Winged Termites Swarming

A termite swarm is an event in which certain environmental conditions trigger a great number of winged termites to simultaneously fly from their nest (about 600-900 feet) to mate and locate new nest sites and food sources. Once matched, a “royal couple” burrows into the ground where the queen begins to lay eggs.

When a swarm occurs, winged termite swarmers called alates emerge in large numbers from cracks in buildings or holes in the soil through swarm tubes made by worker termites. Only a small percentage survive to form new colonies. Many are eaten by predators like birds, bats, and other insects. Or they die from natural causes and environmental conditions before they can locate a mate and nest site. Researchers generally agree that it takes years before a newly established colony will produce termite swarmers. With favorable conditions, it may take 4 years before a colony produces swarmers; with less favorable conditions, it will take longer.

A side from natural swarm cycles, other environmental conditions can trigger a termite swarm. A swarm can be triggered by a diminishing food supply, lack of water to support a colony and, in some cases, application of regular pesticides.

Swarms occur at different times of year–and day–for different termite species. Peak swarm season for the Eastern subterranean termite occurs from February through April. Subterraneans swarm during daylight hours. Remember that all swarmers cause NO structural damage to buildings, they are an indicator that there is a termite colony near by.

The presence of many swarmers (hundreds) in an untreated structure indicates a termite infestation. In some cases, though, the presence of a few swarmers, or only their wings around windows and doors, etc., may not necessarily mean that the structure is infested. It may simply indicate the presence of an outdoor colony near the structure; swarmers are attracted to a structure’s lights. What’s more, even heavy swarms outside and near a building may not indicate an infestation at all. But in all of these cases, it’s beneficial to have a termite inspector thoroughly inspect the structure.

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