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Several subterranean termite species that inflict damage to structural wood within homes can be found in the US, but the eastern subterranean termite is the only termite pest species found in Massachusetts. However, this species is the most destructive termite pest in the US, and its presence in the northeast makes homes in the region more vulnerable to termite damage than homes located in other northern US regions. Like all termite species, reproductive swarms emerge from eastern subterranean termite colonies for a few months each year. Due to this species’ wide distribution in the US, swarms emerge at different times of year depending on the ecoregions where colonies are found.

The longer summers in the southeast see eastern subterranean termite swarms emerge earlier in the year than in the northeast. In Massachusetts, swarms emerge midday during April and May, though swarms may emerge as early as March during unusually warm spring seasons in the state. However, swarms emerge from indoor colonies throughout the year, but since they only emerge from mature colonies that have aged 4 to 7 years, infestations are generally discovered before swarms emerge indoors. The emergence of indoor swarms almost always means that an advanced infestation exists. Swarms often occur after rainfall, even within heavily infested homes, but swarms, whether outdoors or indoors, very rarely, if ever, emerge at night.

Several swarms emerge during the first month of the swarming season, and the earliest swarms are the largest in size, which contain thousands of individual winged reproductives (alates). Alates are poor flyers, and the vast majority die before mating, making them harmless to homes. Alates are around 10 mm in length including their wings, and their body is dark brown to black. The front wings are grey to brown in color, while the hindwings are lighter in color.

Have you ever witnessed a termite swarm occur near your home?