Termites are a common pest that homeowners often have to deal with, but not all termites are created equal. One particular type that can cause concern is termites with wings, also known as swarmer or alates. These termites are a sign of a mature colony and can indicate a significant infestation.
Swarmer termites are responsible for starting new colonies and are often the first sign of termite activity that a homeowner will notice.
These pests are typically seen in the springtime when they leave their colony to mate and establish new colonies. Their presence is a clear sign that there is a large, established termite colony nearby.
Understanding the life cycle and behavior of termites with wings can help homeowners take the necessary steps to protect their property.
In this article, I’ll go over everything you need to know about termites with wings to help you identify them and look out for the signs of termite infestation. I’ll also cover what type of damage they can do and what you can do to get rid of them.
What are Flying Termites?
Flying termites, also known as alates or swarm termites, are the reproductive members of a termite colony. They are a critical part of the termite life cycle, and their primary role is to start new colonies. These termites are typically larger than worker termites, equipped with wings, and are capable of flying.
Flying male and female alates emerge from their nests in large swarms, usually after a heavy rain when the weather begins to warm. This phenomenon, often referred to as a termite swarm, is a common sign of a nearby termite infestation. If you see flying termites, it’s a strong indication that there’s a termite nest close to your home.
While flying termites do not directly damage structures, their presence signals the potential for significant damage. If a pair successfully mates and finds a suitable location, they can start a new colony, leading to a full-blown termite infestation.
Therefore, seeing flying termites should prompt immediate pest control measures to prevent further damage.
Do Flying Termites Eat Wood?
Technically yes, flying termites, also known as alates or swarm termites, do eat wood, but only when they’re no longer capable of flying.
Their primary purpose is not to feed but to reproduce and establish new colonies. These winged termites are the reproductive members of the termite colony, emerging usually in the spring or fall to mate and start new colonies.
Once they have successfully mated, they shed their wings and start building a new colony, becoming the king and queen of their new termite kingdom.
While their primary focus is reproduction, flying termites, like their wingless counterparts, are indeed capable of consuming wood. They eat wood momentarily before dying and after shedding their wings.
What Do Flying Termites Look Like?
Flying termites are easy to spot, thanks to their translucent wings. Their bodies are approximately one-quarter to three-eighths of an inch long, and are characterized by a straight, beaded antenna, a thick waist, and a pair of identical length wings.
Their four translucent wings are a key distinguishing feature. These are typically white or grayish, elongated, and almost twice the length of the termite’s body. When at rest, the wings lay back along the body, giving them a unique profile.
Flying termites are attracted to light and are often spotted near windows, doors, vents, and light fixtures. Their presence often indicates a mature termite colony nearby.
Flying Termites Vs. Flying Ants: What’s The Difference?
Flying termites and flying ants often cause confusion due to their similar appearance. However, they are distinct species with unique characteristics and behaviors. Understanding these differences is crucial in effective pest control.
Flying termites, also known as alates, are reproductive members of a termite colony. They swarm during certain seasons to mate and establish new colonies.
Termites have a straight waist and straight antennae, with two pairs of wings of equal length. They cause significant damage to wooden structures, as they feed on cellulose.
On the other hand, flying ants, or ant alates, also participate in swarming activities. However, they have a pinched waist, elbowed antennae, and their wings are unequal in length with their front wings being longer than the back wings. While they can be a nuisance, they typically do not cause as much structural damage as termites.
Types Of Flying Termites
There are many termite species, but the three most common types found in the United States are Dampwood, Drywood, and Subterranean.
Dampwood termites are usually found in damp, decaying wood. They are the largest in size and prefer moist environments.
Drywood termites, on the other hand, live and feed in undecayed wood with low moisture content. They can infest structural timbers and furniture, causing significant damage.
Subterranean termites live in the soil and build the largest colonies of all termite types. They are the most destructive, causing billions of dollars in damage annually.
Signs Of A Flying Termite Infestation
Identifying a flying termite infestation early can save you from costly repairs. These winged pests are often mistaken for flying ants, but there are distinct signs to look out for.
- Presence Inside Home: The first sign is the presence of winged termites inside your home. They are attracted to light and are often found near windows, doors, or light fixtures.
