Yes, they can and in fact the winged variety of termites is most commonly spotted. The termites enter the winged form when they are ready to mate and fly from one colony to another. The winged form is also known as the alate form. These wings fall off when they have found a new colony to settle in and the termite’s body is left with small stubs instead of full blown wings. These flying termites are known as reproductives or even swarmers since their numbers are made up of the reproductively capable queens and kings which are flying out to establish new territories for themselves.
Winged termites look a lot like other insects like flying ants and carpenter ants.
Spotting such winged termites is a bad sign indeed, especially if you see them in the vicinity of your house. It takes just two tiny termites to start a full blown infestation in your home. A king and queen termite can mate and set up home inyour house and take over very quickly if left unchecked.
Such flying termites are seen most often during autumn or fall and spring. They need warmer temperatures to facilitate their quest for a mate. This seasonal movement will see thousands of termites flying around and once they have got successful ingress into a building, will shed their wings as well.
Some simple things a home owner can do is to install a bug zapper whose blue light may attract these termites an electrifying death. It might be a wise idea to install these zappers a little distance away from home. Since these insects are attracted to light, it may be a good idea to turn off as many lights as possible too.
Spotting flying termites is the first and strongest sign of infestation. You may not spot them flying around in droves but even traces like wings shed on the floor or around the outer areas of the house are good signs of termites.
While it is not the swarmers by themselves who eat the wood, they follow the trails or mud tubes created by worker termites who have paved the way for swarmers to follow. The swarmers might leave after mating but the house is stuck with the workers and with a new generation of termites waiting to attack the house. It makes sense therefore to call in professional termite exterminators the minute you spot swarmers.
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Colorado State University Extension: Termites
Termites Guide: Swarmers or Winged Termites