Do Flying Termites Eat Wood? How To Prevent Damage From Flying Termites

Did you find some flying termite wings in your home? Wondering if flying termites eat wood, or whether they are harmless? Let’s find out.

Infamous for the damage they cause to wood structures, flying termites are a huge nuisance and a nightmare for homeowners.

Termite infestations can wreak havoc on wooden houses in a matter of weeks, resulting in expensive repairs.

They not only eat the wood but also bore tunnels to build their colonies and break down wood to farm fungi for food.

Do Flying Termites Eat Wood

Why Do Some Termites Fly?

Interestingly, winged termites and non-winged ones aren’t necessarily always of different species. Even among the same species or colony, not every termite is capable of flying.

Only the reproductive males and females grow termite wings. Stage flight is an essential part of their life cycle, as they have to head out and find a new place to start a colony and lay eggs.

Flying termites grow their wings only when they’ve matured completely. They usually set out on their flight during spring, after the rains.

However, unfavorable conditions like high humidity and excess rainfall can force them out of their current colony and trigger a swarm too.

Which Types of Termites Have Alates?

In case you were unaware, flying termites are known by a specific term – alates. There are three major termite species – Formosan termites, subterranean termites, and drywood termites.

Unfortunately, the reproductive members of all these three species grow into alates, which means they all get two pairs of wings.

It’s a crucial part of their life cycle, and they wouldn’t survive without this stage. The alates are the most troublesome members of a termite colony since they’re the ones that begin the infestation to build a termite nest.

Termites

Do Flying Termites Eat Wood?

This is a bit of a tricky question since flying termites don’t fly throughout their lifecycle. They don’t usually eat wood while they are flying termites, i.e., while they have wings.

However, they shed their wings once they get to a suitable nesting spot and are ready to infest. Right after getting rid of the wings, they begin to feed on the wood and bore tunnels.

So, to answer your question, flying termites do eat wood, but only when they’re no longer capable of flying.

In Which Season Can You Find Flying Termites?

You may notice termite swarms during various times of the year, as different species of termites swarm during different seasons and are attracted to different things.

For instance, damp wood termites swarm during summer and infest wet and rotting wood. Drywood termites, on the other hand, may swarm both during late summer and fall.

They usually do this during the evening hours and are highly attracted to artificial lights. The subterranean termites swarm under broad daylight during the spring months.

How Long Do They Live?

Flying termites do not live very long. Although the soldier termites and the termite workers can live up to a year or so, the reproductive termites die soon after their first flight.

They live just long enough to reproduce and start a new colony. Besides, a majority of the alates do not survive the flight in the first place.

Most of them end up getting eaten by predators during the flight, while many get trapped in spider webs.

However, although the flying termites that begin the infestation would die, their offspring will continue to wreak havoc.

What Do Termites Eat?

There’s a common misconception that termites mostly eat wood. However, it’s the cellulose they feed on.

They get it from several food sources besides wood too, such as grass, manure of herbivorous animals, paper, and other materials made from plant matter, etc.

Quite interestingly, termites breaking down the wood in your home might not be doing it to eat the wood. Instead, they often use the wood to farm fungi and feed on the fungi.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I worry about flying termites?

Yes, flying termites are a huge menace, and they can cause severe structural damage if you aren’t careful.
If you find termites in your home, you should find their colony immediately and eliminate them. If needed, you may also have to replace the wood they infested.

Are flying termites the same as termites?

All flying termites are termites, but not every termite is a flying termite. Only the king and queen termites that are capable of reproduction turn into flying termites by growing wings.
The rest, i.e., the worker and soldier termites, don’t grow wings. Also known as alates, flying termites are found among most termite species.

What does it mean when you see flying termites?

I hate to tell you this, but finding a swarm of flying termites in or around your home can mean two things.
Either your home is at risk of a termite infestation, or the infestation is already underway. Inspect your wooded structures and furniture immediately and take the necessary steps.

What attracts flying termites?

Although it varies from one termite species to another, most termites are drawn to a light source. Wood structures are attractive to flying termites, too, since the whole purpose behind the flight is to find a suitable place to nest.
Especially if you have any decaying wood at home, you’re more likely to face a termite infestation.

Termite Alate

Conclusion

Termite colonies grow rapidly, and so does the extent of the damage they cause. If you notice even a couple of termites, consider getting a professional termite inspection carried out.

The sooner you can identify the infestation, the less damage the termites can cause. Never ignore the signs of a termite infestation on your property.

Make sure to get termite treatment done the moment you find winged termites in your home by a reputed pest control company. Thank you for reading, and I hope you don’t have to deal with a major termite infestation.

Read Emails

Flying termites are a nuisance, but more than that, they are an indicator that your house is already termite infested. 

Many of our readers have asked us questions about whether the flying species of termites will start eating wood. 

They won’t – but they will set up a colony somewhere that is sure to eat through your precious wooden furniture.

Read some of the emails below to learn more about the experience of our readers with these winged menaces.

Letter 1 – Termite Alate and Termite Damage

 

Subject: Found a bunch of these guys under my sink Location: San Ramon, CA April 11, 2014 11:55 am I live east of Berkeley California and have been finding these winged bugs around my hallroom bathroom. Are they flying termites? Thanks for any help you can provide! Signature: Andy
Termite Alate
Termite Alate
Dear Andy, You have an image of a winged Termite Alate as well as Termite Damage.  You should get some professional assistance.  A leaky pipe may have played a part in your infestation.
Termite Damage
Termite Damage

Letter 2 – Termites Alates Swarming

 

Subject: Bug identification Location: Suffolk, VA April 7, 2015 1:22 pm We get these bugs every spring for a few days. They seem to come from under refrigerator and make their way to back door. What are they? Signature: Dee
Swarming Termite Alates
Swarming Termite Alates
Dear Dee, Are you a homeowner?  You have Termites, and by your description, we imagine you have a very healthy colony feeding on your home.  These are swarming Termite alates, the reproductive males and females, and once they mate, they will begin a new colony, perhaps in another part of your home.  You should probably seek professional assistance. Thank you for responding.  Will have to have someone come out.  Would we be seeing little black ones without wings? Worker and Soldier Termites are generally white and blind and they generally don’t leave the nest.

Letter 3 – Termite Alates

 

Subject:  What is this?! Geographic location of the bug:  Central Florida Date: 02/16/2018 Time: 11:54 AM EDT Your letter to the bugman:  Hi! I found a bunch of these in my greenhouse recently, some had shed their wings, and others had not yet. Some were actually on top of the soil in some of the plants, but mostly dead on the ground around them. What could it be? How you want your letter signed:  LBY
Termite Alates
Dear LBY, These are Termite Alates, the winged reproductive individuals that swarm, mate and shed their wings before beginning a new colony.
Thank you!! Uh oh…. looks like ive got termites! Nooooo (cries)
Thank you for your response!

Letter 4 – Pacific Dampwood Termite Alate

 

Subject:  Flying Insect Identification Geographic location of the bug:  Mercer Island, WA Date: 09/25/2021 Time: 04:49 PM EDT Your letter to the bugman:  Hi I don’t know if the pictured bug from my patio is a flying termite or flying ant.  Please help with id.  Thanks How you want your letter signed:  Victor
Termite Alate
Dear Victor, With both Ants and Termites, only the reproductive kings and queens have wings which they lose shortly after mating during a nuptial flight.  Workers are wingless.  This is a Termite alate, the term used for winged reproductive ants and termites both.  We believe it is a Pacific Dampwood Termite which is pictured on BugGuide.  This is not a species that is considered to be destructive when it comes to homes.

Authors

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  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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