Last Updated December 19th, 2022: Swarming is a term mostly used to describe the coordination and movement of insects in large groups to form new colonies. Termites are known to swarm as they begin to expand and look to start additional colonies. So why do termites swarm? And what time of year do termites swarm?
Termite swarms are also known as ‘alates’ which tend to swing into action when the existing colonies reach a certain size. They also wait for favorable weather conditions before they start. In this case, only the ‘swarmers’ get to participate, as they are winged and highly reproductive. When it’s time for them to swarm, they create tiny holes (called pinholes) that enable them to burrow out.
Another feature quite unique to them is their attraction to light. Yes, those insects you usually see hovering around a light source after the rains are swarmers.
Why Do Termites Swarm?
Swarming in termites takes place for the sake of expansion and reproduction. When the existing colony reaches a certain capacity, swarmers (fertile ones) begin to prepare for reproduction. They do so by first developing wings. Then they travel in pairs as male and female. Since they cannot bore exit holes from their home, the workers create a few on their behalf while they prepare to set out.
Keep in mind that termite swarms are a sign that a colony exists nearby. While they are harmless themselves, should you notice signs of a swarm, make sure to set up an inspection appointment with a professional to detect any risk of an infestation so you can take action immediately. If you hear scratching noises in your walls, it could be termites swarming!
When Do Termites Swarm?
The different species of termites tend to have different times and seasons of flight. Outlined below are their various swarming periods:
- Drywood termites, as their name implies, are the kind found in areas with little moisture. Drywood termites swarming seasons start from late summer to early autumn. They also tend to be the smallest in population size – usually with a hundred swarmers or less.
- Subterranean termites Subterranean termites swarm during the spring season and, unlike drywood termites, they do so during daylight. Research also suggests that some swarms are loosely associated with the blooming of certain trees. For example, the subterranean termite species have been studied to swarm when flowers from the dogwood tree first bloom.
- Formosan termites are dominant species in the Southeast and produce thousands of swarmers that fly out at once. Formosan termites usually swarm from late May through June.
- Dampwood termites swarm during summer. They pose the least risk to homes and homeowners as they rarely cause damage. Generally (regardless of their species), they are known to begin flight when the atmosphere is damp, or after a rain shower.
- If you have just scheduled a termite treatment, you should expect to see some additional termite activity including swarming.
Why Do Termites Swarm In The Spring?
Termites generally swarm once a year once their colony has reached capacity. This generally happens in early spring because this is when the weather conditions are optimal for reproduction and colony growth.
How Do Termites Swarm?
A termite swarm lasts about 30 minutes in flight. As soon as they leave their colonies through exit holes, they fly in pairs with reproductive mates towards light sources. They then proceed to find soil where they can nest. And if they cannot find any soil, they will most probably die from dehydration. So whenever you find carcasses of termites or their wings, it is a result of a termite swarm. Such swarms can occur both indoors and outdoors, but indoor swarming infrequently leads to the formation of new colonies.
If you ever heard stories or questions about whether do termites bite humans? It’s been reported that termites bites tend to happen during swarming as these termites are all hyped up and slightly more aggressive.
Where Do Termites Swarm To?
As they get ready to swarm, they boreholes that they use to launch. Their flight usually lasts only a few seconds before they land. They then form nests underground, which are used to breed until a new colony gets created. Termites spread from house to house most often during swarming season as they are exploring and covering more ground than they usually are.
These swarms are usually found outside homes and close to bright light fixtures. However, if you find a few winged termites in your home, that might be a sign of termite infestation. But don’t panic, you can call for a professional inspection to figure that out. If inspection proves an absence of termite infestation, you wouldn’t even need to worry about the swarmers, as they can barely survive where there is no soil.
While termite swarming can also lead to an infestation, swarming ants are known to present a similar risk as well. Some of the similarities that both ants and termites share are the presence of winged swarmers, as well as the period when they carry out their swarming, mostly after it has rained
To make sure of what swarming species you’re dealing with, here are some differences to look out for:
- While termites have straight antennas, flying ants have antennas that bend in the middle.
- Termites have only two body segments, while ants have three.
- Termite wings are equal in length, while ants’ have larger forewings than hindwings.
- Compared to termites’ straight abdomen, ants’ waists are narrower than the rest of the abdomen.
What To Do And Expect During Termite Swarming Season
- Don’t fret
- Shut down windows and doors close to areas where you see signs of a swarm.
- If you can locate their exit holes, tie a plastic bag around them for them to fly into.
- Don’t seal their exit holes. Doing so will only push them to create new ones. Instead, attach a plastic bag to it so they fly into the bag.
- Don’t spray insecticides because swarmers tend to die off naturally. Especially because they won’t do you any harm, just allow them to complete their activity
- Call for professional help.
Final Thoughts On Termite Swarming
All organisms have a need to reproduce, that is if they must continue to exist. Termites do so by swarming. Termite swarmers have no biting or chewing mouthparts, which implies that they won’t cause any damage to your property. They are equipped with wings instead to allow them to fly away from their existing colony and start new ones.
While ants and other flying swarmers present similar behaviors as termites, you can use the differences outlined in this article to be sure. Even though they do not cause physical damage to property, they can indicate nearby infestation. To keep your home protected from termite infestation, be sure to reach out to a pest control company for a professional inspection, and possible extermination.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on why do termites swarm, when do termites swarm and really just how to stay prepared for termite swarming season!