Termite Swarm In House? Why Do Flying Termites Show Up, How To Spot Them

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Pest Control | January 4, 2024

Person has questions about a termite swarm in house like why do flying termites suddenly appear, when is termite swarm season and does swarming termites mean infestation?

Insects of any kind setting up camp in your home is an unpleasant experience, but if you are dealing with a termite swarm in house, it is particularly so.

These pesky wood-eating insects do billions of dollars of damage each year.

If you live in an area prone to their presence, it’s important to know how to deal with an infestation and what attracts termites so you can reduce the risk of future incidences.

This guide explains how to deal with a termite swarm in house walls or anywhere, and why these flying termites show up, as well as how to identify them so you can carry out termite pest control practices that stop the damage.

How To Spot a Termite Swarm

Termites are attracted to light so you will typically see their wings near windows and doors. If you see these remnants only outside the home, you probably don’t have an infestation right in your home.

The wind can carry them a distance from where they originate. But since they can only fly a few hundred feet at most, an active colony is likely not too far away.

If you spot them indoors, you may have an infestation on your hands. The flying termites actually aren’t the true problem though.

They are just looking for a good location close to a food source to set up a new colony and will not do any structural damage to the home. That is the job of the worker caste.

Signs of Termites: Do Swarming Termites Mean Infestation?

Do swarming termites mean infestation? Identifying a termite swarm in your house is a critical first sign of a possible termite infestation.

Here are the things you need to look out for:

Appearance of Different Types of Termites

The most obvious way to know if you have termites is if you see them. They can resemble other insects in various respects so it is important to know their specific features.

A dense grouping of golden-brown termite wings on a white surface.

(Image: weeraponn8)

There are three main types of termites and they each have a different appearance.

  1. Workers: Worker termites are about one-eighth inch long, wingless, and white.
  2. Soldiers: Soldier termites have beige bodies and large brown heads. They have two large biting mandibles on each side of their head
  3. Reproductives: The reproductive termites, as already mentioned above, tend to be brown or black, about half an inch long, and have wings.

But you may not always see the termites, and other clues will point to their presence:

  • Certain sounds may suggest a termite infestation. Termites will shake or bang their heads against a wall when they perceive danger.
    As the termites burrow through the wood eating it, you may hear a hollow sound as you tap on the wall.
  • As the termites do more and more damage to the wood and compromise its structure, it will sag or move,3 causing cracks in the ceilings and walls
  • Termite damage warps wood framing, causing windows and doors to get stuck
  • Subterranean termites create mud tubes to travel through the ground into the wood surfaces of your home. You may notice spaces or grooves inside the wood.
  • As termites eat through the wood, you may notice very small holes in your drywall or wallpaper. They pack the holes with a small bit of dirt, which will look like it is bubbling beneath the paint or wallpaper
  • When termites eat through the flooring or subflooring, the damage can loosen tiles or cause wooden floorboards to buckle and blister. This may result in noise as you walk over the damaged portions of the floor.
  • If you see small piles of sand or dust, you may be looking at termite excrement

Termites With Wings: Do Termites Fly?

Not all types of termites fly. Many species have the ability to fly during their reproductive stage, but only one type of termite actually has wings.

These termites with wings are known as ‘Alates’ or ‘Swarmers’ because of how they fly together in a large group. Winged termites only fly a short distance, only at certain times of the year, and shed their wings once they land.

Types of Swarming Termites: What Do Winged Termites Look Like?

Winged termites vary in appearance depending on their species.1 Subterranean termites are blackish or dark brown in color, have wings longer than their bodies, and are three-eighths of an inch long.

Drywood termite swarmers range in color from pale tan to red to dark brown and have smoky gray or translucent wings.

Graphics with text showing the appearance of 3 different types of termites such as the worker termite, soldier termite, and reproductive termite.

Many people confuse swarming termites with flying ants because they look so similar. As a non-professional, you may need to examine them with a magnifying glass to tell them apart.

One of the key differences is the wings. A flying ant’s front wings are much longer than its back wings, while a termite swarmer’s front and back wings are equal in length.

Flying ants have an hourglass figure, while termites have a wide waist uniform with the rest of their body. Because both insects shed their wings after a swarm, this difference in body shape will help distinguish between the two.

The Importance of Flying To a Termite Swarmer

Flying is essential to the reproductive process of termites. Once a colony has matured and reached a certain capacity level, some termites develop wings to leave the nest and set up new colonies elsewhere.

