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Article Courtesy of NPMA International.

What is a swarmer (Alate) and how can you tell if it is an ant or a termite?

A swarmer (Alate) is a reproductive individual within the colony. Other names for reproductive individuals are the terms queen and king. Swarmers emerge from the ground or soil and mate in flight. They then drop their wings. Males die after mating. Mated females burrow back underground and are now ready to begin laying eggs and forming a new colony.

Swarming serves a purpose for the colony besides mating; it allows for dispersal into new areas for a colony to become established. Swarmers are typically fragile and light weight, so oftentimes wind will carry them a distance increasing dispersal. When swarmers emerge, they are attracted to light, so they will go to windows and sills as well as lamps. Although they are found in these areas, this is not necessarily where they are swarming from. Homeowners will fear that their home is under invasion when they see swarmers but the swarmers are interested only in mating and do not do any damage to structures per se. But, customers won't care. They will want them knocked down regardless.

How do you know if you are dealing with an ant or a termite swarmer? Identification is important, because treatment types for termites will be very different from treatment types for ants. To identify which you have, keep these facts in mind: ant swarmers have a pinched waist (or pedicel), elbow shaped antenna, and differently-sized fore and hind wings, with hind wings significantly smaller; termite swarmers, on the other hand, will have a broadened or thickened body, straight antennae and same-sized fore and hind wings. (It is interesting to note that the order in which the termites are located is called Isoptera, meaning same wing from the Greek.) The chart pictured below will help you to identify termites vs. ants further.

Termites & Alates


Termites vs Ants


Alates (Flying reproductive termites)

Termites & Alates

emerging from a slit.


Differences between flying ants

and flying termites (Alates)


A swarm of Alates

(flying reproductive termites)

If you are worried about termites at your property the first step is to have a Visual Termite Inspection completed.  Our inspectors will complete a thorough inspection at your premesis and provide you with a detailed 8 page Australian Standards Report with personalised recommendations to reduce the risk of termite infestation in your property.

If you have any queries we can help you with or you are interested in making a booking for your property please Email or call us on 02 8783 8833

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