Termites: Swarms, identification and prevention


Termites: Swarms, identification and prevention | HomeTeam Pest Defense

It’s estimated that termites cause more than $5 billion worth of damage to homes in the U.S. each year. They eat 24/7 and are active in all states except Alaska, making them one of the most worrisome and structurally damaging pests for homeowners. Although they are a problem year-round, spring is when you are most likely to hear about them because that is when they swarm.

termite swarmSwarming season

Swarms are the result of a group of termites looking for a new colony, and are usually the first visible sign of a termite infestation. In springtime, winged adults emerge from the colony in large swarm groups to find a new place to start another colony. Mating partners break off their wings to symbolize that they are a couple. If you find piles of small insect wings near your windows, doors, light fixtures, or in spider webs, there is a good chance that a swarm of termites is near, and a termite colony may be nesting in your home.

To see what a termite swarm looks like, check out this video captured by one of our technicians.

It is unwise to assume that termites are only springtime problems, and there are other ways besides swarms to tell if termites may be present.

termite damageCommon signs of a termite infestation

  • Mud tubes (used by termites to reach a food source) on the exterior of a home.
  • Soft wood in the home that sounds hollow when tapped.
  • Darkening or blistering of wood structures
  • Uneven or bubbling paint.
  • Small piles of feces that resemble sawdust near a termite nest.
  • Discarded wings near interior doors or on interior windowsills, indicating that swarmers have entered the home.


Why do termites Swarm?

  • Reproduction — Termite swarms consist of male and female winged termites, known as alates. Their primary mission is to find a mate and reproduce. Once they pair up, they shed their wings and become the king and queen of a new colony.
  • Colony expansion — Termites need to continually establish new colonies to ensure their species’ survival. Swarming allows them to disperse, find new locations, and form additional colonies.
  • Genetic diversity — Termites benefit from genetic diversity, which enhances their resilience to environmental changes and threats. Swarming enables them to mix genes from different colonies, promoting genetic diversity within the termite population.
  • Environmental factors — Specific environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity, and the availability of food sources, often trigger swarms. These factors create optimal conditions for successful mating and colony establishment.

When do termites swarm?

  • Spring — Spring is the prime time for termite swarms in many regions. As temperatures rise and the environment becomes more humid, termites become more active. This period offers ideal conditions for swarming.
  • After rain — Following a rain event, especially in areas with a significant amount of moisture, is another common time for termite swarms. The increased humidity makes it easier for termites to fly and find new locations for colonization.
  • Late summer to early autumn — In some regions, termites may swarm later in the year, typically during late summer to early autumn. Rain or sudden drops in temperature often trigger these swarms.

Swarm Types

Termite swarms can be classified into three primary categories:

  • Reproductive swarms — These swarms, consisting of male and female winged termites, facilitate reproduction and the establishment of new termite colonies. They are an essential part of termite ecology, contributing to the success of these insects as both pests and valuable components of ecosystems.
  • Worker swarms — Worker termites, which are sterile and unable to reproduce, can also swarm. These swarms are relatively rare and usually happen when a colony is under significant stress or facing a threat. Worker swarms are a last-ditch effort to save the colony.

How to identify termite swarms and prevent them

If you see winged insects during spring, don’t panic. Winged ants are commonly mistaken for termites. While termite wings are all the same size, the wings of an ant are larger in the front and smaller in the back. Additionally, termites have straight antennae, whereas ants have elbowed antennae. Termites have a broad waistline, while an ant’s waistline is constricted.

Here is a guide that shows how you can tell the difference between the two.

Termite vs. ants, termite or ant
Click to watch our video on how to tell the difference between a termite and an ant.

Learning how to identify termite swarms and prevent them is essential for early detection and deter potential infestations. Here are some key characteristics of termite swarms:

  • Flying termites — One of the most apparent signs of a termite swarm is the presence of flying termites. These winged termites, or alates, are often mistaken for flying ants. However, termites have straight antennae, a uniform waist, and equal-length wings, while ants have elbowed antennae, constricted waists, and wings of different lengths.
  • Discarded wings — After a termite swarm, you may find discarded wings near window sills, light fixtures or other entry points. Termites shed their wings once they land and find a suitable location to start a new colony.
  • Mud tubes — Subterranean termites, one of the most common termite species, build mud tubes for protection. These tubes may be visible on the exterior of your home, especially near the foundation. The presence of mud tubes is a strong indicator of termite activity.
  • Wood damage — If you observe wood damage in and around your property, it could be a sign of a termite infestation. Termites feed on wood from the inside out, leaving a thin veneer of wood or paint on the surface.
  • Frass (termite droppings) — Subterranean termites expel their waste through small holes in the wood they infest. This waste, known as frass, resembles sawdust and may be found near termite-infested areas.

For help combating termites and other common household pests, contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our experts.

Preventing termites

You can minimize the risk of termites by:

  • Eliminating or reducing moisture in and around your home.
    • Repairing leaking faucets, water pipes and exterior air-conditioning units.
    • Repairing fascia, soffits and rotted roof shingles.
    • Diverting water away from the house through properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks.
  • Routinely inspecting the foundation of a home for signs of mud tubes, uneven or bubbling paint, and wood that sounds hollow when tapped.
  • Replacing weather stripping and loose mortar around basement foundations and windows to prevent termites from getting in.
  • Monitoring exterior areas of wood, including windows, door frames and skirting boards for any noticeable changes.
  • Maintaining an 18-inch gap between soil and any wood portions of your home.
  • Scheduling a professional pest inspection
  • Storing firewood at least 20 feet away from your home.


 How HomeTeam treats

Termites are a pest that are not easily dealt with using DIY treatments. There are also preventive services for both existing and new-home construction that can keep them at bay. A consultation with a HomeTeam termite specialist can provide you with further information on termite treatments for new construction, traditional termite protection methods, and the Sentricon® system so that you can actively defend your home.

Call HomeTeam Pest Defense at 877-461-7378 or visit www.pestdefense.com.


Stay informed and connected

Understanding why termites swarm, when they do it, and the different swarm types is crucial for effective termite prevention. Identifying termite swarms early and taking preventive measures can help safeguard your property from the destructive impact of these pests. Remember, prevention is often the best course of action when it comes to termite control.

Stay in the loop with the latest pest control tips, hacks, and updates by exploring our Facebook and YouTube pages. Have questions? Our FAQs page can help!

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