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How To Know If The Swarming Insects In Your Texas Home Are Ants Or Termites

How To Know If The Swarming Insects In Your Texas Home Are Ants Or Termites

We are well into the spring season, and summer is just around the corner, which means that the insect swarms occurring around residential and urban areas of Texas will only continue to increase in frequency. The two most common groups of insect pests in Texas homes during the spring and early summer seasons are ants and termites, and both have been swarming into indoor areas for the past several months in the state. However, swarms emerge at different times in Texas depending on region. The frequent bouts of rainfall have also been making termite and ant swarms more frequent lately, especially in south Texas.

In south Texas, subterranean termite swarms begin to emerge as early as January and February, while the panhandle typically sees swarms emerge during the months of April and May. Subterranean termites swarmers (alates) emerge from existing colonies in order to start new colonies, but most alates die before finding a mate. When subterranean termites swarm indoors, they will most certainly fail to establish a new colony, as these termites must initiate new colonies within soil. In rare cases, indoor subterranean termite swarmers (alates) access soil by exiting through a window. Although indoor termite alates cannot contribute to the spread of termites within a structure, these swarms often indicate that active colonies may already exist in the vicinity.

Swarming ants may be a nuisance, but most winged species do not emerge from colonies that are destructive to homes or buildings, and therefore, swarming ants can usually be dismissed as harmless. Carpenter ants can infest wood, but the damage they cause to structural wood is not nearly as extensive as termite damage. This is because carpenter ants, unlike termites, do not feed on wood; instead, carpenter ants merely bore nesting galleries into structural wood sources. That being said, carpenter ant swarms can be just as dramatic as subterranean termite swarms. Since subterranean termite and carpenter ant swarms occur within homes and buildings at the same time of year in Texas, it is important for residents to properly differentiate between winged termite alates and winged carpenter ants.

Winged subterranean termite alates possess two sets of equal sized wings, while winged ant swarmers possess hind wings that are larger in size than the anterior set. A narrow midsection is a feature common to all winged ants that clearly differentiate them from subterranean termite alates. While 14 carpenter ant species have been documented in Texas, the C. rasilis species is the most common carpenter ant swarmer that emerges within homes in the state. Swarmers of this species can be recognized by their quarter inch long and reddish-black bodies.

Do you believe that you can discern between a carpenter ant swarm and a subterranean termite swarm?

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