What Are These Wings On My Windowsill?

Today is one of the first heavy swarm days of the season and with it comes the calls of panicked homeowners and businesses. Most calls come in from 11:00 am to about 1:00 from the people that are home during the subterranean termite exodus. What they report is thousands of flying insects swarming in their living rooms, garage, dining or bathrooms. Cans of Raid are taken out of their wintery slumber and the air is filled with the country scent of death as the the battle reaches epic proportions. In the end there lies a pile of dead and convulsing alates and the red drapes now drip pink with signs of a hard fought war.

But after 5:00 the second wave of calls come in, these are quite different then the early afternoon conversations. These are the folks who weren’t home during the mating flight and have no idea of the plume of insects that filled the air while they were hard at work. Instead, curiosity drives them to call and they are usually surprised to find an extermination company answering the phone this late. They have but one question;

What are these wings on my windowsill?

“There are no bodies (or very few) present”, they exclaim, “no open windows or doors, no signs whatsoever to explain how these tiny white like, almost translucent wings amassed but there they are.” Their curiosity is short lived as the smart technician who stays late in the office on these days explains just what has occurred.”Those wings belonged to termites” he says with an excited voice, “I’ll be right over to explain all about it and help you out.”

In nature different creatures have a variety of ways in which to ensure their species preservation. Salmon spend all of their energy swimming back upstream to lay eggs in the streams that gave them birth. Bees split the nest by ‘budding‘ and one colony becomes two. For termites to propagate their specie they send out thousands of swarmers every year. One would think with so many that hundreds of new colonies would be formed with ease but the truth is that only a small fraction actually pair up, mate and make it through the many dangers and setbacks in able to produce their own swarm a few years later.

In answer to the question of the wings and just why they are on your windowsill it is this. Only the reproductive caste in a termite colony has wings and they are used to exit the subterranean cavity that they have been living in. From complete darkness these swarmers are herded out of some of the tiniest holes where they take flight.These alates also are equipped with something else the rest of the colony does not have and that is eyes. Once out the termites take flight and head toward the first light they see. The wings are fragile and the termites are poor fliers so once a direction is taken it is difficult to turn around. Once they land the wings are no longer needed so often times they will arch their backs and the wings will break off. From there the males hone in on the pheromones of a female, pair up and scurry quickly to hidden dark and secluded spots to begin the termite life cycle anew.

So the why of your window sill is that this was more than likely the first light from the swarm point or exit hole. Even if this point was some distance away they would by nature be attracted to it. It should be noted that termites often erect swarm castles in walls where the morning sun heats them up. Termites are temperature sensitive and just like if you closed your eyes you could still feel the heat from the sun. Building in these areas increases the chances of a successful swarm and it’s also easier to gauge the temperature and humidity so they can pick just the right day to swarm. You may find a few swarmer termites in another room or down the hall but remember they are poor fliers so that may not indicate a widespread infestation. There have been many jobs I’ve done where I could not find the exit holes while some were very obvious. (click here to read more about exit holes)

And the why of just wings is because they were no longer needed. If indeed the wings stay on to the point the newly coupled pair makes it to a secure place they can eat them for food but once off they will never have or need them again. For all the wings you see you would think there would be bodies strewn about as well. As stated the new king and queen have forsaken the light once the swarm is over and now look for places of complete darkness and safety. Many times you can find the termites under the carpet along the baseboards or perhaps in a dark corner behind the TV stand. This doesn’t mean that these termites will be able to start new colonies in these places however. Without soil contact the reign of the newly crowned royalty will more than likely die in just a few short hours from dehydration. It’s just another one of the pitfalls that these swarmers must face but they at least had one ‘moment in the sun’, there on your windowsill.

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.
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  • Very Interesting, You explained it very well. Ill keep alot of that info in mind next time a friend calls me about termites because we don’t do them.

    However, bed bugs are crazy here in Ohio. 🙂

    Karl The BugMan
    EnviroCare Pest Solutions
    Columbus Ohio Pest Control

  • Very Interesting, You explained it very well. Ill keep alot of that info in mind next time a friend calls me about termites because we don’t do them.

