Warm weather means swarm season for subterranean termites and homeowners should be on the lookout for winged reproductive insects massing in sunny spots on warmer days. The reproductive mating flight is one of the few times that subterranean termites are exposed to view, as they normally live hidden and out of sight. These winged termites, also known as “alates” or colloquially as “swarmers”, are a sign that you might have a serious problem inside your home.
Where do termites live?
As their name suggests, subterranean termites live underground. This cryptobiotic behavior, living in concealment, enables termites to fly under the radar and evade detection. Even the sharpest-eyed homeowner or inspector may find it a challenge to locate these termite colonies that exist out of sight. We usually don’t notice termites in and around our home until we see swarms, find mud tubes or notice damage. How do you guard against something that you can’t see?
Why do termites swarm?
Termites give us a clue about their presence when they leave their subsoil home to reproduce. Once the colony reaches a certain size, subterranean termites are seized by the irresistible impulse to leave the nest and mate. Usually once a year, swarmers launch to reproduce and expand the colony or to establish new colonies. The termite swarmers are poised at the surface of the soil and take flight when conditions are ideal for mating and nesting.
When do termites swarm?
Subterranean termites can swarm anytime, but inevitably they strategically select the time when conditions are best suited to establish a new colony. First, they need ideal conditions to accommodate their long, temporary wings. Wind speed matters for these fragile wings to work, so you will likely see termite swarmers on a mild day with light or no winds. Blustery days will ruin their flight, so a brisk wind will knock out a swarm. Second, termites prefer the ease of damp soil for nesting purposes, so you are more likely to notice a swarm after some rain. Their admirable impulse to wait for accommodating soil makes it more likely that their nesting efforts will succeed. Third, warm weather is a big draw for these cold-averse insects, so spring is known as “swarm season” in the Mid-Atlantic – Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Are they really termites?
Both ants and termites swarm. The pests are very similar, but you can learn what to look for that will distinguish these two insects. These two insects have very different body parts, so it’s easy to tell the difference.
The first and easiest place to look is at the wings. If the wings are larger in the front than the back, it’s probably an ant. If the wings are uniform in size and twice as long as the body, you probably have termites. Another clue is whether you find piles of wings around the swarm site. Termites tend to shed their wings into piles during the swarm sequence while ants tend to hang onto their wings, chewing them off after they have mated.
Next, check out the antennae. The antennae, of course, protrude from the head on both an ant and a termite. If they the antennae appear to have an elbow-like bend, it’s an ant. If the antennae are relatively straight, it’s a termite.
By now, you should have a pretty good sense of where this is heading, but if you’re still not sure then you can examine the insect’s body. If the swarmer has a pinched waist, it’s an ant. If the insect’s body is uniform in width, it’s a termite.
Should I call Home Paramount for a free inspection?
Swarming insects aren’t just an annoyance and definitely not something to just sweep under the rug (we know you wouldn’t do that, but still…). Unlike wind, water and other forces that can damage your home, termites are typically not covered under your insurance policy. This means that you will be out of pocket for the damage that may occur.
Just because the swarm is over, it doesn’t mean that the termites are gone. The swarm lasts for a little while, once a year but it’s an important clue that termites are at work underground. Our free, no obligation inspection is a great way to get peace of mind and find out what steps you can take to protect your biggest investment. So, if you notice swarming insects, don’t hesitate to call in the professionals.
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