Termites are one of the most destructive pests anyone can have in their home. They are very difficult to detect in advance until the damage can be seen, typically on your walls and flooring. If you don’t see any damage, you may still be able to tell if you have termites by other signs they leave behind – they may produce what appear to be wood shavings or piles of dirt, but are actually frass or termite droppings.
Another way you can tell if you have termites is if you spot a termite swarmer. During certain times of the year, termite colonies produce swarmers, or winged adults. These winged termites then fly away to make their own colonies.
If you see these termite swarmers outside, then you may have a termite colony on your yard, possibly near an old tree or landscape timbers.
If you find these swarmers indoors, then you likely have a termite colony inside your house (or place of business), behind your walls or under your floor.
What do termite swarmers look like?
Termite swarmers are often confused with other types of small winged insects, particularly ones produced by ants. And of course, it’s important to know what it is you’re dealing with so you can deal with it properly.
Some key differences are:
- Termite swarmers are typically smaller than ant swarmers, at only about 0.37 inches long, or 9mm.
- Both swarmers can be similar in color – most termite swarmers are black, with some species red or dark brown. Ant swarmers can be black, brown, or reddish.
- They have a straight waist, while ants have a pinched waist.
- Termite swarmers have 4 wings which are equal in size and length. Ant swarmers also have 4 wings, but the front pair of wings are longer than the rear pair of wings.
- Termite swarmers have long wings that go far beyond their abdomen, whereas ant swarmers have wings that only go a little beyond their abdomen.
- They have mostly straight antennae, whereas ant swarmers will have bent antennae.
What do I do if I find these swarmers inside my home?
After you’ve identified the kind of insect swarmer you have, you can then search for its nest to eliminate them before they do more damage. Knowing their diet and behavior goes a long way in getting rid of the problem.
What do termites eat and where can I find them?
They have single-celled organisms living in their stomachs called protozoa, and it’s these protozoa that break down the cellulose material termites feed on to get their nutrients. Cellulose is found in most plant matter, and that’s why we see termites feeding away on wooden walls, drywalls, wallpaper, flooring, and wooden fixtures, though their diet may also include other things like paper, books, and cotton. They feed on dead or decaying wood.
A few things to note is that termites don’t eat plastic, but they can chew through plastic to get to a food source. They also don’t eat concrete, though they will crawl through cracks and crevices on concrete to get to a food source.
Check out our other blog entries on termites (and for ideas on how to get rid of them) here.
If you suspect that you have a termite infestation, don’t hesitate to reach out to a pest control service right away.