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Termite Swarmers Don’t Hang Around For Very Long

By Chris Williams on April 14, 2016.

What do termite swarmers look like? It’s been unusually warm the last few days and at night we’ve noticed a large number of winged insects sitting on the outside wall of the front porch. They look like flies except they are slender with longer wings. We had a termite problem a couple of years ago, so I’m worried. L. B., Billerica, MA

Termite swarmers

Termite swarmers have 4 matching wings

It’s hard to give you a positive ID based on your description. Those insects could be a number of things but I doubt that they are subterranean termite swarmers.

A termite swarm is a short-lived event and the termites don’t hang around long afterwards (see Why Do Termites Swarm?). Also, termite swarms are usually oriented near the ground, swarmers don’t gain much altitude, although they sometimes rest on walls briefly. They have a fluttering flight for a short distance and are either eaten by predators or end up on the ground where their wings break off. Termite swarmers that are still around after the actual flight are mostly wingless. And since most termite swarms occur in the morning, I wouldn’t expect any swarmers to still be around come nightfall.

Termite Swarmers May Have 4 Wings…or Not

As to what they look like: Termite swarmers are about 3/8-inch long, dark-bodied with two pairs of translucent wings that are longer than their bodies and are held over their backs when at rest. All four wings are the same size which is one way you can tell termite swarmers from winged ants or flies. As mentioned though, termites’ wings are easily shed. Termites’ antennae are straight, without the characteristic elbow bend of an ant’s antennae. For more info, see How to Identify Swarming Termites.

Midges Swarm Too, But They’re Harmless

What you may be seeing on your outside walls are midges, especially if you have a porch light on at night and live near water. Midges are flies that are common in spring as they emerge from bodies of water in large numbers. Midges are also short-lived and may be gone by the next day. But if you live in an area with midge hatches, there may be new hatches almost every day for a while (see Mosquitoes or Midges?).

Collect a few of the insects if you can and have them identified by a professional. Although an outside termite swarm is no indication of an inside infestation, since you’ve had a problem before you might want to schedule a termite inspection, just for your own peace of mind. If midges are your problem, our technicians can recommend some steps to help you endure midge “season.” Give Colonial a call today!

Photo Credit : Smithsonian Institution

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