Termite Alates (Flying Termites) Facts: All You Need To Know

In this article, we talk about some interesting facts regarding Termite Alates

Termite alates (winged termites) are one of the most avoided pests of all time.

These insects will wreak havoc in your homes by destroying furniture and other wooden structures. 

It is tough to get rid of them without properly identifying the type of termites you are dealing with.

This article will list a few important details that will help you deal with these troublesome insects better.

It will also highlight points that will help you identify the winged termites accurately.

Termite Alates
Termite Alate

 

What Are Flying Termites?

Flying termites are the ones who are responsible for reproduction and starting new colonies. 

These insects are notorious for their capacity to cause extensive damage to homes and household products. 

They develop a pair of wings that they use to locate suitable spots to build nests. 

Once they land at a good spot, they lose the wings and start boring through the wooden structures present nearby. 

What Do They Look Like?

Termites with wings are called termite swarmers. These pests use their wings to enter homes and look similar to winged ants. 

A termite can grow up to 0.25 inches in length and are usually dark brown in color. However, a worker termite has a comparatively lighter body color than a soldier termite. 

Also, these reproductive termites have transparent and short antennae. 

Termites live in massive termite colonies where different types of termites have their own roles to fulfill. 

For example, the workers gather food and help in constructing and repairing the nest while the soldiers protect the colony. 

 

How Long Do They Live?

The queen of the colony can live up to a decade. The soldier and the workers on the other can survive for one or two years. Survival depends highly on climatic conditions. 

What Do They Eat? Do They Eat Wood? 

Winged termites do not consume wood when they have wings. These insects shed wings once they land in a suitable spot. Once the wings are gone, these termites will get straight into infesting wooden structures. 

Therefore, as long the termites have wings, they won’t cause any harm to the wooden furniture in your house. 

Can Humans Eat Flying Termites?

It might sound bizarre and disgusting, but in many parts of the world, termites are considered a delicacy

People from Thailand, South Asia, and Africa love to consume alates, especially during monsoon. 

These insects are also consumed in some parts of India. The Madiga community in Telangana, India, eats them as a Monsoon snack. 

In Zimbabwe, they are called Ishwa. There it is the second most popular insect cuisine and is heavily consumed by the people in Masvingo, Harare, and Mashonaland East.

 

Are Termite Alates Attracted To Light?

Yes, alates are attracted to light sources. You might see a bunch of this pest swarming around a light source in your house. 

If you want to get rid of these insects, switch on the lights in your house, and try to locate the nest. 

They usually tend to nest in wooden corners and window frames. You can also use a light source to lure these insects to fall into traps. 

How To Get Rid of Flying Termites?

To be able efficiently to eliminate termites, you must know the types of termites you are dealing with. 

For example, using ground bait for drywood termites is completely useful. Similarly, fuming will not help you get rid of subterranean termites. 

Therefore instead of handling them on your own, call an expert to identify the termites. 

They can use suitable methods like 

  • Termite bait station, 
  • Tent fumigation, 
  • No tent termite treatment, 
  • Trench and treat termite treatment, and 
  • Termite spot treatment to get rid of the rid termites. 

Formosan Termite
Formosan Termite

 

Other Bugs That Look Like Flying Termites 

Termites are small insects whose build is similar to many other common insects. It might be difficult to identify a winged termite at first glance. 

Before going out on all-out fumigation drive and calling in the big guns, go through this list of other insects that look like flying termites, and determine that what you are looking at is actually the real deal.

Acrobat ants

They get the name due to their acrobatic ability to lift their abdomen over their heads. They tend to make this move when they are disturbed or threatened. 

Like damp wood termites, acrobat ants prefer to infest moist wooden items. They like to live in wooden frames of houses, windows, and doors. 

Despite the similarities, you will notice that the abdomen of an acrobat ant is comparatively narrower than winged termites. Adding to this, these ants have longer front wings. 

Carpenter ants

As the name suggests, carpenter ants are bad news for homes with a lot of wooden furniture.

These ants are comparatively bigger than termites and are reddish-brown in color. 

These insects are worst than termites and acrobat ants.

They cause heavy damage to wooden structures by tunneling through them and making them hollow.

They, too, have bent antennae, which are different from the various species of termites. 

Carpenter bees

Unlike different types of termites, carpenter bees do not live in colonies.

These insects are solitary in nature, which is why they usually can’t dig deep into wooden structures.

These insects are like bumblebees without stripes on their body. 

Male Carpenter Bee

 

Flying ants

As mentioned earlier, flying ants look a lot similar to termites. But, the similarities are mostly appearance-related.

In terms of behavior, the two species are quite different.

Termites are known for causing extensive damage to wooden structures, but most flying ants do not attack wood. These insects usually swarm around food. 

Mayflies

Mayflies are insects that stay active during spring and summer. Similar to a termite swarm, mayflies also swarm during the rainy season.

These insects are attracted to light sources and enter homes through windows and other existing gaps.

Mayflies are bigger than termites and prefer to lay eggs in water bodies. 

Powderpost beetles

Powderpost beetles and termites are almost similar in size.

These insects are also harmful to wooden structures as the larvae reside in wood and feed on its until they become an adult. 

However, adults do not consume wood. Only the larvae of powderpost beetles are a threat to wood. 

Lacewings

Lacewings are not pests. In fact, these insects are highly beneficial for your garden.

They are experts in hunting down harmful pests that destroy crops in a garden.

They have green-colored bodies which turn brown during the winter. 

Brown Lacewing

 

Wrap Up

Winged termites are absolute destroyers of wooden structures, and you must do everything in your power to keep these pests away from your beloved home. 

These insects will infest the wooden furniture in your house and will entirely transform into something hideous. 

Use the methods given in this article to drive these pests away from your home. And remember, it is wise to seek expert help to get better results. 

Thank you for reading the article. 

Reader Emails

Flying termites in the house can be very bothersome, not the least, because they are a clear sign that your home is now infested. 

Go through some letters from our readers in the previous years to understand what they look like and why they are such a big nuisance.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com 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 – Termite Alate

 

once a year Location: lafayette, CA 94549 October 26, 2010 11:40 pm Hi Bugman, Love this site,,, but couldn’t find anything quite like I’ve experienced for the past 2 years… I live in Lafayette California, just over the Berkeley Hills and after the October rains (last year and now) I had an infestation in the house of some bugs… Quite a few, and concentrated in various areas. I can only think they’re termites based on all the research I’ve done but there’s no picture that look quite like these guys… They’re not pale…. they’re not RED,,,, They are about 6mm & dark dark brown. I find them in the sink, the carpet, the bathroom floor… etc… This year there are less than last, , , but the storm this year was more mild… (?!?) And its not just what they LOOK like, but how they act… the pictures I have show a part of the situation – – they appear to travel in pairs and one puts its abdomen up in the air (attracting a mate?) then when they pair up it’s like a choo-choo train trip with one attached to the others back end! This morning I found (and captured) 4 in my sink, put them in a zip lock bag … and they just move around in there (for ~ 2 days, then die). No apparent ability to escape. Last year I panicked and asked a termite guy to come out , , , he found no evidence of mud-tunnels or anything else, but still offered to do a multi thousand dollar preventative job. . . Yikes, , , now that I zoom in on my pictures, I wonder if I should have taken him up on the deal… abdomen looks bigger than I thought (to me it looked flat!)… Thanks for your help! (but help fast??) Signature: Alex
Termite Alate
Hi Alex, Thanks for your compliments, but as we have stated numerous times in the past, we are artists, not scientists, and we have no background in entomology, nor do we endorse extermination, but there are always exceptions, and that would include a situation where an infestation of Termites is compromising the structure of a home.  You definitely have photographed a Termite, and we believe we have found a match on BugGuide that also shows the posture that you have also photographed and described.  The species is not identified.  The same person also submitted an image of a winged Termite Alate, and there is a robust dialog regarding the image posted to BugGuide and the possibility that it is a Subterranean Termite.  There is also a dark colored winged Alate image on BugGuide that is identified as belonging to the family Rhinotermitidae.  BugGuide has other images, many from California, that show black individuals that are identified as Subterranean Termites.  It is the nymphs and workers of the Termite colony that are light colored and sometimes called White Ants.  This does not appear to be the Western Subterranean Termite, Reticulitermes hesperus, which Charles Hogue profiles in Insects of the Los Angeles Basin where he indicates:  “In Los Angeles and much of the west, this is the species that causes the greatest damage.”  We believe you may be correct that the image may be illustrating the act of dispersing pheromones to attract a mate.  The newly matured reproductive individuals are known as Alates and they are winged.  They usually swarm after a rain, and the fact that you find them each year indicates there is most likely a colony in your home.  Subterranean Termites nest in the ground, so we would suspect they are probably in your crawl space, and if you find them in the kitchen and bathroom, there may be water damage to the wood in those areas of the home that are providing food for the colony.  It is important to stress that not all Termites are destructive to homes, and that in nature, Termites play an important role in breaking down rotting wood that becomes incorporated into the soil.
Termite Alate
Incredible feedback and I agree with everything you’re pointing out (not to mention, learning a ton!). I am suspicious of a woodpile that’s just outside our house (about 3-4′ away) but certainly wonder how they’d be getting into the house unless they’re in the crawlspace… Regardless, I would find some of the mud-tunneling areas outside the house – but would I find them even in the crawlspace? or would those possibly not be evident since it’s usually dark down there anyway… I read that they like the moisture so that mud tunnel job helps them retain that! Thanks again! Alex

