It began with the sunlight glinting off a few frantically flitting sets of wings yesterday afternoon and I instantly knew with the rains over the previous couple days followed by Thursday’s markedly warmer temperatures, the conditions were right for a termite swarm.
I’ve seen exceptionally large ones that fill the air with thousands of sets of beating wings, and they can be as unnerving as they are fascinating. But this one was much smaller, concentrated in one spot in my backyard, pictured above.
It’s easy to freak out and speed dial the nearest available exterminator — and certainly this is an event that property owners shouldn’t outright ignore — but unless these critters are streaming out from a crack in your house, such underground emergences aren’t emergencies, just part of their cycle.
From Blue Star Pest Controls FAQ:
Termites swarms are neither aggressive nor tightly grouped. A termite swarm is an event in which certain environmental conditions trigger a great number of winged termites to simultaneously fly from their nest(about 600-900 feet) to mate and locate new nest sites and food sources. Once matched, a “royal couple” burrows into the ground where the queen begins to lay eggs.
When a swarm occurs, winged termite swarmers called alates emerge in large numbers from holes in the soil through swarm tubes made by worker termites. Only a small percentage survive to form new colonies. Many are eaten by predators like birds, bats, and other insects. Or they die from natural causes and environmental conditions before they can locate a mate and nest site. Researchers generally agree that it takes years before a newly established colony will produce termite swarmers. With favorable conditions, it may take 4 years before a colony produces swarmers; with less favorable conditions, it will take longer.