Tis the Season for Swarming!

As winter turns into spring here in North Florida, it is perfect weather for termites. You may begin to notice groups of flying insects on trees, stumps, or even in your house.  Eastern Subterranean Termites, Reticulitermes flavipes, generally swarm December through April and sometimes even into May if the weather is good.

Swarming Events

When termites swarm this typically means that the colony has become mature and needs to split.  Reproductive termites (males and females), called alates (termites with wings), fly out of the nest. The termites fly a short distance and land where their wings break off, they find a mate and try to find a suitable home. There is a very low establishment rate of new colonies from swarmers because many of these individuals die during the process, never find a mate, or don’t find a suitable home. Swarming events will attract lizards, spiders, birds and other predators. Eastern Subterranean termites usually swarm mid-morning into early afternoon. If termite swarms are discovered in large numbers in a home, then the termite colony is probably located in the structure doing damage.

Distinguishing Termites from Ants

Alates can be distinguished from flying ants because termites do not have a pinched waist and antennae that are straight. Ants will have pinched waists and antennae that bend at 90 degrees. Termites also have wings that are the same length while ants will have one wing that is longer than the other (picture on left).

Termite Mud Tubes

Eastern Subterranean Termites need constant contact to the soil to survive. These termites will build “mud tubes” up the side of structures to protect the workers. You can tell if the mud tube has active termites by breaking open the tube. Workers and soldiers will appear to defend and rebuild the mud tube.

It is important to correctly identify the termite because treatment is different for subterranean versus drywood termites. Subterranean termites typically are controlled by bait stations or liquid applications to protect a structure. It is important to read and understand your termite service agreement. To learn more about Subterranean Termites and Service Agreements, visit UF’s publication, Subterranean Termites at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IG/IG09700.pdf.