Don't Ignore Termite Swarms Outside Your Home—Here's What to Do

Amber Guetebier
Written by Amber Guetebier
Updated November 10, 2021
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A swarm of termites is probably not on a list of things you want to see outside your home

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You're relaxing on a perfect, sunny day in your yard when you spy an alarming mass of buzzing insects. At first, you may think it’s a swarm of flying ants. Unfortunately, you may have seen a termite swarm. While this doesn’t mean you should panic, you should definitely not ignore them. Here’s what to do if you notice termites swarm outside your home. 

Identify the Termite Swarm

First things first: Find out if what you’re seeing are actually termites. Swarming termites often have black or dark brown bodies and wings. One distinctive characteristic of swarming termites versus flying ants is that termites have wings longer than their bodies. It can be tricky to know for sure, so if you can collect any insects, save them for identification by a local pest control specialist.

Why Do Termites Swarm?

Termites swarm when the reproductive termites leave the colony to find mates. If you find a termite swarm near your home or on your property, it usually means there is an established colony somewhere close. They are leaving to form new colonies. 

Does a Termite Swarm Mean Infestation?

While spotting a termite swarm outside doesn’t necessarily mean you have a major infestation inside, it indicates that termites are present nearby. You should be proactive to prevent damage to your home. 

Inspect your property for other tell-tale signs of termite infestation. These include:

  • Discarded wings

  • Mud tubes

  • Discolored, drooping, or peeling drywall or paint

  • Buckling floorboards or loose tires

  • Crumbling wood

  • Termite pellets (sawdust-like piles near floorboards)

  • Pinpoint-sized holes in your wall

  • Hollow-sounding wood

  • Maze-like patterns in wood or wood furniture

What if There Is a Termite Swarm Inside My Home?

If you catch a swarm in your home, unfortunately, this means your home is very likely infested with termites. Check around for wings: termites can chew off their wings and drop them before digging into wood, so look around baseboards and windowsills for discarded wings. Even if you don’t see any of the other signs of infestation, if you think you saw a swarm of termites inside your home, call a pest removal specialist immediately.

When Do Termites Swarm?

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Termite swarming season, broadly, happens when temperatures increase to about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which in many climates means late spring or early summer. They typically swarm on a warm, sunny, calm day after a rainfall. 

However, there are three types of termites—drywood termites, subterranean termites, and dampwood termites—and they can swarm at different times of the year. 

Subterranean Termites

  • Live underground in damp soil

  • Are the most common type of termite in the United States

  • Use mud tubes (tunnels) to get from colonies to a food source (wood)

  • Swarm in spring or summer months

  • One species of subterranean termite (Reticulitermes hageni) is common in the southern states and can swarm as late as September

Drywood Termites

  • Live in colonies inside the wood

  • Are found inside walls or furniture

  • Are less common than subterranean termites

  • Swarm during late summer or fall, August through November

Dampwood Termites

  • Are larger than drywood or subterranean termites

  • Are attracted to damp wood, such as wood damaged from a flood

  • Are less common than subterranean termites

  • Swarm in the summer months

What Should I Do If I Think I Have Termites?

If you suspect termites in your home, you should schedule an inspection with a nearby termite control professional right away. Catching termite infestation early will help prevent any lasting or expensive damage to your home. 

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