Swarmer pests result from the reproductive activities of highly organized insect colonies, consisting of various social classes. The swarmers become kings and queens once they start new colonies. Swarmers become nuisances for property owners when they attempt to form new colonies around homes and businesses. When you see swarmers, take that as a warning sign. Swarmers are the first danger sign of a larger problem. In this article, we’ll look at the swarming activity of four different pests — termites, ants, wasps and bees — and how to prevent infestations.
Termites are social insects that feed on cellulose, of which wood and cotton are the primary sources. There are several termite classes, including the soldier, worker, swarmer, king and queen. The two types that homeowners encounter are either workers or swarmers.
Workers make up 90 to 98% of termite colonies and are responsible for foraging, building tunnels and caring for the young. Swarmers represent the reproductive caste within termite society. Once they develop wings, they leave to mate and start a new colony. After mating and settling down, the termite couple becomes the king and queen of their colony. Homeowners most often detect a termite infestation during swarming season. At other times throughout the year, termites remain hidden.
Termite swarmers are around 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch long and range from coal black to pale, yellowish-brown. Depending on their development stage, they may also have four wings of equal size. The workers are the same size as swarmers, have no wings and are white or gray.
Termites cause billions of dollars in property damage each year in the United States. Most of this damage affects wooden structures in your house or building, but may also include books, files, clothing, insulation, swimming pool liners, filtration systems and other objects containing cellulose.
You may have a termite infestation if you notice:
- Discarded wings around a termite food source, indicating a young colony is nearby.
- Mud shelter tubes in foundations, crawl spaces or wooden structures.
- Increased termite sightings in springtime, which is swarming season for termites.
- Soft, scratching noises inside the wall, as soldier termites “head-bang” to alert workers of danger.
If you have a termite infestation, the best thing to do is to call a professional pest control company. To prevent termite infestations and limit their spread in the meantime, you should:
- Reduce moisture in your home.
- Remove food sources from outside your foundation.
- Ensure vegetation is a safe distance from your home exterior.
Like termites, ant colonies produce flying swarmers. These flying ants, or swarmer ants, form the reproductive caste of ant colonies. Besides these similarities, swarmer ants also resemble swarmer termites. Both species have four wings that shed once they start a new colony. They also look similar when seen from a distance. However, there are some distinguishing features between these two swarmer insects. For example, termites have:
- Straight antennae.
- A broad waist that’s uniform in width with its body.
- Four wings of equal size.
In contrast, ants have:
- Elbowed or kinked antennae.
- A thin, pinched waist with three distinct body regions.
- Two large front wings and two small hind wings.
Unlike termites, ants will eat any food they can find, especially if it is sweet. Besides eating, they also chew through wooden structures when building nests. However, ants typically cause less structural damage than termites. The damage depends on the number of nests and the duration of the infestation. Ants present more food-related issues than structural damage. Thus, one common sign of ant infestations is trails leading to and from food sources. Other signs include:
- Small piles of sawdust.
- Nests in small openings in the wall.
- Soft rustling sounds inside the wall.
A standard ant control method is baiting them with sugary carbohydrates or proteins. The baiting method effectively eliminates small infestations or keeps larger ones at bay. You should also keep food areas clean and sealed off, reduce moisture and block potential access points. To eliminate significant ant infestations, call a pest control company.
Whereas ant and termite infestation concerns revolve around hygiene, food spoilage and structural damage, wasp infestations pose a significant threat to your health. Some ants sting humans, but stinging wasps pose a graver threat, especially for people with allergies. Wasp, hornet and bee stings are responsible for an annual average of 62 deaths in the U.S.
With wasp infestations, the primary concern is social wasps like paper wasps, yellow jackets or hornets. Solitary wasps like cricket hunters or cicada killers do not build community nests or swarm. Social wasps swarm for reproduction during fall months when there are no nests or larvae to protect. They also swarm to defend their nest when someone or something disturbs it.
Social wasp colonies last only one year. They build nests from scratch each year after worker wasps die and fertilized queens overwinter. The male drones that fertilize the queens also die after mating. All wasp nests appear paperlike, consisting of chewed wood fibers and saliva. Each social wasp type has unique features to look out for.
- Paper wasps: These wasps are slender and 3/4 to an inch long, ranging from reddish-orange to dark brown. Queens are not much larger than worker wasps. They often make their nests in attics, barns, garages, storage sheds and trees.
- Yellow jackets: Yellow jacket workers are bright yellow with black stripes and are a half-inch long. The queens have fewer stripes and are larger, around 3/4-inch long. Most yellow jackets build their nests below ground or in protective cavities.
- Hornets: Bald-faced hornets are a yellow-jacket variation that build nests in aerial spaces. They are black with a few white spots and stripes and range from 5/8-inch to 3/4-inch long.
Since wasps pose significant threats to your health, a pest control service is your safest option for dealing with infestations, especially if the nest is in a high-traffic area. To prevent wasp nest infestations:
- Keep doors and windows shut.
- Place wasp-repellent plants around your home.
- Remove food sources around your porch.
- Seal garbage cans and cracks in your foundation and attic.
- Cover holes in the ground.
It’s easy to confuse bees with wasps. However, they have different functions and features. Bees are pollinators, while wasps are predators. Bees eat pollen and nectar from flowering plants, whereas wasps feed on various arthropod insects.
Honeybees are golden brown with black stripes and flat wings and are approximately a half-inch long. Bumblebees are fuzzy, black and yellow and range from less than a half-inch to one inch long. Bees also have hind legs to carry pollen.
Furthermore, bees rarely sting humans unless they feel provoked. Still, their sting is painful and dangerous for individuals with allergies to their venom.
Honeybees swarm when their colonies become overcrowded in late spring to early summer. They nest in protected cavities in trees, building walls and similar areas. Bumblebees have similar reproductive activity to wasps, with a mating season in late summer. After mating, the fertilized queens stay dormant through winter until starting a new colony in the spring. Bumblebees nest underground.
Though bees are less dangerous than wasps, they won’t hesitate to sting intruders if they feel threatened. As such, bee nest infestations are a problem. Besides endangering your health, they also emit odors from fermenting honey, other pests and dead bees. To prevent bee nest infestations, seal holes and cracks in your building with caulking or wire screens. For removal, hire a pest control service for the best plan of attack.
Eliminate Swarmer Pests With Pestech This Spring
Whatever swarmer infestation you have, your safest and most effective option is hiring pest control professionals. If you notice swarmer pests in your building this spring, call Pestech for an inspection! Our pest control professionals have expert knowledge and experience in detecting and eliminating swarmer pests.