Do Termites Have Wings?
March 4, 2023 - Termites
Author - Tom Miche
Yes, some termites have wings. Termites in the reproductive stage, also known as alates or swarmers, have wings. These winged termites are responsible for creating new termite colonies. Once the colony is established, the wings are shed and the termites become wingless. However, it's important to note that not all termite species have wings. Additionally, termite soldiers and workers never have wings regardless of the species. (Learn more: What do termites look like?) It's crucial to identify termite swarmers in order to prevent an infestation from forming. If you spot winged termites inside or outside your home, it's best to contact a professional pest control company to assess the situation and determine the best course of action.
Termites with wings are also known as swarmers or alates. These termites are reproductive members of the colony, and they are responsible for leaving the nest to mate and start new colonies. Swarmers have two pairs of wings that are roughly the same size and shape, and they have a straight antenna. These wings can be shed once they have found a mate and established a new colony.
Not all termites have wings. The winged termites are only a small part of the colony and are typically only seen during the swarming season. Additionally, the presence of swarmers inside a building is a sign of a termite infestation, and it is essential to address the problem as soon as possible to prevent further damage.
What Do Winged Termites Look Like?
Winged termites, also known as alates or swarmers, have distinct physical features that set them apart from other termites. Here are some characteristics that can help identify winged termites:
Body shape: Winged termites have a long, slender body with a broad waist. They have two pairs of wings that are equal in length, and their wings are longer than their bodies. Winged termites have a distinct waistline that separates their body into two sections. They have straight antennae and their wings are about twice as long as their body.
Color: Winged termites are usually a dark brown or black color, but they can also be a light tan or can sometimes even appear white or translucent.
Wings: The front and back wings of winged termites are similar in size and shape, with a uniform texture. The wings of a termite are clear and have a vein pattern, with two pairs of wings of equal length. They are generally longer than the body, extending past the abdomen.
Size: The size of winged termites can vary depending on the species. Winged termites are generally about 0.5 inches long, but they can range from ¼ inch to ½ inch in length. Termite wings can be up to 1 inch in length.
Behavior: Winged termites are often seen swarming around lights or windows, usually during the spring and fall, but also sometimes during the summer months as they look for a mate and establish new colonies. After mating, they lose their wings and start to build a nest, so you're less likely to see them once they've settled down.
Shed wings: After the swarm, you may find shed wings around windows, doors or other entry points. Shed wings are one of the most common signs of a termite infestation.
The appearance of winged termites can vary depending on the species and location. If you suspect you have a termite infestation, it's best to consult with a professional pest control service for identification and treatment.
Termite wings are one of the key distinguishing features between termites and ants. So, what do termite wings look like? Here are some of the physical characteristics of termite wings:
Termite wings can vary in size depending on the termite species, but they are generally around 0.5 to 1 inch (1.3 to 2.5 cm) in length. The length of the wings can also vary between the front and hind wings of the same termite. The front wings are usually longer and narrower, while the hind wings are shorter and wider. The size of the wings can also depend on the age and sex of the termite, with older reproductive termites generally having longer wings than younger ones. It's important to note that termite wings can also break off easily, so the size of a wing found may not necessarily indicate the size of the original wings.
The characteristic shape of termite wings is elongated, with a pointed tip at one end and a thicker, hardened front edge at the other. The pointed end of the wing is called the apex, and it tapers to a sharp point. The thicker, hardened front edge is called the costa, and it provides support for the wing during flight.
The costa is thicker than the rest of the wing, and it is also harder and more durable. It has a ribbed texture, with raised veins that run parallel to its length. These veins help to stiffen the wing and prevent it from bending or folding during flight.
The main body of the wing is thin and membranous, with a delicate, translucent texture. It is covered in a network of tiny veins that give it a lacy appearance. The veins branch out from the costa and radiate outwards towards the edge of the wing.
The wing venation patterns of termites are a distinguishing characteristic that can help differentiate them from other flying insects. The veins on termite wings are often parallel, with a distinct pattern of cross-veins that form cells. The cells on termite wings are typically rectangular or square-shaped, and they often have a zig-zag pattern.
There are three main types of termite wing venation patterns:
Subterranean termites have a prominent vein running along the front edge of the wing, with numerous cross-veins forming a series of rectangular cells. The tips of the wings are rounded.
