Swarming Termites

Dennis Ring, Wilson, Gary K.  |  2/17/2006 4:03:55 AM

Close observation will allow you to determine the difference between termites and ants. (Click image for a larger view)

It requires two to four years for a termite colony to mature. When the colony reaches a certain population level, winged reproductive “swarmers” or “alates,” are produced. Environmental factors such as heat, light and moisture trigger the emergence of swarmers. Native subterranean termites swarm during daylight, usually after a rain on warmer days from January to April.

Mixed groups of roughly equal numbers of males and females leave the nest at the same time. Large colonies may emit pulses of alates over a two to three day period as long as environmental conditions are favorable. Most swarming activity is outside, but occasionally swarms will emerge inside structures.

Swarmers are extremely weak fliers but may be carried great distances by the wind. They usually fly upward first and are often attracted to lights. After landing, each female breaks off her own wings, and emits a pheromone to attract males. If a suitable male finds her, he breaks off his wings and they search for a suitable food source in which to begin a nest.

A very small nest is developed before the pair mates. The first few eggs hatch into offspring that takeover the colony maintenance. Only one pair of active reproductives exist in a colony. The king and queen are sealed into a chamber where they are tended by workers. The queen can lay roughly 1,000 eggs per day by the time she is four years old. If either the king or queen dies, other members of the colony can change into reproductives.

For more information on termites, contact Dennis Ring.

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