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Why do termites swarm outside?


Have you ever been out in your yard in early summer or early fall and seen an alarming mass of flying insects? You might first think it is a swarm of flying ants like Carpenter ants and not suspect termites, then realize it is actually a termite swarm. No need to panic about this seasonal nuisance, but you should act quickly and not ignore a termite swarm.

Our article will answer the question, ‘Why do termites swarm outside? And discuss what to do if you notice swarming termites.

Let’s get started!

What are termite swarms?

Swarming termites (also known as Alates) leave the termite colonies nest inside a home to escape through gaps and cracks in the walls and foundation to appear outside for the first time.

Swarming termites are drawn to light and so will often be found near light fixtures, exterior lighting, windows, and window sills. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove them and empty them in a sealed bag outside.

Termites swarm when a termite colony matures, and the weather conditions are perfect for flight. A swarm of termites near your home could signify a well-established colony of termites living near or inside your home. To many homeowners, a termite swarm can be the first visible indication of a termite infestation.

Why does a termite swarm?

Termites swarm when the nest is full to capacity, and the termites need to expand and start a new colony. For most colonies, this occurs once a year. Hundreds and thousands of swarmers could be produced solely to reproduce and expand to new colonies.

Swarmers are male and female termites. The number of them varies from year to year based on the size of the colony. Termite swarmers live in the soil toward the surface of the nest, ready to take flight when the weather conditions are right. Preparations for swarming are made simultaneously with another termite colony nearby.

When conditions are good, swarmers prepare and will launch from their swarm tube and pair off with other termites. After a brief flight, the pairs shed their termite wings, mate, and start new colonies. This will still happen even if there are no other colonies nearby. The launches last a few days.

When do termites swarm?

Termites swarm at different times depending on their termite species. Drywood termites swarm in late summer or early fall. Dampwood termites swarm in the summer.

Regardless of the species, most termites wait until a day after rainfall when the weather is overcast, and the wind is less than six miles per hour. The rain creates damp soil for the moisture-loving reproductive termites to build a new nest. Survival rates for them will be higher when it is humid.

Sometimes there can be a miscalculation over launching points, and termites can swarm indoors.

What do swarming termites look like?

There are many species of termites in the world. The common types in the United States are the Subterranean termite, Dampwood termite, and Drywood termite. Alaska is the only State not to have termites. Termites range in color from white, gray, and golden brown.

Termites are generally a quarter to half an inch long. Their bodies are segmented into ten. The termite swarmers have four identical-length wings and straight antennae, while ants have bent antennae.

Subterranean termites are the most common termites in the States and can be found in damp wood. Subterranean termites are larger than most, measuring up to an inch long, and light creamy colored.

When do Subterranean termites swarm?

A subterranean termite swarming season begins in spring-early summer during daylight.

When do drywood termites swarm?

Drywood termites’ swarms are smaller than Subterranean termites’ swarms. They usually consist of no more than one hundred swarmers. Because the swarm is significantly smaller, you might not notice a warning sign of a termite infestation from a Drywood termite swarm. You may see discarded wings left on window sills after a swarm. Drywood termites will swarm in the late summer or fall months.

When does the Dampwood termite swarm?

Dampwood termite swarms occur in the summer. Dampwood termites are less of a worry than most other wood-destroying insects as they do not damage homes and wooden structures very often.

Dampwood termite activity is different. They like damp wood, and moisture in the wood in a home is not high enough for these termites.

Dampwood termites still produce swarms and can be found in woodpiles or wooden surfaces. You may see discarded wings in cobwebs or on the ground. A pest control expert will be able to inspect a Dampwood termite infestation and give advice on ways to reduce moisture levels and a treatment plan.

Make an inspection of your home for a termite infestation

If you have seen termite swarms, it could be an indication of a colony nearby. You should make an inspection of your home and yard. If you have seen other signs of termite activity, you can either try to eradicate any termite infestations yourself or call a pest control company to eliminate termites.

Other signs of an infestation of termites

Signs of an infestation can be seen outside of the swarming season. As we know, termites eat wood, leaving hollow sounds in the wood when they do. When you tap it, you might also notice crumbling wood and patterns in the wood.

You may see signs of peeling paint that looks like moisture damage. You could also see small holes in the drywall or drywall sagging. Tiles could be loose, and your floorboards could be extra noisy, warped, or blistered. They will leave pellets on floorboards that look like sawdust piles.

Signs of termites outside

Worker termites in a colony cause structural damage to property when they eat the wood. Look outside at your property; you may notice mud tubes that are pencil size in width resting against your house. Worker termites build these mud tubes to keep them moist when they access their food sources.

Prepare ahead of termite swarming by switching off the exterior lights, especially any near windows, and doors. Hopefully, the termite swarms will go elsewhere.

How can I prevent an infestation?

Ventilate rooms so they are not humid. Invest in a dehumidifier, if possible, to remove excess moisture.

If you build a structure with wood, ensure it is treated with an insecticide. Check with the store before purchasing. Painted wood is much more difficult for them to chew through, so consider painting the wood.

Do not use mulch close to your foundations. It will attract these pests. Try not to overwater the grass and plants near the house, as dampness can attract them. Unblock gutters and ensure drains are clear of debris so water can flow away. Look for any leaks and fix them.

Remove lumber, tree stumps, cardboard, and other cellulose-containing items from the yard that attract these wood-destroying pests.

And finally,

A termite swarm can mean an infestation in your home, yard, or nearby; check if they are flying ants or termites if you can. Inspection of your property for termite infestations regularly is a must.

In our article, we presented ‘Why do termites swarm outside? And discussed what to do if you notice a termite swarm. We hope you have found it helpful and informative.

Good luck!

Ronald has 25 years of pest control experience under his belt. He scrutinizes each control method, product and process to prevent infestations effectively. 

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