Knowing Your Swarm: Carpenter Ants Vs. Termites
Those lovely, warm days are finally back and after one of the harshest winters on record, they couldn’t be more welcome! What isn’t welcome are the pests that can come along with nice weather. Spring is swarming season. You need to know your swarms so you know how to attack a pest problem.
Both carpenter ants and termites swarm in the spring. Being able to discern the difference will help you know how to deal with the problem and what to tell your pest control specialist. (They are both damaging pests which pose a danger to your home, so talking to a pest control specialist should be high on your “to do” list no matter what kind of swarm you see!)
Carpenter ants have been in a dormant state all through our unforgiving winter. They survive the freezing temperatures by going into a hibernation-like period that ends when the soil begins to warm up again. In the spring and early summer, they start to swarm.
Swarming means flying about looking for a meal and a mate, as quickly as possible. The swarmers usually appear when a nest is mature and ready to spread. Swarmers, the flying ants, take to the air to find new ground to populate which is a problem for a homeowner.
A winged ant has four wings that are very different in size. The front wings are quite a bit larger than the back. Check them while they’re still flying because the wings will drop off soon after swarming. They also have a distinctly shapely body with a slender waist when compared to a termite.
Carpenter ants don’t usually do a great deal of serious structural damage unless they go undetected for a very long time. They can be costly as they will burrow and tunnel through wood like your exterior trim and decks. Treating them starts with finding the nest, moves to eliminating their source(s) of moisture and then concentrates on preventing a return of the nest.
Termites have not been sleeping all winter like the ants. They’ve just retreated deep underground below the frost line where the temperature stays more consistent. When the spring temperatures and rains create the perfect conditions, termites will swarm. When they do swarm, they number in the thousands while carpenter ants only swarm in hundreds.
Termite swarmers don’t feed while they swarm but they do indicate the presence of feeding workers below the surface. Swarming is thought to be how new nests are formed. The swarming insects are usually sexually mature males and females capable of becoming the building blocks of a new nest.
Termites have a more cylindrical, less shapely body than a carpenter ant. Their wings are also in sets of four but all of them are relatively equal size. They will also drop their wings soon after swarming.
A nest of termites, new or old, can spell disaster for a homeowner. These tenacious pests can quickly put a home’s structural wood in jeopardy. Termite damage, even in small amounts, is costly and dangerous.
Seeing a large number of flying insects in your yard can be disturbing. You don’t have to panic but you should call a pest control specialist right away if you spot a swarm of any kind. Try to gather a sample of the pests so your specialist can confirm their identity and educate you about treatment options.