Subterranean termites, which are the most common type of termite in the United States, are notorious for their underground activities. But in addition to their wood-chomping habit, there’s another piece of information you should know about these pesky pests: Termites can fly, at least some of them, at certain times of the year (most of the termites in a colony are workers, not swarmers, and they never fly).
Why do termites fly? What should you do when you notice flying termites? Here’s what you need to know.
WHY DO TERMITES FLY?
Flight is an integral part of termites’ reproductive process. Flying termites are adult reproductive termites, called swarmers.
Every so often, when conditions are right, subterranean termite swarmers develop within the colony and leave their underground nests to mate and start new colonies. Termite swarms can occur throughout the year but are most common when the weather is warmer, particularly in the spring. The species of termites and geographic location can also factor into when termites swarm.
Also, swarmers don’t fly very well and when they settle on the ground, they soon shed their wings.
HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY FLYING TERMITES?
Swarmers are approximately three-eighths inch long and dark-brown or blackish and their wings extend beyond their bodies. You can tell swarming termites from flying ants by the absence of the pinched waist that ants have. In addition, their wings are equal in length, as opposed to ants’ wings.
Termites with wings are a sign that there might soon be a new colony of termites popping up around your home. These swarms are triggered by rain and high humidity and can occur across different species of termites. However, not all termites fly, depending on the stage of their life cycle.
WHY DO FLYING TERMITES FORM SWARMS?
Termites with wings are only produced once a colony is mature and needs to expand (approximately three to four years old). The swarm will leave the nest to seek out mates in order to form new colonies. Most fly during the day, although some fly at night using lights as meeting spots. After fertilization, the winged termites head toward the ground where they break off their own wings and attempt to form a new colony.
IS A FLYING TERMITE A DANGER TO MY HOME OR FAMILY?
While most termites with wings only mate, drywood termites are winged and will soon start eating wood, perhaps the wood in your home.
HOW CAN I DEFEND AGAINST A SWARM?
One defense against winged termites is a properly maintained home. This includes proper drainage, storage, ventilation and, most importantly, having a professional inspect your home for termites annually.
IS A FLYING TERMITE A SIGN OF TERMITES IN MY HOME?
Not necessarily. Termites are easily blown by the wind. A single termite outside a window or door does not always indicate a termite problem. This is a good reason to get a termite inspection.
- Termites with wings aren’t that fast: In a race between a flying ant and a flying termite, the termite will always lose.
- Tasty treats: Packed with fat, termites are eaten by humans in some parts of the world for their nutritional value.
- Wingless: Flying termites lose their wings after their first flight to make it easier to re-enter the ground.
- Missing the masses: Only about one in every 1,000 flying termites will successfully mate and start a new colony.
- If you see winged insects around your home, don’t take a chance. Call Terminix® and help make sure your home is safe from termites.
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF YOU HAVE A TERMITE INFESTATION?
A sudden appearance of termite swarmers indoors is a sign that termites may be actively feeding on your home and a good reason to get a termite inspection.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU ENCOUNTER A TERMITE INFESTATION?
You should be vigilant about termites. Don’t take their presence lightly. Termites cost homeowners billions of dollars in damage and treatment costs each year in the United States.
If you find termites in your yard, it’s no reason to panic, but it should alarm you enough to contact a termite control professional to come and inspect your home. Termites thrive wherever there is wood. When you see termites in areas outside your home, you don’t always have to have your home treated. However, this should alert you to their presence around your home.
If you find termites around your home, make sure to inspect the foundation of your house for mud tubes that termites make to move from their nests to your home. This is also a good time to contact a termite control professional to come and inspect your property.
Similarly, if you find mud tubes inside of your home, this can indicate that termites are present. Generally, you will not actually see white worker termites, which prefer to remain in dark, damp spaces and stay inside walls or underground, so you need to look for signs like mud tubes.
Flying termites can be helpful by indicating a termite problem that may otherwise remain out of sight until a lot of damage has been done. Keep an eye out, and be sure to read the signs when you see them.