Throughout the year, winged termite adults that are part of a larger colony leave the group to form their own colony. These termites, called “swarmers,” are usually seen during the daytime flying sporadically before shedding their wings. And though the swarmers will not cause damage to your home, they are one of the best indications that you have a terminate colony in or near your home, which could cause serious structural damage.
A winged termite traveling in a swarm will have a small, black, ant-like head with two white wings that give of a slightly violet sheen in the light. These termites shed their wings relatively quickly after they begin to fly, so if you notice paper-thin, centimeter-long, white wings in a pile by doorways, windowsills or other locations in your home, this is most likely an indication that swarmers were in the vicinity and a termite colony is currently present in or around your residence.
Flying in Packs
Swarmers do not typically travel alone, thus their name. They travel in a tightly formed insect pack (or swarm). Spotting a single winged termite, or an insect that resembles a winged termite, does not necessarily indicate that swarmer termites are in or around your home. Swarmers also only fly for a short period of time before losing their wings. Therefore, if you notice the pack of swarmers flying all over your home or yard, or flying around for several days, you most likely have winged ants instead of winged termites.
Swarmers live underground in the colony nest. If you spot a pack of swarmers outside, the old or new colony is probably located in an area with fresh woodcuttings, such as buried in a tree stump or under timbers used by landscapers. If you notice swarmers inside your home, there is a high likelihood that the termite colony is also in your home, possibly in your walls or under the floors.
Because winged termites can sometimes be mistaken for winged ants, the fail-proof way to identify swarmers is to collect the body or the wings of one of the swarmers and send it to your local university cooperative extension. Scientists working in conjunction with the extension can positively identify the swarmers as winged termites.
Course of Action
While swarmers themselves are not a threat to your home, they are a red flag warning that you probably have a termite infestation somewhere close by. If you do positively identify swarmers, you should contact an exterminator or pest control expert immediately to inspect your home and its surroundings and recommend a course of insecticides to kill or remove the colony.
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Jessica Jewell is a writer, photographer and communications consultant who began writing professionally in 2005. Her chapbook, "Slap Leather," is forthcoming from dancing girl press. Her recent work has appeared in "Nimrod," "Harpur Palate," "Copper Nickel," "Rhino," "wicked alice," "Poetry Midwest" and "Barn Owl Review." Jewell was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She earned her Master of Fine Arts from Kent State University.