- Discarded Wings: Another telltale sign is the discovery of discarded wings. After mating, flying termites shed their wings, leaving them scattered around your home. These wings are all of the same size, unlike those of ants, which have larger front wings.
- Mud Tubes: You may also notice mud tubes on exterior walls, wooden beams, or in crawl spaces. Termites use these tubes as protective tunnels from their colony to their food source.
- Damaged Wood: If you find hollowed or damaged wood around your property, especially with a honeycomb interior pattern, it’s a strong indication of a termite infestation.
If you spot any of these signs, contact a professional pest control service immediately to mitigate the damage and control the infestation.
Causes Of A Flying Termite Infestation
One of the main causes of a flying termite infestation is the presence of decaying wood in your property. Termites feed on cellulose, a component found in wood, and a decaying wood source is an open invitation for these pests.
Plus, moisture plays a significant role in termite infestations. Damp areas, leaky pipes, or poor drainage systems create the ideal environment for termites to thrive.
Moreover, cracks and crevices in your home’s structure can also attract flying termites. These tiny openings act as gateways for termites to enter your property and establish a colony.
How Do Flying Termites Get Inside The House?
Flying termites can gain access to your home through various means. These termites are attracted to light, and they often enter houses during their mating season, which typically occurs during warm, humid weather.
They can easily infiltrate your home through small openings such as cracks in the foundation, gaps around windows and doors, or through the attic or roof vents.
Once inside, they shed their wings and start looking for a suitable place to start a new colony. This often includes damp, rotting wood, or even the cellulose-rich materials in your home’s structure.
Flying termites are a serious threat to property as they can cause significant structural damage if left unchecked.
It’s crucial to regularly inspect your home for signs of termite infestation, such as discarded wings or mud tubes, and to seal any potential entry points.
Potential Risks Of Flying Termites
Flying termites are a clear indication of a nearby termite colony. These winged pests pose a significant risk to homeowners due to their destructive nature and the fact that they indicate a mature colony, meaning one that has reached its peak occupancy which happens around two to four years after a colony’s establishment.
1. Timber Damage
Flying termites pose a significant risk to homeowners due to their ability to cause extensive timber damage. These pests are particularly attracted to damp, rotting wood, often found in basements, attics, and other hidden corners of your home.
Their destructive capabilities should not be underestimated. These tiny creatures can compromise the structural integrity of your home by eating away at the timber from the inside out, often undetected until it’s too late.
The signs of termite damage can be subtle. You may notice sagging floors, hollow-sounding timber, or even visible mazes within pieces of wood. Flying termites are also attracted to light, so you may see them swarming around your windows or light fixtures.
2. Recurrent Infestations
One of the most notorious risks associated with flying termites is the possibility of recurrent infestations.
These pests are not solitary creatures; they live in colonies and are known for their tenacity and survival instincts. Even after a thorough extermination, a few survivors can rebuild the colony, leading to recurrent infestations.
Flying termites, also known as swarm termites, are particularly dangerous because they can start new colonies.
These termites take flight during the breeding season, seeking out new locations to establish their colonies. This means that even if you’ve successfully treated a termite infestation once, you’re not safe from future invasions.
3. Attracts Other Pests
Flying termites are more than just a nuisance. They pose a significant risk to homeowners as they often attract other pests. Termites are a food source for many predatory insects and animals.
When termites infest a property, these predators, including ants, spiders, and even some birds, are likely to follow, exacerbating the pest problem.
Plus, termites create moisture-rich environments which are perfect breeding grounds for other pests like beetles, roaches, and mold. The presence of termites can also indicate a conducive environment for wood-boring beetles, another destructive pest.
The damage from termites and the secondary pests they attract can be extensive and costly. It’s crucial to address a termite infestation immediately to prevent further pest invasions.
How To Get Rid Of Flying Termites In And Around Your Home
Flying termites can be a significant nuisance in your home. They are a clear indication of a termite infestation that can cause extensive structural damage if not addressed promptly.
The first step in getting rid of flying termites is to identify their presence. They are typically attracted to light and are most active during warm, humid weather.
