Do Flying Termites Lose Their Wings?

Flying termites are one of the most feared pests in the world. These tiny insects are capable of causing extensive damage to homes and other structures, and their presence is often a sign of a much larger problem. But what is more fearsome than seeing a swarm of flying termites around your home?

Let it be established that not all types of termites can fly. The flying termites you’re likely to encounter are called alates, and they’re specifically designed for reproduction.

Once they find a mate, they’ll lose their wings within 24 hours and set up a new colony. In some cases, when these flying termites plummet to the ground, they are feasted upon by predators, other termites included.

flying termite in a mud tube, do flying termites lose their wings

Flying Termites and Their Life Cycle

Why can’t other termites fly, and why do others have wings? The answer lies within their lifespan and life cycle. It all starts with termites hatching from eggs. Once hatched, they become either a worker, soldier, or alate termites.

Worker termites dig and build the colony, but they can’t reproduce. They have no reproductive organs. Most often, these termites live for about 2 years at most. While they don’t have the ability to reproduce, they do the most destruction to homes.

Soldier termites protect the colony but can’t reproduce either. They have intimidating large heads, warding off most predators, with jaws that are strong enough to protect the entire colony. Despite their mighty and scary appearance, these types of termites do not bite humans.

And then there are the most fearsome – the flying termites. These termites have wings and swarm around in search of mates.

While these flying termites don’t eat wood, they build a hungry colony that feast and gnaw on wood. Usually, alates fly around for an hour, away from the colony once it’s overcrowded.

They look for a mate, break or shed their wings, and start a new colony. The male termites break their wings as a symbol that they have found a couple, starting a new family.

The female termites shed their wings, which is a sign of submission to the male. These two will then mate and lay eggs in a system of mud tubes, creating building more termites that could lead to destruction.

Don’t underestimate these flying termites. Despite the fact that flying termites don’t live for long or don’t consume wood, they can build an entire new colony that feasts on wood. If you see a swarm of flying termites, this might mean trouble.

Remember, termites only come out when they look for a mate. When you see them swarming out, it means that they have established a new colony and are looking for a mate to start a new one.

It’s either your area is already infested with termites, or they’ve found a mate near your residence with the main purpose of building a new one.

What Do Flying Termites Look Like?

Not to get confused with flying ants, flying termites have four distinct wings – two large wings in the front and two smaller wings at the back.

Their wingspan is about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch, with their wings being slightly longer than that of an ant. Additionally, they have a straight set of antennae, while ants have bent antennae.

winged termites

When comparing a flying termite and flying ants, you’ll also see that those of termites have a thicker waist. This is because termites have a broader abdomen, while ants have a narrow and pinched waist.

What Attracts Flying Termites?

While you might think that flying termites are attracted to wood, this actually isn’t the case. These insects are mostly drawn toward light.

If you see a swarm of flying termites in and around your home, it’s likely because they’re looking for mates.

On a yearly calendar, you’ll often notice that flying termites may appear anytime between February to May. However, this isn’t set in stone.

The weather conditions play a role in when these termites come out to mate – if it’s been a particularly humid, rainy season, you might see them sooner.

As mentioned earlier, alates aren’t attracted to wood. Their main purpose of existence is reproduction, and they would only go out in search of a mate.

When you see a swarm of termites, it’s a sign that their colony has become overcrowded, and they’re looking to start a new one.

What Does it Mean When Termite Lose Their Wings?

These flying termites will then lose their wings after finding a mate – which means that they are ready to keep reproducing and will likely build their new colony near your home.

If you see a few of them around, it’s best to call in a professional to assess the situation and prevent any major damage to your property.

foundation damaged from a termite infestation

After the first hour of flying, these termites would need to find a new mate for them to survive. If not, they’d fall to the ground and die. However, if they have found their mate, they can live for up to a decade.

This then translates to a new batch of growing colonies that gnaw and feast on wood after wood, affecting your home’s structural integrity.

Do Flying Termites Lose Their Wings? Final Thoughts

Alates or flying termites don’t have wings for long, especially when they have found a mate. They break their wings, mate, and start a hungry new colony that will devour anything in its path – including your home.

Getting rid of a termite infestation even before it begins is always the best course of action. If you see any flying termites in and around your property, call a professional to have them removed as soon as possible.