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When Do Termites Swarm?

By Chris Williams on March 2, 2016.

Last spring we had termites swarming in our house. There were just a few so we weren’t sure where they were coming from. I want to be on the lookout for them this year to get a better idea of what’s going on. When can I expect them to swarm in the Portsmouth area of New Hampshire? O. L., Portsmouth, NH

624px-Termites_inside_of_a_mound-Tamilnadu17.6That’s a question no one can accurately answer. Termite swarming depends on so many different variables such as the size of the colony, temperature, light, and mostly moisture. Typically, swarms occur in the morning on a warm, sunny day in spring (March to May) after rain and when soil has reached a certain temperature. That’s about as accurate as we can get.

There Are Exceptions to Springtime Swarms

Even after a ground colony has produced winged termites and they are ready to go, departure can be delayed if conditions aren’t right, sometimes delayed for months. Summer or smaller secondary swarms occasionally occur. A few years ago, the pest control industry in the Northeast noticed a significant decline in termite swarms; springtime panic calls were way down everywhere. We never did fully understand why termites didn’t really swarm that year as expected, but things seem to be back to normal.

Termites swarming inside a structure is a somewhat different story, however, because temperature and moisture conditions will be different. Termites have even been known to swarm in winter indoors. Inside, they can emerge from mud swarming tubes (which may be visible or hidden inside walls) or from any tiny opening that they can find.

A Termite Swarm is a Fleeting Thing!

It’s a good thing that you are anticipating the swarm because a termite swarm can be over in a matter of minutes. Termite swarmers have a short, weak, fluttering flight and most are picked off by birds or other predators (not in your house, of course). After a short flight, termites shed their wings, so if you miss the swarm itself, you might still find dead termites or at least some shed wings left behind (see Why Do Termites Swarm?). Swarming termites are attracted to light and often end up around windows indoors.

If you do get to see the swarm, capture some of the insects and save them in a small jar of rubbing alcohol. Unless you’ve already had them identified by a professional, it’s possible that you’re seeing winged carpenter ants or some other ant instead of termites (see How to Identify Swarming Termites).

No Swarm Required for a Termite Inspection

Don’t put off a termite inspection while waiting to witness a swarm. Even if you do have termites infesting your home, they could swarm to the outside of your house this year and you may miss them completely. Our termite technicians are trained experts and they can often determine whether termites are infesting your home even without visual confirmation of a swarm. If your problem is ants instead, we can handle that, too. Give Colonial Pest a call today!

Photo Credit : “Termites inside of a mound-Tamilnadu17.6“| CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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