Once you’ve identified a flying termite problem, it’s crucial to locate their nest. Look for mud tubes on walls and wooden structures, as these are common signs of a termite colony.
If the infestation is severe, consider hiring a professional pest control service for a comprehensive solution.
In the meantime, here’s everything you can do to get rid of them:
1. Seal All Entry Points
The most effective way to get rid of flying termites is by sealing all entry points in your home. Termites typically gain access through cracks and crevices in your home’s structure, including gaps in window and door frames, cracks in the foundation, and any other small openings they can find.
Start by thoroughly inspecting your property for any signs of termite activity. Look for mud tubes, discarded wings, and wood damage.
Once you’ve identified the areas of infestation, seal these points using a high-quality sealant. This will prevent more termites from entering your home and stop the existing ones from spreading further.
3. Use A DIY Orange Oil Solution
There’s a DIY solution that’s both effective and eco-friendly – an Orange Oil solution. Orange oil, derived from orange peels, contains D-limonene, a compound that’s lethal to termites.
To prepare this solution, mix a cup of pure orange oil with a gallon of water. Spray the solution around affected areas and potential entry points.
Also, spray it on surfaces they might use like doorposts, windowsills, skirting etc. The strong citrus scent repels termites, and the D-limonene kills them upon contact.
This DIY method is not just cost-effective but also safe for your family and pets.
3. Deploy Bug Zappers
Deploying bug zappers can be an effective way to get rid of these pesky pests. These devices work by emitting ultraviolet light that attracts insects, including flying termites. Once the termites are drawn in, they are instantly killed by the device’s electrical grid.
Bug zappers are safe to use around the home and can be placed in areas where termite activity is high. They can be used both indoors and outdoors, providing a versatile solution to your termite problem.
It’s important to note that while bug zappers can significantly reduce the number of flying termites, they may not completely eliminate a termite infestation, especially if it’s extensive.
4. Use Nematodes To Destroy Termite Colonies
For those who are battling flying termites, a unique and effective solution exists: nematodes. Nematodes are microscopic, non-segmented worms that naturally occur in soil. They are beneficial insects that can effectively destroy termite colonies, including the flying termites that often swarm during certain seasons.
Nematodes work by entering the termite’s body and releasing bacteria that kill the host within a few days. They then reproduce within the deceased termite, creating more nematodes to continue the cycle. This makes them an effective, self-sustaining termite control solution.
Using nematodes for termite control is an environmentally friendly alternative to chemical pesticides. They specifically target termites without harming beneficial insects or the ecosystem.
Moreover, nematodes are safe for humans and pets, making them an ideal choice for households.
5. Leverage Yard Materials That Deter Termites
You can use certain yard materials to naturally deter these pests and protect your home.
Wood mulch is a termite favorite, so consider swapping it with rubber mulch or gravel around your home’s foundation. Cedar mulch is another alternative as it contains natural oils that repel termites.
Planting termite-resistant plants such as marigolds, vetiver grass, and catnip can also help deter these pests. These plants contain certain chemicals that termites find repulsive.
Additionally, avoid piling up firewood near your home as it can attract termites. If you must, ensure it’s raised off the ground and covered to keep termites at bay.
Plus, regular yard clean-ups, including raking leaves and trimming overgrown shrubs, can prevent termite infestations. Termites thrive in damp, dark places, so maintaining a clean and dry yard is key.
6. Sprinkle Boric Acid On Trouble Spots
Another effective method to eliminate these pesky insects is to use boric acid. This chemical, often found in laundry and cleaning products, is highly toxic to termites but relatively safe for humans and pets.
To use boric acid, identify the areas where the flying termites frequent or their nests. Sprinkle the boric acid on these trouble spots. The termites will carry the poison back to their colony, effectively killing off the entire population over time.
However, it’s essential to remember that while boric acid is an effective solution, it’s not a one-time fix. Regular application is necessary to ensure that new termites do not invade your space. Also, always wear gloves and a mask when handling boric acid to prevent skin or respiratory irritation.
7. Clean Up The Yard
A clean yard is a fundamental step towards eradicating flying termites. These pests thrive in damp, cluttered environments, so it’s essential to maintain a neat and dry yard.
