their back wings. Termites’ wings are the same length, and they can fold straight back down the length of the termite’s body.
  • Ants’ antennae are bent. Termites’ antennae do not bend, and they look like a very fine string of pearls.

Here are some other common signs of home termite infestation:

  • Wings: Alates shed their wings just after swarming. When the alates are inside your home, they typically shed their wings on windowsills or near lights.
  • Decayed wood: Termite damage generally follows the grain of the wood. Termites also line the damaged wood with soil. Damage from other sources, like water or fungus, doesn’t follow this pattern.
  • Shelter tubes: Termites will dig tubes up cinderblocks, concrete, brick and other surfaces in order to get to wood. Sometimes, if you break the tubes open, you will see live termite workers inside.

Termite damage happens from the inside out, so it can be hard to detect an infestation. If the wood in your house sounds dull when hit with a hammer, there may be termite activity inside. You can also use a screwdriver or ice pick to carefully probe anywhere you believe termites might be hiding. This can reveal damaged wood and the termites themselves.

Treating a termite infestation requires a professional exterminator. Next, we’ll take a look at the most common methods used to get rid of termites.


Flying Termites

Termites with Wings

Homeowners often first become aware of termite infestation due to the presence of flying termites.

What Does a Flying Termite Look Like?

  • Size: Depending on the species, flying termites can range in size from 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch.
  • Color: While worker termites are usually light in color, flying termites may be light in color, dark brown or black based on the species. The darker color helps termites retain moisture and makes it possible for them to leave the nest.
  • Wings: four wings

How Did I Get Flying Termites?

Also known as alates or reproductive stage termites, flying male and female alates emerge from existing colonies to mate and form new nests elsewhere. A flying termite swarm near the home nest could indicate a large colony in the yard or some other nearby location. Residents who find multiple alates inside, notice their shed wings around doors and windows, or see them emerging from the house exterior may have an active infestation inside their home.

How Serious Are Flying Termites?

Termites are among the most damaging insects found in homes. Colonies take about three to six years to mature to the point when the colony produces alates. During this time and as long as the colony is active, the termite workers feeding on wood may create costly damage to buildings.

These worker stage termites eat the soft interior portions of wooden supports and other wooden building components, while leaving the wood’s outer shell intact. Termite infestations can go on for years until the damage reveals itself through evidence of mud tubes, cracks or collapse of the building’s wood. Flying termite swarms are a serious warning sign of potential damage for homeowners.

How Do I Get Rid of Flying Termites?

We’ll determine whether you actually have termites, then discuss a treatment plan including financing that works for you.

A winged termite may be the king or queen of a colony – or a swarmer (alate) launched to create a new colony.

Flying termites have poor eyes, whereas worker, soldier and secondary reproductive termites are blind.


Flying termites are visible when their colony swarms. Swarms are provoked by heavy rainfall and warm, humid temperatures among other triggers. Swarms occur when established colonies produce winged male and female termites in order to reproduce. After these mating flights, fertilized termites shed their wings and go on to establish new colonies. Termites seen flying in a home are indicative of a mature colony. Homeowners should contact their local professional pest control expert to learn about extermination solutions for their home.

May Look Like Ants

While flying termites closely resemble winged ants, there are clear differences in their appearance. Ants have a constricted waist, while termites have a more straight-sided waist. Termites also have four wings of equal size. Ant antennae bend at 90-degree angles, while the antennae of the termite are straight.


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