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How to tell the difference between winged ants and termites

hometown winged ants

If you own a structure located in South Florida, it is vulnerable to Termites. These wood eating creatures are responsible for millions of dollars in building repairs across the U.S. every year.  Unfortunately, the insurance on the structure rarely covers the damages.

This time of year you may notice insects with wings entering the building in droves.  They may be ants or they may be termites.  Entomologists refer to winged ants and termites as “alates.” The alate is simply the adult, sexually mature stage in the ant or termite life cycle.  Alates develop in the colony from immature stages prior to the flight season.  

Termite alates will stay inside the colony waiting a perfect day or night to come out.  Some species of termites prefer a day with bright sunlight, warm temperatures, low winds and typically come out after a good rain storm.  Some species will come out on a warm night.

When the time is right, termites from different colonies all across the state of Florida will come out at the same time and “swarm.”  Male and female swarmer termites are looking for a mate from another colony.  Once they find one they pair up, break off their wings and start a new colony.  Subterranean Termites find a moist area in the soil in which to live.  Drywood Termites find an opening in a piece of dry wood, possibly in the walls or attic, and Formosan Termites will nest either in the soil or inside the walls of the structure.

When termites swarm they are often misidentified as “flying ants.”  This is a common mistake because termite alates look very much like ants.  As you can see from the illustration, identification can be made by inspecting the insect’s antennae, wings and waist.

If you need help identifying flying insects, call Hometown Pest Control.  We offer free inspections.  Additionally, other signs of termites can be blistered or darkening walls or wood, piles of wings, tiny frass pellets, or tiny exit holes in wood. If you notice any of these signs, give Hometown Pest Control a call for a Free Termite Inspection.

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Termite Swarming Season