When Do Termites Swarm? The 4 Things You Need To Know…

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Flying termites – basically, that’s what they are.

Termite swarms or termite alates come by the thousands. They’re especially annoying to have around during rainy days, when they flock around the house and cling to you.

But underneath that annoyance is a grave problem. Termite swarms are a strong sign that an infestation in your house has become severe. Read along and find out about the top 4 common questions people ask ask about termite swarms.

Everything You Need to Know about Termite Swarmers

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Formosan termite alates, also known as swarmers, captured on a sticky trap used to monitor populations. CC Image courtesy of Scott Bauer, USDA on Flickr

What do termite swarmers look like?

Everything You Need to Know about Termite Swarmers 2

What a termite swarmer/ alate looks like up close. CC Image courtesy of Bernard Dupont on Flickr

Termite swarmers are different compared to the other members of their family. They have two straight antennae on their heads. Each termite species has a slightly different looking swarmer, but they all come in a general tan or beige hue.

These flying termites have two sets of translucent wings, the hind-wings and the fore-wings. Unlike an ants’, these wings have the same length. They’re bigger, bigger than a termite’s body itself.

Termite swarmers are also poor fliers. They use their wings to propel themselves from the ground but they can’t fly in long distances. During flight, their wings get shed off very easily. Often times, you’ll see a bunch of fallen wings on the ground after they swarm.

To get a good look at the differences between an ant and a termite swarmer, check out this infographic.

Why do termites swarm?

flying termite up close

Do termites grow wings to fly off into a better home? Yes and no.

Termite swarms are there for one reason, to reproduce.

Yes, these termites do grow wings to fly but not to look for better homes – it’s to start a new one and build an expansion of the existing colony.

Termite swarmers are born because the colony has grown big enough to expand to the far reaches of your house. They’re fertile termites. Other members of the family like the workers and the soldiers are sterile. So swarmers are raised solely for the purpose of going off from the nest one day and making colonies of their own.

A lot of male and female swarmers are produced during winter and early spring. They’re then relocated to parts of the nest that are close above ground. There, other termites take care of them until they’re ready to fly. It takes a couple of weeks for them to mature. But once grown, these swarmers come out on specific seasons to fly out and look for mates. Other colonies do this too. So there’s a big exchange between males and females in the termite swarm. This mating ritual sort of resembles a big dance where girls and boys are gathered in one place to mingle.

Remember that only well-established colonies swarm. If you often get termite swarms in your house, you already have a serious infestation in your hands. You have to apply termite treatments as soon as possible.

When do termite swarms appear?

Termites swarm when their colonies have grown large enough after a few years. But they don’t do this randomly. They do their dance in specific occasions. A lot of different species don’t swarm at the same time. For subterranean termites, it’s usually spring. Dampwood and drywood termites prefer summer.

Certain conditions also have to be met. Termite swarmers don’t just go out any day of a season. The weather has to be good, no strong winds that can carry the fliers away and often times, no sun. Most termite swarm after or during rainy nights when there’s a lot of moisture and cool air.

Also, termite swarms don’t happen just once. This termite dance is usually staggered. You can see a large swarm one day, and a few smaller ones popping up every other day. In some days, they won’t even appear only to show up after a week later.

How do you stop termite swarms?

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Dead termite swarmers – it’s easy to kill them on their own, but it’s best to exterminate them through their source. CC Image courtesy of Bart Everson on Flickr

On their own, termite swarmers are easy to kill. You can use bug sprays or a bug zapper since swarmers are attracted to light. For small swarms, sometimes a good old fashion swatter will do (if you’re up for a workout). A vacuum cleaner also works for swarmers with their wings shed off. But remember, after doing any of those things, termite swarmers will keep coming back and do what they do.

The only sure-shot way to get rid of termite swarms is to exterminate the source, the nest and all its inhabitants. Use termite treatments for the entire house. You can call pest control or just do it yourself. After that, they’ll be gone for sure.

So it’s important that you know what those swarming brown things are. Termite swarmers are a clear indication of a nearby termite infestation. It’s not enough to just kill them. What you need is to kill off the source to stop them from appearing for good.

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