Start by removing any rotting wood, dead trees, and old stumps, as these are ideal breeding grounds for termites.
Next, ensure that your gutters and downspouts are clear of debris, as clogged gutters can lead to water accumulation, creating a perfect habitat for these pests. Regularly inspect your yard for any signs of termite activity, such as discarded wings or mud tubes.
Consider investing in a quality termite baiting system, which can help detect and eliminate colonies before they can cause significant damage.
Also, remember to maintain a safe distance between mulch or wood chips and your home’s foundation to prevent termites from gaining easy access to your home.
Plus, regular professional pest control inspections can identify potential problems early, saving you time, money, and stress in the long run.
How To Prevent Future Flying Termites
Flying termites, also known as swarm termites, can be a real nuisance and a threat to your home. To prevent future infestations, it’s crucial to understand their habits and take proactive measures.
1. Conduct Regular Outdoor Termite Inspections
Preventing future flying termites starts with conducting regular outdoor termite inspections.
Termites are silent destroyors, gnawing through wood, flooring, and even wallpaper undetected. To stop them from causing significant structural damage to your property, it’s crucial to perform regular inspections.
Start by examining the perimeter of your home. Look for mud tubes on exterior walls, a clear sign of subterranean termites. Also, check wood piles, dead trees, and stumps, as they can serve as a breeding ground for these pests.
Plus, flying termites, or termite swarm, can indicate a mature colony nearby. They usually emerge during warm, humid weather, and are attracted to light. If you spot these winged pests, it’s a warning sign of a potential infestation.
Remember, early detection is key in termite control. Regular inspections can help identify signs of an infestation, enabling you to take immediate action.
2. Exterminate Any Termite Colonies
Exterminating any existing termite colonies is an important step in preventing future infestations of flying termites. The process involves identifying the species, locating the nests, and applying treatment.
While some homeowners attempt to handle termite extermination on their own, it’s often best left to professionals. They have the experience and tools necessary to effectively eliminate termite colonies and implement preventative measures.
3. Maintain Outdoor Areas
Maintaining your outdoor areas is a critical step in preventing the invasion of future flying termites, also known as swarm termites. These pests can cause significant damage to your property if left unchecked.
Regular maintenance like removing dead wood, tree stumps, and decaying timber can drastically reduce their breeding grounds.
Additionally, ensure your gutters and downspouts are clean and functioning properly. Water accumulation can lead to wood rot, providing an ideal environment for termites. If you have firewood or lumber stored outside, keep them elevated and away from your home’s foundation.
Consider using termite-resistant mulch in your garden and around your home. Regularly inspect your outdoor furniture and playsets for signs of termite damage.
4. Keep Up With Home Inspections And Repairs
Regular home inspections and timely repairs can play a significant role in preventing future termite infestations.
During a home inspection, professionals thoroughly check your property for any signs of termite activity, such as mud tubes, hollow-sounding wood, or discarded wings.
They also identify potential risk areas where termites may gain entry, like cracks in the foundation, gaps around utility lines, or wood-to-soil contact.
Once these areas are identified, prompt repairs can significantly reduce the risk of a termite invasion. Sealing cracks, fixing leaks, and replacing damaged wood are all effective ways to keep termites at bay. Regular home maintenance also discourages termites by eliminating their food sources and entry points.
5. Treat Wood Surfaces
Treating wood surfaces is a highly effective way to prevent future infestations of flying termites.
Start by identifying vulnerable areas in your home, such as wooden furniture, flooring, and structural components. Next, apply a termite-resistant varnish or sealant to these surfaces. This not only deters termites but also seals off potential entry points.
Another preventive measure is the use of borate-based solutions. Borates are minerals that termites cannot digest. Applying a borate solution to wooden surfaces can deter termites, causing them to starve and eventually die off.
Remember, regular inspection and maintenance are key. Check for signs of termite activity, such as discarded wings or mud tubes. If you notice any signs, call a pest control company immediately.
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Melissa Pino is a biologist, master gardener, and regular contributor for Planet Natural. Melissa’s work focuses on promoting environmentally-friendly practices, helping people create healthy gardens and finding ways to achieve overall health and wellness.