Warm humid night, what’s that swarming under the light?

All the year’s hard work has been in preparation for this day, the colony is a hive of activity and everybody joins in the procession, as the young royal family, the “Alates”, the future kings and queens make their way through the colony to undertake the colonising flight.

Each year this ritual plays out simultaneously in millions of termite colonies throughout Australia. It is triggered by the perfect climate conditions of moderate temperatures and high humidity, very similar to those found inside the colony. This will ensure the maximum chance of survival and minimise the chances that the Alates will desiccate before going back under ground.

The colonising flight may occur several times over the months of October through to mid-December, before the extreme hot weather makes it impossible for the Alates to leave the safety of the micro climate provide by the nest.

Coptotermes Acinaciformis which is one of the three most common termites found throughout South Australia often make their colonies in the crown of trees. During the year the workers will eat their way up through the heartwood of the tree and when it’s time, the workers will cut through the sapwood and bark layer to make flight slits to allow the Alates to leave the colony. Often termites will make flight slits inside structural timbers or through gyprock in a home, where people come into a room to find it swarming with Alates. This is one of the most common ways people find out that they have an undetected termite infestation.

Once outside the Alates will swarm around lights in search of a mate and a place to call their own. Alates are relatively poor fliers and are easily blown around, their main aim is to find an acceptable site to establish a new colony, but first they must find a suitable mate. Once on the ground the Alates will shed their wings, mate and attempt to form a nest in damp timber or earth.

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