Are termites attracted to light? Absolutely, but only a certain group of them.

More specifically, this group is the “alates”, the so-called swarmers who grow wings and are seen flying around close to the exit points around the house, trying to get outside, during the spring and summer months.

These flying termites are definitely attracted to light, since they tend to equate light with outdoors.

Castes among Termites

Termite colonies are broken down into four castes:

  • King and Queen
  • Workers
  • Soldiers
  • Alates (flying/winged termites) – Indonesians call them laron

The alates are born with wings. They take off in search of the next colony, and shed their wings once they settle at their destination.

What are Alates?

The term “alate” comes from the Latin ālatus, which has the root āla (that is, wing).

This is a subgroup that is associated with some seeds and particularly social insects that live in colonies – they form a “winged reproductive caste from a social insect colony in its winged form”.

The insect groups that typically breed alates include termites and ants principally, along with a few other families such as aphids and thrips.

Alates fulfill a very specific function for insects that exist in colonies. When the current colony is mature, a specific generation of winged members are born.

They can be females (called gynes) that eventually become queens in the new colony. The male termite alates (kings) pair with the queens during their “nuptial flights” away from the existing colony.

When the males and females reach their new destination, they shed their wings and set about creating the new colony from a reproductive standpoint.  

Winged vs. Wingless Termites

The termites that develop wings do so at a particular period of time (or month) during the year – usually spring or summer.

There are, of course, termites that are born without wings. These wingless reproductive queens and kings are called ergatoid queens and gamergates, respectively.

Also, winged termites will shed or lose their wings after the insects get to the new colony. They are called dealates.

This form of polymorphism is associated with what is known as “eusociality”, which refers to social colonies that perform cooperative brood care (such as care of offspring born from other individuals), overlapping generations that coexist within a colony of adults and finally divisions of labor into reproductive and non-reproductive groups.

Winged Termites are Attracted to Light

Winged termites are spotted within houses, trying to fly away in search of places that they can help set up new colonies and reproduce.

They will be seen close to doors and windows, attracted to sources of light that show the way to their next destination.

Such swarms often happen during the afternoon during spring and summer.

As the light fades later in the day, winged termites will continue to be attracted to other sources of light – including utility lights, porch lamps, motion lamps – even light that is reflected from inside.

Winged Termites = Infestation?

While a few termites around sources of light may be shrugged off as seasonal, swarms of termites around windows, doors and other sources of light could be a cause for alarm among homeowners.

However, whether you have an infestation depends on where the swarm is spotted.

If the termite swarm is found indoors, that is a surefire sign of a mature colony somewhere within the homestead – in other words, an infestation of termites is already present.

If they are spotted outdoors looking in, they are looking to set up a new colony inside.

Luckily, swarms do not last for an extended period of time, but while they hang around, homeowners should be extra careful.

Incidentally, it’s not the winged termites themselves, but their offspring, that will be responsible for any infestation.

What Do Flying Termites Look Like?

Alates do come in a variety of hues, but they will typically sport the same tan and beige body color as the other castes within the termite colony.

They sport translucent (usually white or light tan colored wings) that are almost double the whole length of the body. They sport two antennae that are straight, perhaps with a slight curve downwards.

Where Do You Find Swarms?

Swarms are a by-product of termite colonies, and the latter is found wherever there is warm weather.

In the US, for example, termite infestations are most often found in the West, Southwest, Southeast, and South. Over 600,000 homes are impacted by termites every year, causing nearly $5 billion in property damage.

Roof house damaged by termites

Is England Free from Termite Infestation?

In the context of the US figures above and the fact that termites are found in seventy percent of the earth, it is slightly shocking to consider the case of England.

None of the world’s almost 25,000 termite species are indigenous to England. As a result, the country has stayed largely termite-free.

There was one reported case in North Devon in 1995[1], which was determined by the experts to have been an isolated infestation that crept in from Eastern Europe.

There may be bad news on the horizon, though. With global warming and other adverse changes, experts are anticipating a major invasion by Formosan subterranean termites – which are one of the most stubborn species in the world.

If they start to spread in British forests and human habitats, it would be bad luck all around since they are notorious infesters in nonnative environments.

How to Tackle Flying Termites?

If you spot swarms around your house, especially indoors, then you likely have an infestation already. There is no point in targeting flying termites in particular, you need to tackle the entire termite colony and get rid of them.

There are a number of methods to stop a termite infestation, including but not limited to the following treatments:

  • Termite monitoring
  • Termite baiting treatment
  • Liquid termiticide treatment

The Final Word

Flying termites are a symptom rather than the main problem. As we discussed, alates inside the house looking to leave the premises shows that you likely have a mature colony somewhere inside.

So, it becomes imperative to get rid of them.

Alright, that’s it for this article, here are a few hand-selected articles that you might also find interesting reads:

Are termites hard to get rid of? Yes! But These Tips Can Help

What Can Termites Chew Through? Let’s Find Out

Best non toxic way to control termites


Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page

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