Termites are destructive pests that feed on expensive materials including structural wood, swimming pool liners, books, and insulation. Winged termites swarm in spring as they seek new sites to colonize. If you’re concerned about these pests infesting your property, here are five facts you should know about spring-swarming termites.
1. Winged Termites Are Looking for Homes
The termites found in Illinois live in large colonies underground. For this reason, the termites are known as subterranean insects. When spring arrives, adult termites with wings emerge from the colony and fly away in search of a new home.
The winged, swarming termites are called alates. Termite alates develop in the colony and are able to reproduce in the spring. The alates then join in pairs to form new colonies of termites in the general vicinity of their old termite colony. Some ant alates also swarm in spring, so the two types of winged alates are often misidentified.
If you see swarms of winged termites or ants in spring, their colonies are nearby. When you see them around your home, you need to identify what type of winged alate is swarming.
2. Winged Termites Emerge on Cue to Mate
Both the ant and the termite alate leave their colonies when they receive cues from nature. This behavior is also called dispersal or nuptial flight. The alates wait for the ideal conditions to begin their new colonies.
Some of the conditions that trigger alate swarms in spring include the following:
- Warmer temperatures
- Recent rainfall
- Low winds
- Bright sunlight
A male and female alate will pair up and shed their wings. After shedding their wings, alates are called dealates. A male and female dealate couple seek out a moist piece of wood or a soggy patch of soil in which to breed and start a brand-new colony.
After the male termite breeds with the female termite, the male dies. The inseminated female termite then seeks out a suitable place to nest and produce offspring.
3. Winged Termites Have Distinguishing Features
At first glance, swarming termites and ants look very similar. Both types of swarmers have dark bodies and fragile wings. It’s easy to confuse the two insects, but some distinguishing characteristics can help you to tell them apart.
One of the first things to look at are the wings of the alates. Termite alates have four wings that are equal in size. Ant alates have front wings that are longer than their rear wings.
Another difference between reproductive termites and ants are the antennae shapes. An ant reproductive has antennae that are elbowed or bent into an L shape. Termite reproductive have unbent antennae with tiny segments that resemble a string of beads.
A third way to tell the difference between termite and ant alates is to look at their bodies. Termite bodies are segmented, but they have broad waists that don’t decrease in size where the body segments meet.
Ants have constricted or pinched waists. Look closely, and you can tell that the ants have a narrow middle section where their body segments meet.
4. Winged Termites Emerge Indoors and Outdoors
A likely place to see winged termites is near a light source. Alates are drawn to light near windows and doors if the insects are inside your home. A swarm of termite alates inside your home is cause for alarm because the interior swarm indicates that a colony of termites has taken up residence there.
Swarming termites outdoors are not always a cause for alarm, however. The alates may swarm from woodpiles, tree stumps, or fallen wood and seek new colonies outdoors. If outdoor termite alates are swarming near your front porch, rear deck, or foundation, the termites are seeking a place to colonize under your home.
5. Existing Termites Give Clues to Their Presence
If you find shed termite wings or live swarmers inside your home, termites are likely living under your home in the soil. Inspect your home for signs of termite damage, or call a pest control professional to inspect the home for you.
Signs of termite infestation in a home include the following:
- Mud tubes on foundation walls
- Cracks and distorted paint on wood surfaces
- Hollow sound when tapping on wood
- Piles of wood-colored droppings called frass
The mud tubes that termites build allow them to access the wood in a home from their underground colonies. The tubes protect the termites from predators and weather as they move back and forth from their subterranean colonies to a home’s wood framing.
Termites should not be tackled as a DIY project, because of the potential for significant structural damage to your home. Contact a qualified pest control company when you notice any of the above signs of termite infestation.
Your pest control professional will battle the termites successfully using a multi-faceted approach to pest management. Professional termite eradicators are also trained and qualified to use the strong chemicals necessary to kill and repel termites.
Schedule a full termite inspection of your home in Chicago, Illinois, this spring by contacting Chem-Wise Ecological Pest Management right away. We offer effective termite treatments and service plans for termite control throughout the Chicagoland region.