Daily Archives: April 17, 2014

As Weather Warms Expect Spring Swarms- How To Distinguish Swarming Insects

The following information is your guide on how to decipher what type of insect hoard has suddenly appeared in or around your property this spring

  • What is a swarm anyway?

According to the Wikipedia definition, swarm behavior is:

collective behaviour exhibited by animals of similar size which aggregate together, perhaps milling about the same spot or perhaps moving en masse or migrating in some direction. As a term, swarming is applied particularly to insects


  • Why should I care about this behavior?

By Alton (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Termites bore through and eat wood. Although this image shows visible damage to a house, often the damage that termites inflict goes undetected. Structural damage caused by termites can make your house unsafe or affect it’s value.

The main threats to property that homeowners should watch out for are termites and carpenter ants, because they can eat or chew through the wooden frames of houses and cause serious property damage. Both of these type of insects live in highly organized colonies. Just one of these colonies can consist of thousands or even millions of insects all working in unison towards specific goals as if they were one organism.

Within the colony itself insects have specific roles. Each type of insect has a slightly different body type and appearance, for example a worker ant looks and acts different than a soldier. Only a few insects from each colony are able to reproduce. In the springtime, huge numbers of these reproductive ants/termites leave the nest all at once in an attempt to reproduce and establish new colonies of their own.

Every spring, as the weather gets warmer, there is a mass exodus of literally thousands of these winged insects swarming around for a short time looking for action. They may be seen in or around the house, commonly trapped in window screens or fluttering around in the air. This is a bad sign, because it means that there is an existing termite colony nearby from which these swarmers are emerging. It may be a mixed blessing, however, because usually these types of bugs keep a low profile and it is likely that without the swarmers there would be no other obvious indication of an infestation. 

  • How do I know what kind of swarming insect I have?

There are a few different possibilities:

  1. Termites- When termites swarm their wings often become detached. You may see just the wings around the house separated from their bodies. They can be seen anywhere in the house littering the ground, stuck in cobwebs, or often in the boiler room.
  2. Carpenter Ants- Carpenter ants do not lose their wings while swarming. Unlike termites, their bodies are “pinched” in appearance with a narrow segment in the middle of their bodies (a shape resembling a wasp). They have bent antennae, where termite’s antennae are straight. Their wings are also asymmetrical, or uneven
  3. Citronella Ants– Also swarm in the spring, and although they are a nuisance they do not pose the same threat as the termite or carpenter ant. They are a yellowish color and emit a strong “lemony” smell when crushed. A great way to identify them for sure is to gather some in a plastic bag, crush them up, and then see if they leave behind a citrus odor
  • What do these insects looks like? What does a swarm look like?

termite swarmer


The ant to the left has a “pinched” body type, bend antennae, and uneven wings. The termite has a body with no segments, straight antennae, and two sets of wings.

Click here for more information on citronella ants and how to get rid of them. 

  • Once I have identified the swarming insects and have confirmed that I have termites or carpenter ants, what steps should I take to get rid of them?

First you need to call a licensed exterminator. On Long Island and in the Five Boros of NYC, call Arrow Exterminating to arrange a free inspection.

There are several different types of treatment available. Sentricon is highly recommended. The system involves installing bait stations that contain a chemical compound which effects the molting process of termites. Rather than affecting them right away, it is slow acting. This way the termites cannot detect the source of the compound. It also means that the termites carry it back into the colony and feed it to each other before the development inhibitor takes effect, which can take out the reproductive termites and eliminate the whole colony. The Sentricon system is efficient, cost effective, not dangerous to children or pets, and environmentally sound. The technician simply installs the bait stations and then returns periodically to inspect them.