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Many people are under the impression that termites do not pose a serious issue in the northern states. While the temperate weather in the north is not as nourishing to termites as the hot and humid weather in the southern states, subterranean termite activity is categorized as moderate to heavy in the northeastern US. Although the eastern subterranean termite is the only termite pest species that can be found in Massachusetts, colonies are particularly abundant in the state. The eastern subterranean termite is also the most widespread and economically costly termite species in the US, as they cause the majority of termite-related property destruction in the country each year. Last week, a panel of experts rated Boston as the 36th most termite-infested city in the US, which puts the city ahead of southern cities like San Antonio, Myrtle Beach and Jacksonville where termite infestation rates are known to be particularly high. One entomologist based in Massachusetts claims that the unusually warm and rainy 2019/2020 winter season has contributed to an early termite season in the state.

Typically, subterranean termite mating swarms begin to take flight as early as April in Massachusetts, but pest control professionals have found that swarms may have arrived early this year in the state. Several homes in western Massachusetts have already sustained damage from subterranean termites this year, and while many residents have spotted swarms, most people have been mistaking them for ant swarms. This is an understandable mistake, as several ant species in Massachusetts are known to swarm earlier in the year than subterranean termites, and ant swarms are scarcely discernible from termite swarms. However, there are some clear differences between the two. For example, unlike ant swarmers (alates), termite swarmers (also called alates) have straight bodies that are not segmented, or pinched, at the waist. Subterranean termite alates emerge from underground colonies, so spotting a termite swarm in or near a residential yard indicates that colony must be nearby. Sometimes, termite alates emerge within homes, which definitely indicates that an indoor infestation has been active for several years. The emergence of a termite swarm near a home does not mean that an infestation has been established, but a termite inspection should be carried out to prevent worker termites from tunneling through ground soil where they are likely to access structural wood within a home.

Have you ever found dead alates on your property?