Letter 2 – Termite Alate from Southern California

 

Hi Bugman, Location: Laguna Beach, ca October 27, 2010 6:58 pm I live in Laguna Beach, Ca. There are a lot of these bugs in my house. They have a red head, black body, and clear wings. The wings are shedding all over the place. I am attaching a picture of what they look like. Let me know what you think they are…. Thank you so much! 🙂 Signature: Jenese
Termite Alate
Hi Jenese, Though your photo is quite blurry, we can determine that it is a Termite Alate.  Alates are the reproductive virgin kings and queens that swarm after a rain.  They then shed their wings and mate and begin a new colony.  If they are inside your house in large numbers, we can assume that their is a colony already established in your home.  We have gotten many identification requests from Southern California in the past week because of the unseasonal rains.  We do not give extermination advice.

Letter 3 – Termite Alate

 

Red bugs at my front door Location: Anaheim, California November 6, 2010 6:36 pm I recently saw these red bugs flying about my front door light. I have never seen these kind of bugs before. We recently moved to Anaheim Hills, California from Mission Viejo, California. Signature: Fremen
Termite Alate
Dear Fremen, This is a Termite Alate, the winged reproductive form that swarms to mate and form a new colony, often after a rain.  Because of the unseasonal October rains in Southern California, we have received numerous reports of Termite Alate swarms.

Letter 4 – Termite Alate sheds wings in South Africa

 

Subject: Tiny winged worm Location: South Africa, Eastern Cape December 17, 2016 11:17 pm Can you perhaps tell me what this insect is? I live in South Africa and on summer evenings, I find a large amount on my bedroom curtains particularly after a very hot humid day. They seem to have wings that fall off and the “wormlike” insect is left behind. They are very small, not more than 5mm in length. Signature: Sharon
Termite Alate
Termite Alate
Dear Sharon, This is a Termite Alate that has shed its wings.  Alates are the reproductive males and females that swarm when weather conditions are ideal.  After mating, they shed their wings and search for a place to begin a new Termite colony. thanks so much Should I be alarmed…I find them in my home? Kind Regards Sharon Welman Hi again Sharon, If you find them often in your home, you may have a colony existing somewhere in old rotting beams or panels in your home.  It is also possible they are being attracted from the outside by lights.  If you are really concerned, we would recommend a professional inspection. Thanks so much Daniel Our homes here are made mainly of brick but there are wooden rafters in the roof.  I will have someone check it out.

Authors

    by
  • 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.

4 thoughts on “Termite Alates (Flying Termites) Facts: All You Need To Know”

  1. Hello. I recently spotted some small dirt mounds with waxy, slimy tunnel entrances in the backyard. There were about 3 tiny winged insects with brown/reddish bodies and light colored wings. The pest control guy thought they were drywood termites. The termite guy said that drywood termites do not burrow in the ground and have weird tunnel things sticking out of a mound of dirt. He said it wasn’t termites. I can send you a photo via email since I cannot upload a photo here. I am grossed out about these insects and want to get rid of them and their colony ASAP! I live in Riverside, CA.

    Reply
  2. How can i get rid of them ? I found there wings under the carpet and on my desk.
    What should I do to control them before spreading?

    Reply
  3. How can i get rid of them ? I found there wings under the carpet and on my desk.
    What should I do to control them before spreading?

    Reply

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