Termites with Wings
Termites are a mysterious pest. Most homeowners are only aware that termites may have wings and can look similar to ants. Termites also may leave small piles that look similar to dirt in your home.
That’s where most public knowledge and experience of termites ends. Before I got into the pest control industry, that’s pretty much all I knew about termites as well.
Occasionally you may see homes and buildings with fumigation tents over them and cross your fingers you won’t be having to pay for your home to be tented for termites one day.
Ants or Termites?
So you found an insect with wings in your home and it looks like a termite. Or is it an ant? Carpenter ants and fire ants can look very similar to termites since both of their reproductive stages have wings.
The easiest way I’ve found to quickly differentiate between an ant and a termite is to look at the waist of the insect. Ants have a pinched waist that is narrow, while termites have a thick waist that is the same width as the rest of their body.
A second easy way to confirm you are dealing with termites is to inspect the antennae of the insect you found. Ants have elbowed antennae with a 90 degree angle. Termites have straight antennae.
There are other more detailed methods of differentiating between ants and termites such as examining the length of the wings and veins on the wing but usually the waist and antennae will allow you to rule out the presence of ants.
Termites with Wings in Your Home
If you identified termites with wings in your home, this is called a flying termite swarm. It takes a termite colony several years to mature enough to produce alates, known as swarmers, so by the time you see them there is the potential significant wood damage in your home is present.
Termites take flight for the purpose of reproduction and creating new colonies. Flying termites include both male and female termites, and when environmental conditions are right, they will swarm in your home if a colony is present.
Termite swarmers are very poor fliers and their wings will break off soon after swarming as they attempt to pair off for reproduction. You may not actually see the swarm, but have found termite wings in your home. Since the swarmers are attracted to light, you will most likely find wings on window sills and doorways.
Once flying termites lose their wings, they will try to find new areas in your home to create nests. It is important if you see flying termites in your home to contact a pest control company to schedule a termite inspection.
Drywood Termite Swarms
Drywood termites do not need soil moisture to survive. They excavate their nests and live directly in the wood.
In addition to finding swarmers or their wings, a common way Drywood termites are identified is by the presence of their fecal pellets, called frass. As drywood termites consume dry wood, they push these pellets out of the infested wood. These wooden pellets are smaller than rice grains and often found in small piles on floors, windowsills or under furniture. The pellets can be various colors and is not related to the color of the wood.
The peak season that Drywood termites swarm are in the late Spring and Summer months. Drywood termite colonies are typically much smaller than Subterranean termite colonies and they will produce fewer swarmers in your home.
Subterranean Termite Swarms
Subterranean termites need soil to survive. They enter homes from the soil with a common indicator of their presence being the mud tubes they create. Subterranean termites use mud tubes to retain moisture as they travel towards their food source, the wood within your home.
Due to the prevalence of subterranean termites and the severity of the economic damage they create, new construction soil pretreatments are required in Florida. This termite pretreatment process involves a barrier of insecticide being applied to the foundation of your home.
New construction pretreatments may only effective 3-10 years depending on the active ingredient applied, environmental conditions and the type of soil underneath your home. If subterranean termites are found to be active within your home, a post-construction soil barrier treatment or subterranean termite bait stations are needed to eliminate them.
It is a common misconception that concrete block houses do not need preventative treatments for subterranean termites since there is limited wood for them to consume. These termites can actually still enter these homes through cracks in the concrete slab underneath homes and through plumbing penetrations.
Due to the risk involved in damage to your home from subterranean termites, most pest control companies offer renewable annual termite warranties that provide a re-treatment guarantee if subterranean termites are found within your home following a soil or bait treatment.
Flying Termites Outside
Dampwood termites live outside and require very moist or rotted wood to survive. These termites most often nest in trees, fence posts, rotting logs, and rotted wood on the exterior of homes.
They are the largest of all termite species, so if you find their wings on the outside of your home, you may be concerned of the presence of termites on your property. Luckily for us, the Florida Dampwood termite does the least amount of damage to homes and rarely infests homes.
The best way to control and prevent Dampwood termites is to eliminate moisture from any wood on the exterior of your home. This can often require the replacement of damaged and moist wood or modifying the exterior foundation of your home to make sure wood is not in contact with the ground.
In addition to foundation treatments and bait stations which are available for subterranean termite control and prevention, there are non-chemical recommendations which should be followed to aid in termite prevention. If followed, this guidance will also aim in preventing other pests from accessing your home.
- All firewood and excess building materials should be kept away from your house and kept off the ground.
- Channel all gutter down-spouts at least two feet away from your home.
- Do not place landscape plants within two feet of your home foundation.
- Prevent wood to soil contact by keeping all wood siding at least six inches off the ground.
- Adjust sprinklers so when they are turned on they do not hit your home.
- Remove old tree stumps and decaying matter from your property.
- If any wood such as fence posts, deck poles or stairs contacts the soil, it should be commercially pressured treated and should not also touch the home. These items should also treated with a termiticide barrier.