Strength in Numbers-an Introduction to Swarmer Termites

by Nate on September 29, 2010

Strength in Numbers-an Introduction to Swarmer Termites

Termites have earned themselves a high degree of notoriety, with Americans spending hundreds of millions of dollars on termite eradication and home repairs every year. Termites are well known for their perseverance, their appetite for wood and cellulose-based fibers, and their ability to reproduce very quickly. These factors are the basis for the problems the insects cause for homeowners.

How to Recognize Swarmer Termites

Swarmer termites appear very similar to winged ants, making the termite difficult to recognize. While swarmer termites themselves are technically harmless, their presence indicates that a termite infestation in the area is more than likely. For this reason it’s important to be able to recognize the differences between these two species.

Swarmer termites have straight antennae, whereas winged ants have bent antennae
Swarmer termites have two pairs of wings that are equal in size. Winged ants also have two pairs of wings, but one pair is smaller than the other
Swarmer termite wings are angled back towards the body, when the insect is at rest, while an ant’s wings are almost at right angles to the body
Swarm termite wings are darker than those of the winged ant
Swarmer termite bodies are long and broad, while the body of the winged ant is segmented, with a narrow “waist”

What Happens During a Termite Swarm?

Termites swarm during the reproductive phase of the termite life cycle, which is typically during early spring. Swarmer termites are seen most commonly on warm sunny days, often following rain, however, different species of termite tend to swarm at different times of the day. Subterranean termites most often swarm during the hours between mid-morning and mid-afternoon, while Dry wood and Formosan termites usually swarm at or after dusk. In all cases, the swarm usually lasts for several hours.

During the swarm, winged termites travel a short distance from the colony and seek cover. The vast majority of the swarmers die before mating, with most being killed by predators or dying due to dehydration or other injuries. A pair of swarmers will mate as soon as they find cover, and this mating pair forms the basis of a new termite colony that will grow and mature over several years before swarming.

Outdoor termite swarms may often go unnoticed, particularly if the termites are of a species that swarms during the evening. An indoor swarm, however, is very difficult to miss, as the termites will fly en masse towards sources of light such as windows, doors, and lamps or bulbs.

What should you do if you find Swarmer Termites in or near your Home?

A termite colony usually produces swarmers between two and four years after the colony was founded. This means that by the time you see a termite swarm, the insects have already been living-and eating-in the area for several years. Swarmer termites are very weak fliers, meaning that they will not travel far from the colony’s location. If you see a swarm, it’s a safe bet that the colony is located very close by. Unfortunately, that also means that if a swarm occurs indoors, it’s almost certain that you’re sharing your home with a termite colony.

Swarmer termites are not themselves harmful or destructive-their only objective in this phase of the life cycle is to find a safe place to reproduce. However, if a swarm occurs in your home, it can be quite messy, and of course any termites that escape can potentially mate and start a new colony. If termites begin swarming in your home, the best way to handle it is to try and contain the swarm by closing doors and windows. There is no danger of infesting your home again by doing this, as any termites that mate will not form a new colony within the home. Once the termites have stopped swarming and died, you can vacuum or sweep up the bodies-but save several of them to show your termite inspector, or even save all of the bodies, as a termite inspector will find it useful to know how large the swarm was. If possible, try to pinpoint the location from which the swarmers emerged into the room.

If you experience a swarm within your home, an inspection is most definitely required, to determine how severe the infestation is, and whether any treatment will be necessary. An outdoor swarm is not always cause for alarm, but it is important to be aware of the fact that swarming termites have the potential to made and eventually found a new colony. Noticing a termite swarm near your home is often a good reason to invest in some preventative treatment.

Megan Hazel is a freelance writer who writes about topics concerning house maintenance including Exterminator | Termite

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: