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Most people are more than happy about the arrival of the spring season, especially people living in the northern regions of the US where winters are bitterly cold. Unfortunately, the spring season is also termite swarming season, and in Massachusetts, eastern subterranean termites can begin swarming as early as March. Lately, temperatures in Massachusetts have been unseasonably warm, which has triggered the emergence of many insect pests. Since daytime temperatures in many areas of Massachusetts reached 50 degrees last month, residents have been reporting sightings of brown marmorated stink bugs, bees, wasps, and Asian lady beetles. While termite swarms have not yet been spotted in Massachusetts, many residents have been calling local pest control hotlines asking if the wood-eating pests are now active in the state.

The emergence of termite swarms indicate that subterranean termite colonies beneath the ground are certainly active, but subterranean termites usually become active well before swarmers (alates) emerge. Central heating allows subterranean termites to remain active within infested homes year round. In some cases, swarms emerge from structures in the middle of winter in the north, as subterranean termites mistake indoor heat during the winter for warm spring temperatures. In fact, heated homes keep surrounding soil in yards warm enough to allow subterranean termites to remain active throughout the winter in residential areas.

Under normal winter conditions where topsoil remains frozen, subterranean termites tunnel to greater depths below the ground where temperatures become progressively warmer. Once adequately warm soil is reached, subterranean termites remain too cold to sustain activity, but warm enough to survive until the arrival of the spring season. On unusually warm winter and early spring days, subterranean termites automatically regain activity and travel back to shallow ground where they may infest structures. No matter the climatic conditions early in the year, subterranean termite workers become active before swarms emerge during the late spring and early summer seasons.

Have you ever witnessed a termite swarm in or near your neighborhood?