It usually takes about 3 to 4 years for a colony to mature and at this point, you will see termites swarming outside searching for new mates.

A cluster of termites with wings gathering on an old tree stump.

(Image: JamesDeMers7)

This process typically happens once a year, and hundreds or even thousands of alates are bred for the sole purpose of reproducing and expanding. How many are produced each year depends on the colony size and the termite subgroup.

They live near the surface of the nest, waiting for the proper conditions to take flight and breed. They typically fly during the day, but sometimes at night, using lights as meeting points.

Termite Swarm Season and How Long Do Termites Swarm?

During termite swarm season, it’s important to understand how long do termites swarm and what it means for your home.

What Time of Year Do Termites Swarm?

When do termites swarm? The time of year termites swarm depends on the subgroup, so you could experience a termite swarm in house any time of the year.

Graphics with text that shows how to prevent termite swarm in your house.

Regardless of the time of year and the type of termite, most will swarm the day after rain when the skies are overcast and there is not a lot of wind. Damp soil provides optimal conditions for newly paired mates to build their nest, and high humidity improves survival rates.

  • Subterranean Termites:2 the most common type of termite, usually swarm in the spring during daylight hours. They nest underground in the soil and move upwards to feed on wood structures in the home.
    Subterranean termites form the largest colonies and have the potential to do the most damage.
  • Drywood termites: They swarm in the late summer or early fall. Drywood termite swarms are smaller in scale, usually with no more than 100 termites.
    Unlike other types of termites, they do not need moisture to survive.
  • Dampwood termites: They swarm in the summer. They typically don’t nest in homes because the wood does not have enough moisture to sustain them.
    But they may be living in the woods surrounding your home. Because they typically can’t survive on wood found inside the house, they don’t do as much damage as other kinds of termites.

Calling In the Professionals

If you think you have a termite infestation, it is important to call a professional for an inspection. This isn’t a problem that will just go away, nor one that can fully be handled with DIY methods, termites can do extensive and expensive damage to your home.

Naturally, one of the most important things people want to know about hiring an exterminator is the price. This can vary greatly depending on a number of factors from the type of treatment to the extent of the infestation, to the size of your house to where you live.

Terminix pricing, for example, can range exterminator prices anywhere from $400 to $1,500 annually, according to their website.4 Most treatment plans come with annual inspections and continued treatments if the problem persists for no additional cost.

You don’t want to solely rely on the termite exterminator cost to choose your service professional.

Swarming termites illuminated by a bright light source, during night time.

(Image: T. R. Shankar Raman9)

Here are some tips for selecting a quality company that will get the job done right:

  • Choose a company with extensive experience in treating termites specifically. Not all pest control services deal with all manner of infestations.
    Termites require very specialized treatment that not all service professionals are equipped to provide. If their website does not mention anything about termites specifically, ask them directly.
    Some people may feel more confident with a nationwide company.
  • Check for proper licensing and certifications. According to the Environmental Protection Agency,5 exterminator companies must have at least one licensed, certified pesticide applicator.
    Requirements for certification vary by state so it is a good idea to become familiar with the criteria of your state to ensure you are hiring a reputable company. You can verify the credentials of a particular company with your state’s environmental department or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • The free inspection will give a lot of insight into whether the company is one worth hiring. An experienced technician should be able to determine your treatment needs at that time and be able to offer a pretty accurate estimate.
    So don’t go with a company that is being vague about costs or won’t give a firm quote.

Termite Swarm in House: Preventing Termites

Here’s how to keep termites from invading your home:

1. Keeping Away Termite Swarm in House

To prevent termite swarms at your home, do the following:

  • At night, turn off outdoor lights
  • Check the roof and eaves for gaps where termites can enter, and repair asap
  • Patch holes in window screens
  • Check the roof for signs of water damage, rot, or mold. You don’t want to create a moist environment where the swarmers can establish a new colony

2. Reduce Soil to Wood Contact

Subterranean termites are the ones most likely to infest your home, and interrupting the path from their homes in the mud to the wood in your home is paramount.

  • Keep all wood sources away from the foundation of your home
  • Raise stored firewood at least 8 inches off the ground and keep stacks at least 20 feet away from the house
  • Wood siding should be at least 6 inches above the soil
  • Remove rotted or infested wood from wood fencing. There are termite-proof paints and stains that discourage them from using it as a food source.

