Termites with wings are referred to as swarmers. Swarming termites have a body divided into two parts, with four wings of equal length. Swarmers are specialized members of a termite colony, whose job it is to propagate the species. They are referred to as swarmers because they move and act as one entity, forming new colonies quickly and efficiently. There are three well-known types of swarming termites: subterranean, Formosan and drywood.
Subterranean termites are the most prevalent termite in North America. This termite feeds on soil, cotton, paper, trees, brush roots and wood. While subterranean termites have an average colony size of 30 to 40 thousand members, it is not uncommon to find colonies as large as 5 million. During the spring months, the swarmers emerge to spread out and recolonize. A standard subterranean termite swarmer is 1/4 (6.35 cm) to 3/8 (9.52 cm) of an inch long and coal black to pale yellow in color.
Formosan termites originated in Formosa, Taiwan and have been transported to the United States, where they thrive on the warm, humid conditions of the South. This species is also known as super termites because they can consume a pound (0.45 kg) of wood every day. When the swarmers of the group relocate, they will make a nest in any available hollow space in your home. A standard colony will contain approximately 70,000 swarming termites, with each one laying 15 to 30 eggs per day. A standard Formosan termite is 1/2 an inch (1.27 cm) long, yellowish brown in color and covered in small hairs.
Drywood termites are so named because they live, and thrive in dry wood. This species of termite can be found in older wood furniture, wood flooring and behind drywall, where they feed on the studs of the house. Drywood termite colonies are often much smaller than other species of termites, but there can be multiple colonies in one house. Drywood swarmers vary in color from dark brown to light yellowish tan, with clear or smoke gray wings. A full grown drywood swarmer is approximately 7/16 of an inch (1.1 cm) long.
As with all species of termites, prevention is the best method of termite control. This is especially true of these three species, due to the amount of swarming termites per colony and the speed with which they multiply. Use treated wood in the construction of new homes and practice baiting in existing structures. Once an infestation occurs, it is very difficult, and expensive to stop.