While termite swarms in the home can be unsettling to say the least and are one of the signs that you have an infestation, swarms occur regularly in nature and are really quite fascinating.
I was able to witness one of these events in early May of last year and I grabbed my camera so I could share it with all of you here. The entire process lasted only about 30 minutes. I hope you'll enjoy browsing through the pictures below. As I describe each picture, I'll also explain some of the basics about termite swarms.
So here, by this large green compost bin, is where I spotted the swarm. You can see the tiny winged termites crawling up the side of the bin. They were also on the ground in the surrounding mulch and grass and flying through the air as well.
This is definitely the time of year for seeing swarms. They usually occur on a warm (not hot) day after a gentle (not torrential) rain. The winged termites themselves do not cause structural damage, this is just how they disperse to start new colonies. I'm happy to say that this particular swarm was far from my home and flew away and off into the distance. (If you witness a swarm, you definitely want to pay attention. The termites are looking for new real estate, that's what the swarm's sole purpose is--and you do not want that new real estate to be your house).
Here are some close-up pictures of the same area. A swarm outdoors means that a colony exist somewhere around your home. It could be in a neighbor's house or just somewhere in the ground nearby. Swarms that occur inside your home, however, mean that you have an infestation in your home. Always call an expert to inspect the home.
Most swarms, like the one I witnessed, are indeed brief. If you are lucky enough to witness one in your home (yes, I said lucky), it's a sure sign of infestation that shouldn't be ignored. By the way, since swarms are so brief and could very well occur while you are out of the house, another tell-tale-sign is piles of the discarded swarmer wings. While you may miss the "main event," you may find piles (and I mean PILES) of wings in the house, especially on window sills or light-colored floors/carpets. Termites are attracted to light, so they are attracted to light-colored surfaces and sunlight.
Now this is a termite swarmer resting on a blade of grass.
Even in the best of pictures (which this is not) it is still hard to show the detail closely, but here you can see the straight antennae, straight body and equal size wings characteristic of the termite (as opposed to the winged ant). You can also, if you look very closely, see the "beaded" antennae. Termites have antennae that are straight and look like a string of beads, unlike ants whose antennae are bent.
Lastly, while a bit blurry, this picture is a close-up of one swarmer on a piece of Trex (alternative decking). Sorry Charlie! No meal here! Again you can see his straight body, antennae, and equal length sets of wings.
For even more information on termites, you can check out resources elsewhere on our site: here.