Main features of formosan termite swarmers

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The Formosan subterranean termites are the cause of the biggest economical damage to properties in the US in the last century.

Imported from south Asia in the 40s they exceed the native species in numbers of individuals in the colony which makes them the fastest in destruction of the wooden structures.

One fully grown colony of Formosan termite can have up to several millions of termites and accordingly up to several million mouths to feed.


This result in the colony being able to chew abound 400 grams of wood every day, and if that’s not enough – then remember that they can cause an irreversible damage to your property in less than 3-month time.

All this bring to the Formosan termite the glory of the “Super-termite”.

So what can you do, facing the enemy so small and so overwhelmingly numerous? The best way of dealing with termites is to prevent an infestation.

The best way of prevention – is to have a plan of protection of your structure while it is still in construction. That way you have all kinds of barrier and soil treatment methods at hand.

And what if you don’t build from scratch and just want to live in the house and be able to recognize the danger?

Ants or termites?

Photo 2Let’s start with the easy one – once noticing some insects in your home check that it’s really a termite and not an innocent ant.

The winged form of the insect is the one that can seem confusing.

So if you want to know the difference between termite swarmers and winged ants – here’re some points for you:

  • termites do not have a narrow waist like the ants;
  • the termite alates wings are similarly shaped and can be folded strait along the body, the ants have the wings which are significantly longer on the outer side and cannot fold on each other;
  • the second pair of the wings of the flying ant is noticeably smaller, the termites have both pairs of wings the same size;
  • ants antennas look like bent strings and the antennas of the termite have an appearance of straight string of pearls.

And how can you notice the infestation and tell if it’s a Formosan termite threatening your household or a native one?

The worker termites of different subterranean species look quite similar, so for seeing the difference you will need the alates (winged termites).

Before we get to this, let me tell you a little bit about the structure of the colony of the Formosan subterranean termite.

Attention! Whatever termite species are present in your house – you have to act immediately and call for the pest extermination professionals!


See formosan termite swarmer pictures below:

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Learn more about subterranean termites: signs of their activity; best methods of treatment and DIY methods. Eastern subterranean termites and their tunnels and tubes with photo.

The termite colony structure

There are three casts in any termite colony:

The workers are the foraging food providers – they’re the ones who pose the danger to wooden structures. All the members of the termite colony are feeding on the cellulose the workers bring.

The main source of it is the wood, and it’s a question of luck what they will meet first on their way – a living tree, a dump log or your porch.

The soldiers are the protectors of the nest. They attack mostly the invaders of the other species, but might bite even a human if they have no choice.

And the reproductives are simply designed to reproduce, to form the new colonies and lay more eggs. The reproductives in the termite colony are:

  • king;
  • queen;
  • nymph (immature alates);
  • alates (swarmers).

Photo 9The swarmers appear in the colony not earlier then in 3-5 years after its establishment, when it’s fully mature.

The single colony can produce up to 70 000 alates who are all determined to establish new colony wherever they land.

The Formosan subterranean termites are the most spread in the south-east states, such as Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia and Hawaii.

Now, we will be speaking about formosan termites swarming season. The typical time for the swarms to appear in the air is from April to July, when the weather is warm and humid, and the conditions are ideal for the new colonies to settle and thrive.

Identification of the swarmers

The swarmers are the members of the termite colony that can be used to surely recognize the species of termites infesting the house. The alates of the Formosan termite are pale yellow brown and about 12-15mm long.

The main feature allowing to determine which species they belong to – is the dense covering of the gold to reddish small hair on their wings and a specific vein pattern on them.

All this better be determined by a professional unless you have a good magnifying glass and interest in entomology.

The swarm normally takes off from the nest all at once, usually in the warm and rainy early morning or night. Termites are the day swarmers, so after the short flight they lose their wings and start looking where to build a new nest.

As they need to use their wings for only one day, flying is not the strongest side of termites. So, once in the air, they just flit for some meters and fall. The thing you should pay attention to is where the swarm comes from.

If it goes out of the tree roots or a stump, there’s a good chance the house is not infested yet – but, of course, it’s a signal that the colony is nearby and you have to keep your eyes open. Or better start the preventive barrier measures straight away.

Photo 10But even if there is no notion of alive swarmers inside or around your house, it doesn’t mean that there are no termites present.

The alates are attracted to the light, so after the swarming day, check your windowsills and doorsills for any sign of wings.

The same goes for the places where the moisture is accumulating in the house: In the sink, shower or bathroom.

If there are any shed wings in this zones – your structure might be infested.

Here you can learn more information about effective treatment method called tenting (fumigation): dangers for termites, preparing for fumigation and cleaning after, how long does this procedure last?

New colonies

Once on the ground, the alates lose their wings, find a mating partner and bury themselves in the ground to start setting up a new nest and lay the eggs. There are only two things needed for the new colony to take off – enough food and enough moisture.

Most of the subterranean termites meet these conditions as they biologically should underground.

But there’re also plenty of so-called aerial colonies, which are occurring on the flat roofs of modern buildings where the rainwater is always collected and the entry points for food foraging are present.

And for the entry points – just few cracks in cement will do. That’s why there are so many problems with termites in seemingly hardly achievable from the underground modern industrial buildings.

Obviously, not all the swarmers are surviving to establish a new colony. The absolute majority is eaten by the birds or another insect or the swarm might arise in the conditions which do not let any of winged termites to survive, for example inside the building. Sadly, if this happens it’s a clear sign of the infestation.

How long do formosan termites swarm? Once settled, the couple of new king and queen mate and the female lays 15-30 eggs which hatch 2-4 weeks later. All this time the couple is taking care of them, as they also do for the next couple of generations.

When there’re enough workers and soldiers in the new colony, the queen devotes herself to lying eggs only and can be laying from hundred to thousand eggs a day.

Usually, the queen and king are the only ones to reproduce in the whole colony, though sometimes there can be more than one queen and king in a large colony.

Useful articles

If you interested in more information of termites we recommend you to read the following articles:

Helpful video

This video features Formosan termite alates swarming outdoors near a home:


Photo 11The swarm is an unpleasant thing, but if you look at this the other way – it’s one clear sign that can tell you that your property is in danger.

Once you found any alive or dead termites or even just some wings in your house, don’t hesitate – call the pest control.

As much as you might like to save money and protect you house yourself – that’s not the right time for it.

The economic damage the colony can cause to your building in case of your poor judgment will lead to you loosing much more on the reconstruction.

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