Drywood termites have fewer veins on their wings than subterranean termites, with a less pronounced front vein and a simpler pattern of cells. The tips of their wings are more pointed than subterranean termites.
Dampwood termites have the fewest veins of all three types of termites, with a simplified pattern of cells and a single prominent vein running along the front edge of the wing. The tips of their wings are also pointed.
The color of termite wings can vary depending on the species, but in general, they are usually transparent or pale in color. They may have a slightly yellowish or brownish tint, but they are not typically strongly colored. This is because the wings are thin and delicate, and the veins and other structures within them are not heavily pigmented. However, in some species, there may be darker or more opaque patches on the wings, which could be used for identification purposes. It is worth noting that the color of the wings may change as they age, becoming darker or more opaque over time.
Some termite wings can appear iridescent or have a metallic sheen. This is particularly true for drywood termites, which are known for their iridescent wings. The iridescence is caused by the way light is refracted and reflected off the wings, creating a shimmering effect. However, not all termite species have iridescent wings, and the presence of iridescence can also depend on lighting conditions and viewing angle.
Number of Wings
Termites have four wings, with two pairs of wings that are of equal size and shape. These wings are located on the thorax of the termite and are usually twice the length of the termite's body. However, winged termites shed their wings after swarming and mating, leaving them with only six legs like non-winged termites.
Termite wings are relatively fragile and can easily break off, especially after the termites have swarmed and mated. The wings are not designed for long-term flight, but rather to allow the reproductive termites to fly a short distance to find a new location to start a colony. Once the termites have landed and started to establish a nest, they will shed their wings, as they are no longer needed. The discarded wings can often be found in piles near windowsills, doorways, or other entry points where the termites entered the building.
Winged Ants vs Termites
Winged ants and winged termites, also known as swarmers, can look quite similar at first glance. However, there are several key differences that can help you tell them apart.
Body Shape: Termites have a straight, tube-like body with no defined waist. Their bodies are usually a uniform width from head to abdomen. In contrast, ants have a distinct waist and their bodies are typically more segmented.
Wing Size and Shape: Termite wings are all the same size and shape, and are longer than their body. They are clear or slightly smoky in color and have few veins. Ant wings are usually two different sizes, with the front wings being longer than the back wings. Ant wings have more veins and are usually darker in color. The wings of winged termites have a few distinct, straight veins that run parallel to the wing's leading edge, while the wings of winged ants have many veins that curve and cross each other.
Antennae Shape: Termite antennae are straight, short, and bead-like in appearance. Ant antennae, on the other hand, are bent or elbowed, and longer.
Behavior: Winged termites, also known as swarmers, are typically seen flying in large groups during mating season. After mating, they shed their wings and begin to establish new colonies. Winged ants, on the other hand, are more commonly seen foraging for food and building their nests. They do not typically swarm in large groups like termites.
Damage: Both termites and ants can cause damage to wood structures, but they do so in different ways. Termites eat wood from the inside out, leaving a honeycomb-like pattern of tunnels behind. Ants, particularly carpenter ants, tunnel through wood to create their nests, but they do not consume the wood like termites do.
These differences may not be immediately obvious, and it can take a trained eye to tell them apart. If you're unsure whether you're dealing with winged termites or winged ants, it's best to call in a pest control professional for identification and treatment.
Winged Termites In Your House?
If you suspect that you have winged termites in your house, it is best to contact a pest control professional immediately. Termites can cause significant damage to homes and other structures if left unchecked, and it is important to address the problem as soon as possible to prevent further damage. The best first step is generally going to be scheduling a professional termite inspection.
It is important not to disturb or attempt to treat the termites yourself, as this can cause them to retreat and make it more difficult to eliminate the infestation. A pest control professional will be able to properly identify the type of termite and recommend the best treatment options for your specific situation. Termite control options may include a combination of regular (typically annual) inspections, a localized or perimeter termite treatment, and/or installation of termite bait stations around the perimeter of your home.
In the meantime, you can take some steps to reduce the risk of further infestation. Keep all wood, including firewood, away from the home's foundation, and remove any wood debris or stumps from the yard. Reduce moisture levels in and around the home by repairing any leaks or water damage and using dehumidifiers in damp areas. Seal any cracks or gaps in the foundation or exterior walls, and ensure that screens are in place on all windows and doors.
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