As termites cause heavy damage to houses, costing hundreds of dollars to repair, homeowners need to know how to recognize that their house has an infestation. Winged termites are one warning flag that an infestation may exist as it is possible to see swarming winged termites outside of the home if there is a colony devouring the home. Termite swarms are therefore one of the best red flags.
In termite society, there are different castes that determine the termite’s role in the colony. Only termites that are reproductive will grow wings. Even then, not all reproductive termites have wings. There are two primary types of reproductive termites: alates and neotenics. There are two further subtypes of neotenics, and alates have two further stages. Neotenics will not have wings, although some of them will have wing nubs; neotenics supplement the colony’s egg production and resemble smaller queens. Alates are the winged termites that you are likely to see as neotenics remain inside the colony.
Dark coloration (dark orange, dark blue, black)
Small, hard bodies
Glossy, clear, delicate wings
Wings are much larger than the body and extend well past the abdomen
Wings may appear white and are rounded at the end
Note that these features are indeed similar to an ant's.
How Can I Tell The Difference Between Ants and Termites?
While ants and alates bear more similarity than other termites, there are still some noticeable differences.
Both species have four wings, but an alate's
are longer (twice as long as their body)
are uniform in size
tend to be more round in shape with a circular edge
ants' wings have more of a slanted edge with curved corners.
A termite's antennae are thick and straight; an ant's are bent.
Ants have a thin waist and therefore appear distinctly segmented; termites are thicker.
Remember also that alates shed their wings. This is done either on reaching the ground or shortly after swarming.
How Do I Kill Flying Termites?
Many of the alates that leave are going to die anyway from exposure to the light and as part of their mating process. The alates that survive will leave to form a new colony. Alates are fairly easy to kill; most pesticide will do the trick. You can also even leave a bug zapper near where they swarm as alates are attracted to light. Vacuuming up the bodies or swatting them will also kill the alates.
However, remember that the alates are a sign that a mature colony is already present, and that alates are the termites who will leave. Killing the alates will prevent a new colony, but it will not solve the problem of the current colony. Alates are not the termites producing more offspring to eat your home in the current infestation. Use alates as a warning sign that a colony may be tearing up your walls and look for other signs of termites. Termites cause heavy damage and need to be dispatched quickly.