During the spring, it’s not unusual to see flying termites after a rain. These swarmers (also known as alates) typically emerge from the ground, tree stumps or cracks in the foundations of homes and buildings. Their job is to depart from the nest, find a mate and establish a new termite colony — one that might eventually be home to thousands or even (in rare cases) millions of offspring.
Contributed by: Doug Webb
Updated on: November 11, 2022
April showers might bring May flowers, but spring rains also come with increased flying termite activity. Flying termites aren't a particular species of termite, per se. Rather, most species of termites sprout wings during their mating season – which often corresponds with the warming temperatures and increased moisture levels of spring. These winged termites are reproductive members of a termite colony and are called alates or "swarmers".
Why do termites come out when it rains?
When it rains, the temperature and moisture levels of the environment change, which affects the way termites behave. In order to survive, termites require certain conditions to start new colonies. Increased rainfall tends to make conditions more ideal for termites – and bad for homeowners who may discover these pests at work inside the walls of their homes.
Swarmers develop during the late winter months based on signals from the queen that allow them to develop into reproductive stage termites so they will be ready when conditions are favorable for their survival. Spring rains and warmer temperatures cue the termites that their time for swarming has arrived.
Rain increases moisture levels
Why do homeowners often see more flying termites swarm after spring rains? The answer has to do with the way termites respond to wet environments. Rain provides the life-giving water that termites need for survival. That fact, combined with warm temperatures, humidity and the age of the termite colony, triggers the mating process of the termites.
After a soaking spring or fall rain, thousands of winged reproductives may swarm from the colony, seeking to mate and start new colonies. When the mates pair off, they lose their wings and go underground to begin a new nest.
Rain helps make the environment more wet, which in turn makes termite survival more likely since there is plenty of water available.
However, rain is not the trigger for swarming so much as the combination of warm temperatures, humidity and the age of the colony itself.
Rain may increase water damage in homes
When rain saturates the ground – especially in areas where your home's foundation touches the ground in areas with improper soil drainage on your property – termites have another reason to infest your house.
Standing water in your crawl space as well as well as wet insulation, are conditions conducive to termite infestation. In some cases, wood that is wet for extended periods of time may lead to an above-ground termite infestation as the termites move into the damp wood.
If flooding damages your foundation or footing, termites can gain access to your house through foundation cracks that may occur. They only need a tiny opening (1/32 to 1/16") to enter your home. Therefore, homes and other buildings that have flooded may be more prone to termite infestation.
How does flooding affect termite activity?
There are some positives related to flooding where it concerns termite activity. Termites can drown if the floodwaters overtake them, but it is unlikely that flooding will eliminate entire colonies. If flooding occurs in their underground habitat, termites do not move to higher ground. Instead, they go into temporary survival mode by entering an immobile state to conserve oxygen. In this immobile state, some termites can survive underwater for up to 16 to 30 hours, depending on the type of termite.
On a less optimistic note, while floods can slow termites down and might outright kill some of the termites, these resilient pests have some serious survival tactics. When floodwaters retreat, termites may re-emerge. If they do come out of their immobile state or come back from the wood they were hiding in, you can be sure they will find plenty of standing water and damp wood to ensure the continued survival of their colony.
Terminix termite control
f you see signs of termites, don't take any chances. Contact Terminix® and let one of our highly trained termite control professionals conduct a free termite inspection of your home. If we see evidence of a termite invasion, we'll present you with a solution to your problem.
Even if you don't currently have termite activity, it's a good idea to contact a termite control professional. Since termites feast 24/7, Terminix has plans that can help protect you from the cost of future termite infestations.