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Are Those Swarmer Termites?

By Chris Williams on March 4, 2011.

Q. I caught my cat playing with a bunch of dark, winged insects on the floor of the family room by our patio door. I don’t think the insects came in from outside because this door stays closed. Could these be termites?

A. It’s about the right time of year for our earliest termite swarms to appear. In the spring, termite colonies send out flying reproductives, called swarmers or alates. Their purpose is to mate and start new termite colonies. Ant colonies send out swarmers too, so it’s important to know the difference between swarming termites and ants. Unlike the whitish worker termites that feed on wood, swarmer termites are black with two pairs of equal-sized wings. Ant swarmers are dark with two pairs of wings, too, but the second pair of wings is smaller than the first.

Termite swarming is triggered by a combination of heat, light, and moisture. For most termite species, swarming occurs on a warm spring day, usually after rain. Outdoors, swarmers emerge directly out of the ground or from infested wood. Indoors, they emerge from mud swarming tubes (which may be hidden inside walls), or from any tiny opening that they can find. Winged termites have a weak, fluttering flight and normally don’t travel far. Indoors, they are attracted to light and often end up around windows. The winged termites around your patio door could have come from anywhere in your house – from just across the room, out of a heat register, or from a hall closet upstairs.

Termite swarms don’t last long and the swarming termites don’t live long indoors. The wings of termite swarmers break off shortly after their brief flight so you may find just a pile of wings when it’s all over.

swarmer-termitesThe bad news is that when you see termite swarmers you know you’re dealing with a mature colony that has been developing for a number of years. The number of swarmers that appear is proportional to the size and age of the termite colony. If you’re only finding a couple of swarmers inside, it’s possible that they have just found their way in from an outside swarm. Termites and their damage are usually well hidden, so the only way to determine whether termites are infesting your home is to have a thorough inspection by a termite control expert.

Swarming termites indoors is not something you can ignore. Call Colonial. Our trained technicians can tell you whether you are dealing with swarming termites or swarming ants, and whether they are a threat to your home. We can then set up a low impact, low toxicity termite control program to protect your home from damaging termites (or those pesky ants!).

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