Do Termites Fly?

image of flying termite

Winged Termites: Did You See a Flying Termite?

Mature subterranean termite colonies produce winged termites, or alates, that swarm into the air, mate, and establish new colonies at locations away from parent colonies.

Drawn to the warm temperatures and humid climates of late spring and early summer (April – June), subterranean termite alates often swarm right before sunset.

After finding a suitable mate and location to nest, the reproductive alates (both males and females) shed their wings and begin the colonizing process.

New England residents who see piles of shed termite wings near their homes or in window sills should contact pest control experts immediately, as subterranean termites may be nesting nearby or already infesting the structure.

Winged Termite Identification

The bodies of all subterranean termite castes share the same overall structure, however alates boast several notable distinctions.

  • Winged alate termites tend to have longer bodies.
  • Are typically black or brown in color.
  • Possess two sets of symmetrical wings (both fore- and hind wings are the same size.)

While other castes of subterranean termites tend to avoid the light and do not need eyes, winged reproductive termites develop eyesight for their nuptial flight.

Flying Termites or Carpenter Ants?

Winged termites are commonly confused with flying carpenter ants. However, the two are easily distinguishable when closely observed.

  • Winged carpenter ants have a restricted waist where the thorax and abdomen meet.
  • Termite alates have a stout waist, giving their bodies a continuous flow.

Development

Termites typically hatch from eggs in just under a month. Subterranean termites spend several weeks to months as larvae before developing into worker termites.

Depending on the needs and maturity of the colony, termites either stay as workers, molt into soldiers, or move on to the pre-alate, nymphal stage. The growth pattern is hormonally controlled by the queen termite.

Given ideal weather conditions and temperatures, nymphs with wing pads mature into alates within a few months.

The maturation process involves growing wings as well as developing sight and reproductive abilities.

Some reproductives do not grow wings but instead stay within the colony to supplement or replace egg production if the queen dies or even to regress into worker termites if needed.

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