by David Moore
Manager of Technical Services and Board Certified Entomologist
with contributions by Eric Smith, PhD, BCE
The weather is finally beginning to warm up, which means that before long termites will be swarming. All it takes is a few days of warm weather and then a rainy day followed by another warm day, and out came some flying insects in the house, usually in the morning of that warm day. So, what are they, termites or ants? As a homeowner, what can or should you do?
Unfortunately, both termites and ants will release their swarmers (winged reproductives) about mid-morning of the warm day that follows the rainy day. Since termite swarmers are poor fliers, only a light breeze can be tolerated; if the wind picks up, the swarming will cease and they will try again later that day or on another day. Also, termites have trouble controlling water loss from their bodies, so a calm day with high humidity is required for a successful swarm.
So this is what you should do. First, capture several of the insects in a glass jar or plastic pill bottle. Be sure to capture some that have their wings still attached if at all possible, but at least collect some of the shed wings.
With your collected specimens in hand, you can make a preliminary identification of whether you are dealing with ant or termite swarmers using the following information: