Although there are three major varieties of termites in the U.S., the most prevalent are subterranean termites, so we'll be discussing them in detail. Termites start new colonies from existing nests. Here's how it works: Established, successful termite colonies start producing winged, sexually mature adults called alates after a few years. The alates fly off to create their own nests during the spring when the temperature is mild and the air is humid and relatively still. Nests release all their alateat one time in swarms that disperse quickly. If you detect the presence of multiple winged termites inside your house, there's a good chance there's a termite nest nearby using the wood in your home as a food source. Check your window sills. Alates will try to get outside, so you may find them clustered around closed windows or doors.
Don't panic yet. Some ants start new colonies in a similar manner, so there's a chance you left the window open and a few winged ants flew in by mistake. They look similar to winged termites, but there are three big differences:
- A termite's rear wings (they have two sets) are the same length as their front wings. In flying ants, the rear wings are smaller than the front wings.
- Termites have wide waists, but ants have wasp waist indentations below their second set of wings.
- Termites have straight, beaded antennae, where ants have antennae with elbows and jointed bends.
If you have winged termites inside your house, it's one big indicator that you have a problem. Call an exterminator.