Homeowners face plenty of situations that make their blood pressure spike. The constant pressure of making mortgage and insurance payments. The sudden need for unexpected repairs. The threat of natural disasters such as floods, blizzards, mudslides, windstorms, and wildfires. But despite the challenges posed by these alternately normal and extraordinary challenges, they don’t normally cause as much damage as a little thing that gets no larger than three-eighths of an inch: an ordinary flying termite.
In this post, we will discuss what flying termites look like, detail their specific place in the pantheon of these peculiarly irksome pests, and explain how to get rid of flying termites as quickly as possible. Indeed, though many homeowners and renters know that flying termites are bad news, comparably fewer realize how they can become a property’s worst nightmare.
What do Flying Termites Look Like?
If you see small, scurrying insects clustered around wood trim, cracks in your ceiling, or where pipes meet your walls, you may start asking, “Are there flying termites in my apartment?” or “Do flying termites in house pose a truly serious problem?” While the answer to the second question is virtually always a “yes,” the first can prove more challenging.
What do flying termites look like? This is the first query you must answer before determining whether or not you have a termite problem. Flying termites are roughly three-eighths of an inch long (although they can be a little smaller). They have four wings that are all the same length and that extend far past their bodies. They also possess short, straight antennae, and their thorax and abdomen are roughly the same width, making them seem to have a thick-waisted appearance. As we will discuss further below, these seemingly small distinctives set termite apart from other similar looking bugs.
How Long Do Flying Termites Live?
If you’ve determined that you do have flying termites (which are also called alates) in your property, here’s the good news: They don’t typically live for very long after they’ve taken flight. Flying termites are only one of several sorts of termites that live in a nest. Once they take flight, they typically only remain aloft for no longer than an hour. After that, their wings fall off, they plummet to the ground, and then they perish due to exposure or other termite-eating critters.
That being said, don’t let the fact that most flying termites die within about 24 hours of taking off reassure you. By the time you’ve noticed them, a mature and well-established nest has been built in the area — perhaps for years. Flying termites exists because they are spreading out in an attempt to make nests of their own.
This leads us to yet another negative point, namely that flying termites who find mates can live for more than a decade, creating thriving colonies whose primary occupation lies in eating wood, wood, and even more wood. That can translate into immense damage to your structure.
Are Flying Termites Different from Normal Termites?
Termites have a defined life cycle, and flying termites have a very specific place in it. All termites begin as eggs, hatch into larvae, and mature into molting nymphs. From there, these irritating insects can become:
- Workers: These termites dig tunnels to help expand the colony.
- Soldiers: With large heads and intimidating jaws, these termites protect the members of the colony. Don’t worry, though! They won’t bite humans.
- Alates (Flying Termites): These are the only termites that have the capability to reproduce. Do flying termites eat wood? No, but they can found new colonies.
The differences in these insects’ roles comes into clearer focus when consider their lifespans. Workers and soldiers live for a year or two, while flying termites typically die soon after their first flight. However, by some estimates, a termite queen can survive for decades. You may wonder how to get rid of termites on your own, but if you have a problem, you should understand that the toughness and tenacity of these small creatures requires a professional solution.
Flying Termites vs. Flying Ants
As we mentioned above, flying termites have a distinct look: four long wings, thick waists, straight antennae. Because they’re small and because other small insects share some of their characteristics, other insects sometimes get mistaken for flying termites. Confusion most commonly occurs around the humble flying ant. While the ant looks similar to a termite at a glance, closure inspection reveals that they are different in several striking ways, including:
- Bent Antennae: The antennae of flying ants has a seeming hinge, which makes them look as though they’re shaped like elbows.
- Slim Waists: True, ants aren’t wasps, but their pinched, narrow waists share the same general contours of wasps.
- Distinct Sets of Wings: While termites have four wings that are all the same shape and size, flying ants’ wings have a pair that are larger and a pair that are smaller.
Causes for Flying Termites and Swarms
The swarming of flying termites is a natural part of the bug’s life cycle, and the causes of swarming are quite simple. Once a colony has reached capacity, the alates will boil out and go seeking mates. A colony may require three or four years of growth before it reaches that point. And while this is an easy enough explanation to make, it doesn’t provide a lot of practical, actionable information for a homeowner or business owner looking to exercise caution. While we will offer some general guidelines regarding when you might expect to see them, what is good for flying termites’ expansion may differ according to an area’s geography and local conditions around the nest.
When do flying termites come out?
From a calendar-level view, termites generally come out during spring or summer, although some species may swarm as late as November. From a meteorological perspective, you will often see flying termites after rain when the air is still and calm. And when we consider things visually, we will often find flying termites attracted to light. Put all of those elements together, and any period from April through August immediately after a rainstorm in an area that includes some bright lights may see a swarm of termites descend.
Common Signs of a Termite Infestation
If you’re worried that you may have termites around your home or business, remain calm and start sleuthing. Well-developed termite infestations often leave distinctive signs. Some of these include:
- Mud Tubes Outside Your Property: These can appear in many different places, such as near foundations, both inside or outside a structure’s walls and ceilings, and around plumbing. Breaking a tube and then checking later to see if it has been repaired is one test for an active infestation.
- Mud Splatters: Termites dislike airflow, so they will patch small holes with mud.
- Odd Structural Issues: Having parts of a building sag or break inexplicably may indicate termite damage.
- Strange structural problems suddenly cropping up. A sagging ceiling. A broken door jamb. A buckling wooden floor. Such issues may arise from problems such as rot — or they may indicate that you have termites.
- Finding Frass: Termite droppings, which are dry, six-sided, and tan, are known as frass and have a distinctive shape.
- Discovering Dead Flying Termites Inside: This can mean that you have an active termite problem.
How to Prevent Flying Termite Activity and Damage
If there’s one thing we’ve wanted to make clear, it’s that termites are a serious problem, one you shouldn’t tackle on your own. Annual estimates for termite-related damage range in the billions, and by the time you’ve discovered the issue, it may be too late for an easy fix. Contact us here at Smithereen Pest Management Services. Our company has helped clients deal with common and uncommon pests since 1888, and our integrated pest management approach eliminates unwanted insects, rodents, birds, and mammals while protecting the environment — and you.