Why Do Termites Lose Their Wings?

termites going through their created tubes

The purpose of termite swarming season is to begin new colonies. As a colony matures, it begins to produce a reproductive caste called alate nymphs that will develop into swarmers with wings. Winged termites have a straight waist and straight antennae. Their wings are equal in size and are used to exit the colony to find a new place to colonize. In addition to wings, these alates are also equipped with eyes which are a unique characteristic compared to the rest of the colony.

Once out of the nest, the termites take flight and head towards the first light they see with their eyes. The wings are very fragile and the termites are poor fliers, so once they start out in a direction it is difficult for them to change directions.

So, why do termites lose their wings…?

Once the termites land, the wings are simply no longer needed. Often times the termites will discard them by arching their backs and the wings will break off. Next, the males will search out a female by honing in on the female pheromones. Once the female and male termites pair up, they will quickly search out a hidden dark and secluded spot to begin the termite life cycle anew. Sometimes the termite wings stay on long enough for the newly coupled pair to reach a secure place. Then, the termites may eat them as sustenance. Once the wings are off, the termite will never fly again. The reign of the newly crowned royalty requires soil contact and a water source, and if that is not found, the pair will likely die in just a few short hours from dehydration.

The best defense against termites is a properly maintained home. This includes proper drainage, storage, ventilation and, most important, having a professional inspect your home for termites annually. If you find winged insects swarming in your home, we recommend calling in an expert to identify the pest and the extent of the problem.

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