Termites with wings (also called swarmers or alates) are reproductives that leave the nest to start new colonies. Swarmers are not immediately produced in a colony; it can take up to four years for a colony to begin developing swarmers. The exact time of year swarmers leave the nest varies based on the species, typically from spring to fall.
Depending on the species, swarming termites range from 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch long. Including the length of the wings, the largest termites found in the U.S. can measure 1 inch long.
Swarming termites have two sets of wings that are equal in length and almost double the length of the termite’s body.
Termite wings range from pale, almost translucent, in color to gray or brown, and they have a few distinct veins running through the front set. Some alates can be identified by the particular vein formation in their wings. Subterranean termites typically have only two pigmented veins in their front wings, while drywood and dampwood termites often have three or more pigmented veins.
Winged Termite (Alate) Closeup:
Termites Lose their Wings
Alates lose their wings soon after they swarm. In fact, the presence of several same-size termite wings around windowsills may be the only evidence that a swarm has taken place.
Termite wings in and around your home can indicate either a subterranean or drywood termite infestation. Swarming dampwood termites also lose their wings; however, they do not infest homes often so you are not likely to find their wings inside your house.
Due to their smaller colony size, drywood termite swarms are much smaller in number than subterranean termite swarms, possibly as small as 10 swarmers. At this swarm size, you are far less likely to notice discarded drywood termite wings.
If you see insect wings in your home, contact a pest control expert for positive identification and recommendations for treatment and prevention methods.
Mass of Swarmers on Wood