Have Wings, May or May Not Travel
WHEN DO THE KING AND QUEEN OF A SUBTERRANEAN TERMITE COLONY POSSESS WINGS. I WOULD BE ALATED TO KNOW.
Thanks Charles, and without specific reference books on this I’ll have to wing it. I guess we begin with the beginning, and that is a new termite colony established by a newly mated male and female. The growth of the colony starts very slowly, and gathers momentum as each year goes by. However, from several sources it seems that it takes at least 3 or 4 years for even the most prolific subterranean termites to be able to afford to produce swarmers and lose part of the colony to dispersal. Once that decision is made the colony may produce HUGE numbers of swarmers so that the odds of at least a few of them making it far enough to start a new colony is ensured. It’s a dangerous world out there, and a lot of other animals just love to eat swarming termites. I once watched a swarm taking place, and noted the many dragonflies that kept diving through the swarm to pick off flying termites.
It’s also possible for alates to be loitering in the colony, waiting for that certain environmental trigger to tell them it’s time to go (warmth, light, moisture) when something happens to ruin the moment. Perhaps it’s 11:00 AM after a nice rain shower on a sunny spring morning, and just as an opening is created to release the swarmers another cloud passes over and another rain starts. That could close down the operation entirely and keep the swarmers in the colony. When asked what happens to these swarmers one of our termite researchers and experts replied that they are cannibalized by the workers. A warmer, kinder way of stating this is that the swarmers are ‘recycled’. Since they did not get out to do what they were produced to do, and otherwise are a burden on the colony, no sense in feeding a perfectly good swarmer when IT can feed YOU.
Another way to answer your question is that the King and Queen of a colony possess wings only up to that moment prior to mating. The wings are there just to allow these reproductives to get the heck away and fly or be blown to someplace new. Once they hit the ground there is no more use for the wings, and it takes very little to get rid of them. A slight shiver might cause the wings to drop off, breaking at a weak spot along the base, or if one gets stuck the termite just reaches back with its jaws and removes the offending wing itself. Once they move back into a new cavity in the soil the wings have no more use, and frankly would just be in the way. This same biology is seen with most species of ants, the difference being that there will be no ‘king’ in that matriarchical society of the ant colony. His job ended a long time earlier……if he was lucky.
Mr. Pest Control
When To Call for Treatment
I recently did an inspection on a residential home. A home inspector found what he thought to be Subterranean termites. I inspected and found mud tubes that resembled sub tubes, but no termites or bodies. I did find extensive damage from Moisture ants and tons of moisture ant bodies. I also found wings that were not all intact. I know Moisture ants use mud tubes. Could there be both, and is a few wing parts enough to call for a Sub treatment?????
Joshua , WA
I think the first and most important step would be to verify what insects and parts have been found. Obviously, if all the bugs and wings present belong only to ants then a treatment for subterranean termites might not be justified. I’m not certain what the laws in your state require, but in California and perhaps others a Home Inspector would not necessarily be qualified to inspect for or call the presence of wood destroying pests, unless he also is licensed as a termite control inspector by the appropriate agency. Presumably he should know what mud tubing from termites looks like, but maybe not, and that is why the states prefer to license people who they have tested and determined to have that knowledge, all in the name of Consumer Protection.
I believe that a treatment for termites on the soil of a home, in order to protect it from soil dwelling termites, is an excellent idea. The question is whether or not a treatment has been done on the home in the recent past. There would be no reason to apply termiticide on top of some that is already there is it still exists as an effective preventive material. Mud tubes from termites could have been left behind after the previous treatment, and thus another treatment would not necessarily add more protection. If you found no termites in the tubing it could mean either it’s an abandoned tube, or perhaps the termites in the soil below cannot currently use it because of the previous treatment. The presence of mud tubing does indicate that there are termites active in the area, but what is the status of any protection on this particular house?
To be honest, I don’t know of any ants that are called ‘moisture’ ants. There are kinds that definitely are drawn to moisture, and carpenter ants are one group. Since you are in Washington these guys would be likely culprits to find in structures, but I’ve never heard of them making mud tubing. I have had people bring in some interesting material that I can only describe as a lattice work, made from materials in that vicinity like insulation or cellulose materials. The lattice appeared to be associated with ants like Velvety Tree Ants, and one ant expert in your state told me she also has seen something similar associated with ants, but it was not mud. So, I would think that mud tubing from subterranean termites would be pretty easy to validate as belonging to termites.
I’ve kind of rambled around with this answer (a foggy brain on a Monday morning) but I think the bottom line answers are to ensure the ID on the pests and the wings you have found (ant wings look very different from termite wings), verify whether or not an ACTIVE infestation of termites is there and whether or not any recent termiticide applications have taken place, and treat as needed. The treatment for an infestation of ants will be very different from one for termites. And, if no termite treatment has ever been done there then perhaps it is justified to do a treatment if the tubing is, indeed, from subs. The tubing indicates that termite pressure is being placed on this house, and the preventive layer of termiticide would be a good thing to have in place.
Mr. Pest Control