The Most Common And Destructive Termite Pest Species In The Country Will Soon Be Swarming In New York State

There exists three groups of termites known as subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites, and species from all three of these groups inhabit the US. Drywood and dampwood termites can only be found in the southern, and to a lesser extent, the northwestern states, and they are not as destructive to woodwork as subterranean termites. The most widespread and destructive termite species in the country, Reticulitermes flavipes, can be found in all eastern states and most western states east of the Rocky Mountains. This species is more commonly known as the “eastern subterranean termite,” and it’s the only termite pest known to infest structural lumber within homes and buildings in New York state. In many New York counties, homeowners request information about eastern subterranean termites more often than any other insect pest, and this is not surprising considering the massive amount of annual destruction these termites inflict on homes throughout the state.

Like all termite species, eastern subterranean termites are social insects that dwell in colonies, but unlike drywood and dampwood species that live solely in above ground wood sources, all subterranean termite species inhabit the ground soil. Mature eastern subterranean termite colonies contain anywhere from 50,000 to 2 million individuals, each one of which belongs to one of three primary social castes known as workers, soldiers and the royal pair (queen and king). Most individuals in subterranean termite colonies are workers, and they are tasked with foraging, nest construction, and the grooming and feeding of their nestmates. After around four to seven years of colony growth, eastern subterranean termite colonies produce an additional caste of winged reproductives known as “alates.”

In New York, alates take flight from mature colonies every year from March until June. The vast majority of alates die, but a small number manage to mate and establish new colonies where they serve as king and queen after shedding their wings. It is not uncommon for homeowners in New York to witness alates swarm near, and sometimes, within homes. Since alates are poor flyers that do not cover much ground before dying, mating swarms always occur in close proximity to the colonies in which they emerged. Unlike worker termites, alates are largely harmless to timber-framed structures. However, when swarms emerge near a home, a pest control professional should be contacted to inspect the property for signs of active colonies. If a mating swarm emerges indoors, or if dead alates are found near windows and/or door frames, then an infestation has almost certainly existed within the structure for a few years, making pest control intervention a must in such circumstances.

Have you ever witnessed termite alates take flight near your home?