Do Termites Have Wings?

photo of termites

Termite Castes

To answer answer the question “do termites have wings?” there must be a basic understanding of the respective castes (forms of social order) that comprise a termite colony.

There are three forms of termites in a colony:

  • The reproductive caste that includes the primary winged reproductives (swarmers or alates, a king and a queen)
  • The non-winged soldiers that protect the colony from predators
  • The non-winged workers that maintain the colony and forage for the colony’s food. Only the termite winged alate caste has wings.

Termite Swarmers Have Wings
Swarmers are about ¼ to ⅜ inch long and have two pairs of pale or smoky-gray wings that are about the same size.

Formosan termite swarmers are interesting since they have small hairs on their wings.

Swarmer or Ant?
Swarmer termites are sometimes mistaken for winged ants. However, termite swarmers have straight antennae and their wings are the same size, while the flying ant’s antennae are bent and the front pair of wings is larger than the rear pair.

Swarming

New Colonies
Termite male and female swarmers leave their colony in order breed and establish new colonies.

During the swarm they mate, land, shed their wings and begin to hunt for a suitable location to begin producing a new colony.

Since swarmers are attracted to light, they often are found dead around windows and doors.

Drywood or Subterranean Termites
One way to determine whether the dead swarmers are drywood or subterranean termites is to look at the termite bodies.

If most of the dead swarmers do not have wings attached to the body, they are likely drywood swarmers. If some have wings attached and some have wings detached, likely they are subterranean swarmers.

Call the Professionals

The most important thing to do if a homeowner encounters either of these situations is contact your pest management professional as soon as possible and request an inspection and termite control plan.