Swarmers

Christopher Dunaway, Morgan, Alan L., Ring, Dennis R.  |  9/7/2011 9:30:31 PM

A single Formosan termite alate preparing to leave it's nest for the annual mating flight. (Photo by Chris Dunaway.)

Formosan termites make their presence know by creating tunnels from their hidden nests to the outside world. They then cover the entrance with soil, feces and even bits of the wall to create these structures commonly known as “swarm castles.” (Photo by Chris Dunaway.)

Swarm castles can commonly be found on the exterior of buildings. (Photo by Chris Dunaway.)

Although it is not found in the dictionary, mention the word "swarmers" and anyone from south Louisiana will know exactly what you mean. They are those bugs that fly around all the lights in the millions on spring nights. They fly in such great numbers that they can force the closure of restaurants and the cancelation of sporting events.

Worse yet, the swarmers will land on your body as you come into contact with them, and they they will then begin to explore your person looking for a mate and a suitable location to start a colony. Although completely harmless, this literal "skin crawling with bugs" sensation can be quite unpleasant for most people.

Swarmers, as we know them, are fully mature male and female alates capable of reproduction. They have functional wings that they use to fly out and away from the originating colony.

Once they have completed their flight, the alates will shed their wings before continuing the quest for a mate. After they land they will separate into pairs with the female leading the way. If they can find a suitable location, they will seal themselves in and prepare a royal chamber. They will then mate and the queen will produce a small clutch of no more than 30 eggs.

These eggs will hatch sometime between two to four4 weeks later. The king and queen will care for these young through the first few moltings as they grow. Later generations will be cared for by their older siblings.

The population growth is very slow at first. It can take as long as 10 years before the colony is of sufficient size to cause significant damage and produce alates. As the queen grows and matures she will eventually be able to lay large numbers of eggs per day and live for years.


See a short video of a Formosan termite swarm.


Content by Chris Dunaway.

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