3. Considerations for Plants

While plants add a touch of beauty to your outdoor space, they provide a pathway for termites and make it harder to notice infestations.

A garden scene with a white metal table and chairs set on a lawn, bordered by daylilies and a wooden fence, with a stone house and green foliage in the background.

(Image: islandworks10)

You don’t have to rid your yard of them, but there are steps to take to reduce their role in promoting termite infestations.

  1. There should be at least 12 inches between the exterior wall of your home and any shrubbery. Proper trimming may also help prevent termite infestations by allowing damp areas to dry out.
  2. Rake regularly and keep the grass short

4. Keep Moisture Away From the Foundation

Maintaining a dry foundation is crucial in preventing termite infestations in your home.

  • Have storm drains empty a few feet away6
  • Check the roof for leaks
  • Keep sprinklers away from the foundation
  • Direct condensation from A/C, dryer, etc. away from the home
  • Use a dehumidifier in the crawl space

Seeing a termite swarm in your house doesn’t always indicate an infestation, but given the potential severity, it’s wise to have an experienced exterminator inspect and address any issues to prevent a termite swarm in house.

Frequently Asked Questions about Termite Swarm in House

What Should I Do During a Termite Swarm?

While termite swarms may be unsettling, they pose no danger and typically last only about 30 minutes. Flying termites won’t survive long indoors and will soon perish, leaving only the cleanup task to handle.

Does Mulch Attract Termites?

Mulch and wood near your home’s foundation attract termites, as they are a primary food source and offer easy access inside. Consider placing mulch at least 4 feet away from the house or using alternative types like pine needles or rubber mulch.

Do Termites Bite?

No, termites do not bite and are of no danger to humans or pets. Besides the swarming season, you are unlikely to even see termites.

Termite Swarm in House: Why Do Flying Termites Suddenly Appear?

A termite swarm in house can seem to appear out of nowhere and this is normal.

How Long Does a Termite Swarm Last?

An individual instance of swarming typically occurs over a period of a few days, and the termites will shed their wings once they have mated and found a place to start a new colony. This process can last up to a few weeks.


References

1Crawley, S., & Hayes, C. C. (2023, February 224). Termite Swarmers – What Do They Mean for You? NC State Extension. Retrieved November 21, 2023, from <https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/termite-swarmers-what-do-they-mean-for-you>

2Gold, R. E., Howell Jr., H. N., Glenn, G. J., & Engler, K. M. (2005, December). Subterranean Termites. Agri Life Extension. Retrieved November 21, 2023, from <https://www-aes.tamu.edu/files/2010/06/SubterraneanTermites.pdf>

3Layton, B. (2023). Signs of Termite Infestation. Retrieved November 21, 2023, from <https://extension.msstate.edu/content/signs-termite-infestation>

4Webb, D. (2023, August 5). How Much Does Termite Treatment Cost? Terminix. Retrieved November 21, 2023, from <https://www.terminix.com/termite-control/cost-to-treat-termites/>

5United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2023, June 29). Tips for Selecting a Pest Control Service. EPA. Retrieved November 21, 2023, from <https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/tips-selecting-pest-control-service>

6Carmody, J., Anderson, B., & Stone, R. (2018). Moisture in basements: causes and solutions. University of Minnesota Extension. Retrieved November 21, 2023, from <https://extension.umn.edu/moisture-and-mold-indoors/moisture-basements-causes-and-solutions>

7Winged Termites Swarm Photo by JamesDeMers. Resized and Changed Format. Pixabay. Retrieved January 4, 2024 from <https://pixabay.com/photos/termites-wings-insects-wing-34672/>

8Termites With Wings Photo by weeraponn. Resized and Changed Format. Pixabay. Retrieved January 4, 2024 from <https://pixabay.com/photos/termite-insect-nature-wings-ant-3418630/>

9Termites Swarming Outside Photo by T. R. Shankar Raman. CC BY-SA 4.0 Deed. Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International. Resized and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved January 4, 2024 from <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Winged_termites_swarming_IMG_20201021_191840.jpg>

10Clean Home Backyard Photo by islandworks / Q K. Resized and Changed Format. Pixabay. Retrieved January 4, 2024 from <https://pixabay.com/photos/white-outdoor-patio-furniture-1547092/>