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What Do Termites Look Like?

Winged Eastern Subterranean Termites

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Winged termites appear in spring, ready to mate and establish new colonies.

Winged termites appear in spring, ready to mate and establish new colonies.

Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

The reproductive termites, called alates, look quite different from workers or soldiers. Reproductives have one pair of wings of almost equal length, which lie flat against the termite's back when it is at rests. Their bodies are darker in color than soldiers or workers, and alates do have functional compound eyes.

You can still distinguish reproductive termites from reproductive ants, which also have wings, by looking at their bodies. The termite alates still have the characteristic straight antennae, rounded abdomens, and thick waists. Ants, in contrast, have markedly elbowed antennae, prominent waists, and slightly pointed abdomens.

Eastern subterranean termites usually swarm during the daytime, between February and April. Winged queens and kings emerge en masse, ready to mate and start new colonies. Their bodies are dark brown or black. If you find groups of winged termites inside your home, you probably already have a termite infestation.

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