During the Spring/Autumn time, it is very common to see flying termites (Alates) which are often mistaken for flying ants.
Alates are the winged reproductives of a termite colony whose sole purpose is to locate an ideal position to start, and become the future King/Queen of, a new colony.
What is the difference between them?
Termites are beige/tan in colour, have thicker, more straight bodies and also have straight antennae.
Ants are usually dark in colour, have a thinner bodies and have elbowed antennae.
Can flying termites/alates do any damage?
Alates are usually produced by termite colonies who are able to dedicate some of the best food and fat stores designed to last a few months until the future King/Queen’s first batch of eggs hatch into workers who will then scout for food.
This means that if alates are around, it is likely that an active and thriving termite colony is nearby which can (and probably already is) doing damage.
Is it okay to kill the alates?
Normally it is advised not to disturb active termites once they are located as it causes them to disperse and makes it harder to target and eliminate them.
Alates on the other hand are can be exterminated, this can be done so with fly zappers (alates can see, unlike worker termites), with a swatter or with insecticides.
Keep in mind though that killing them only eliminates the immediate nuisance that they may cause and will do very little in limiting the sheer number of alates locally or their likelihood of establishing a new colony nearby.
Should I take any further action?
Yes, for two reasons.
The first being that if there is alates flying around, chances are an active and thriving termite colony is close by, so it may be worthwhile having a professional termite inspection to check that these silent invaders aren’t currently chewing away at your home’s structure.
Secondly, the fact that alates are taking flight means that they are looking for somewhere to settle where there’s food and your home could be on the menu. Think about investing in either a baiting system or a chemical barrier, we recommend Exterra and Termidor respectively.