Do Termites Come Out at Night? Discover Their Nocturnal Habits

folder_openInsecta, Isoptera
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Termites are notorious for their wood-destroying habits, causing significant damage to homes and structures. These pesky insects are often most active during the day; however, some may wonder if termites venture out at night as well.

Although it’s commonly believed that termites solely operate in daylight, the truth is they are active around the clock. In fact, a termite colony never sleeps and continues to forage, reproduce, and maintain their nests 24/7. It’s important to be proactive year-round to protect your home from termite infestations and damage.

Do Termites Come Out at Night?

Nocturnal Behavior

Termites are generally more active during the night. They are referred to as nocturnal insects, meaning they are primarily active in darkness. Their nocturnal behavior can make it difficult for homeowners to detect an infestation.

  • For example, termites feed on wood in the dark, hidden areas of the home, such as crawl spaces.
  • Another example of their nocturnal activity is termite swarmers, the winged reproductive adults that emerge and fly at night to form new colonies.

Environmental Cues

Environmental cues, such as light sources and humidity levels, can influence termite activity. Termites prefer dark, damp environments and can be drawn to them at night.

  • They are sensitive to light and avoid it while seeking out moisture-rich environments for survival.
  • It’s important to keep your home well-lit and dry to minimize the chances of a termite infestation.
Factor Termites’ Preference
Light Sources Dark
Humidity High

Seasonal Factors

Seasonal factors, such as changes in temperature and rainfall, can also influence termite activity. Swarming usually occurs during the warmer months of spring and summer and often after a rainstorm.

  • In spring, the increased humidity and warmer temperatures create ideal conditions for termites to swarm and reproduce.
  • Summer months also provide ample food and water sources for termites to thrive.

Overall, termites are more active at night, and their activity levels can be influenced by environmental cues and seasonal changes. Being aware of these factors can help you in detecting and preventing termite infestations in your home.

Identifying Termites and Ants

Physical Differences

Termites and ants exhibit noticeable physical differences. Let’s compare their features:

|Straight antennae|Bent antennae (90-degree angle)|
|Front and hind wings similar in length|Front wings longer than hind wings|
|No pinched waist|Pinched “wasp-waist”|
|Blackish-brown to black color|Varies in color by species|
|Wings twice as long as body|Shorter wings proportionally|

Behavioral Differences

Termites and ants display distinct behaviors:

  • Termites feed on cellulose materials like wood, paper, and cardboard.
  • Ants, in contrast, have diverse diets, including sweets, proteins, and other insects.

Termite colonies are highly organized, with a caste system consisting of workers, soldiers, and reproductive individuals. Ant colonies exhibit a similar organization, but with different roles and responsibilities within the caste system.

Swarming Characteristics

Swarming is a shared behavior between winged termites and winged ants. Both insects shed their wings after swarming. However, there are differences in their swarm characteristics:

  • Termites mainly swarm during warm, humid weather after rainfall.
  • Ants swarm under various conditions, depending on the species.

Understanding these physical, behavioral, and swarming differences will help you distinguish termites from ants and identify potential infestations more accurately.

Termite Species and Their Behaviors

Termites are categorized into various species, each with their unique behaviors and nesting preferences. Understanding their behaviors can help in identification and control of infestations.

Subterranean Termites

  • Nests: In underground soil, and create mud tubes along house foundations
  • Workers: Pale, forage in soil searching for food (cellulose)
  • Swarming: Spring to fall seasons, attracted to humidity and environmental cues

Subterranean termites are common in the United States and rely on soil for moisture and nests. They construct mud tubes to locate food sources and protect themselves from predators.

Drywood Termites

  • Nests: Within the wood they consume
  • Workers: Cream-colored with dark heads, directly feed on wood
  • Swarming: Summer months, often swarming at night

Drywood termites infest dry wood, like furniture and wooden structures inside homes, as they don’t need contact with soil. They can cause significant termite damage if not quickly controlled.

Dampwood Termites

  • Nests: Inside damp wood with high moisture content
  • Workers: Larger than other species, feed on wood with a moisture content of at least 14%
  • Swarming: Spring to early summer, directly after rainfalls

Dampwood termites infest trees and timber with high moisture content, typically found in cool and humid environments. They rarely infest houses due to their requirement for moist wood habitats.

Formosan Termites

  • Nests: Underground or in moist, dark areas above ground
  • Workers: Yellowish-brown, feed on cellulose in wood debris and timber
  • Swarming: Summer nights, when humidity levels are high

Formosan termites are a subterranean species from Asia, known for their large and aggressive colonies. They can infest structures, trees, and underground habitats, causing substantial damage to property.

Nest Location Worker Appearance Swarm Times Preferred Environment
Subterranean Soil Pale, small Spring to fall, humidity Soil contact, moderate moisture
Drywood Wood they consume Cream-colored, dark heads Summer, at night Dry wood, no soil contact
Dampwood Damp wood Larger than others Spring to early summer High wood moisture content
Formosan Soil or moist, dark areas Yellowish-brown Summer nights, humidity Homes, trees, underground habitat

Overall, termites’ behavior varies depending on their species, with differences in nesting locations, worker appearances, and swarming times. Recognizing these features can help identify and manage an infestation.

Preventing and Treating Termite Infestations

Inspection and Signs of Infestation

Regular inspection can help detect termite infestations early. Signs of infestation include mud tubes and termite swarmers. Other indicators:

  • Damaged wood
  • Hollow-sounding wood
  • Piles of tiny wings

Termite swarms usually occur after rain, and colonies are active all year.

Pest Control Professionals

Hiring a pest control professional is recommended for inspecting and treating termite infestations. They are skilled in identifying termite species and determining the appropriate solution for your home.

Prevention Measures

To prevent termite infestations, consider these practices:

  • Seal cracks and gaps in the house
  • Address plumbing leaks
  • Maintain gutters and vents
  • Store firewood away from the building

Creating a dry and well-maintained environment discourages termites from settling.

Termite Treatment Options

The most common termite treatment is a soil-applied barrier. An EPA-approved termiticide is used to create a barrier around your home. Avoid DIY methods; improper treatment may lead to contamination.

Method Pros Cons
Soil-applied Effective barrier against termites Requires professional application
DIY methods Lower initial cost Ineffective, risk of contamination and damage

Following EPA regulations and professional advice ensures effective control of termite infestations. Keeping vigilant for signs of infestation and maintaining your home minimizes future damage.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Termites from Benin, West Africa


Subject: Identification of termites
Location: Benin West of Africa
February 7, 2015 10:54 am
Please i need your help to identify four (4 ) termites that i collected from different Geographical site in the country Benin (West Africa).
I collected them for a scientific research and i need to identify them to discuss my result.
I thank you in advance and i look forward to have any feed-back.
Signature: Best regards, Dima

Soldier Termites
Soldier Termites

Dear Dima,
We are posting your images of Soldier Termites, and we will attempt some research.  Perhaps one of our readers will write in with a comment, and it is not unusual for us to get an identification many years after posting images, so we would advise you to comment on the posting so anyone writing in can reach you more directly.

Soldier Termites
Soldier Termites
Soldier Termites
Soldier Termites


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. 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.

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  • 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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