    However, bed bugs are crazy here in Ohio. 🙂

    Karl The BugMan
    EnviroCare Pest Solutions
    Columbus Ohio Pest Control

  • Gosh I just love bugs, fly – fly away…

  • Gosh I just love bugs, fly – fly away…

  • The Bug Doctor

    Let’s hope bed bugs don’t get wings—–or maybe that would be a good thing?

  • The Bug Doctor

    Let’s hope bed bugs don’t get wings—–or maybe that would be a good thing?

  • I have these swarming termites that are coming in my bedroom and in bathroom vents or windowsills and im wondering what can i do to get rid of them. is there any home remedy that i can use to drive them away?
    I have two small childeren and i dont want them to come in contact with theses flying termites. i have swarms of them in the bathroom area please tell me what can i use to keep them out of the house.

  • I have these swarming termites that are coming in my bedroom and in bathroom vents or windowsills and im wondering what can i do to get rid of them. is there any home remedy that i can use to drive them away?
    I have two small childeren and i dont want them to come in contact with theses flying termites. i have swarms of them in the bathroom area please tell me what can i use to keep them out of the house.

  • The Bug Doctor

    Hi Lakisha A,

    They really need to just run their course most times is done in just an hour or so but I’ve seen them space out over a week or two (in spurts) due to unfavorable weather. Look for tiny mud specks on your walls or baseboards and you could tape over them which might hold them off a little but most likely they’ll chew through it or go around. You could also poke a small hole in the drywall near where they are exiting and using something like Raid ‘that has an injection straw’ actually spray into the void where they are.

    My biggest advice is to call an an exterminator because these winged ones are only the tip of the iceberg. The workers who do all the damage have found their way into your home and need to be stopped. The swarmers will soon disappear but the workers will continue to damage your home if left untreated.

    These termite do not bite and do not spread disease so don’t worry to much about the kids. You can vacuum them up as they come out but for now that is the best you can do until the help you call arrives. Home remedies are one thing for roaches or earwigs but existing termite infestations need a professional.

    Thanks for reading
    The Bug Doctor

  • The Bug Doctor

    Hi Lakisha A,

    They really need to just run their course most times is done in just an hour or so but I’ve seen them space out over a week or two (in spurts) due to unfavorable weather. Look for tiny mud specks on your walls or baseboards and you could tape over them which might hold them off a little but most likely they’ll chew through it or go around. You could also poke a small hole in the drywall near where they are exiting and using something like Raid ‘that has an injection straw’ actually spray into the void where they are.

    My biggest advice is to call an an exterminator because these winged ones are only the tip of the iceberg. The workers who do all the damage have found their way into your home and need to be stopped. The swarmers will soon disappear but the workers will continue to damage your home if left untreated.

    These termite do not bite and do not spread disease so don’t worry to much about the kids. You can vacuum them up as they come out but for now that is the best you can do until the help you call arrives. Home remedies are one thing for roaches or earwigs but existing termite infestations need a professional.

    Thanks for reading
    The Bug Doctor

  • Thanks Jay– Here’s to hoping you find a TON of wings!

  • Idothejeepwave

    This is the funniest yet most informative article I have ever read on bug infestation. Props!

  • It’s amazing what you can find on the internet. Glad to oblige 😉

  • Sylviapitts71

    I need to know if termites are harmful

  • As far as to humans? Physically? No, well unless you’re in a structure or under a tree that falls down and hits you because termites weakened it with their eating.

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  • MiddleM

    Very informative and helpful — and quite exceptional and enjoyable writing, too.

  • Thank you so very much. You made my day.

    I hope the article helped.

  • ruby

    I am finding these on my kitchen counter!!! This has been the most informative article I’ve come across. Now I know I’m not crazy!

  • Thank you ,, I hope you can get the proper treatment because of it.

  • cindy

    Please help. We moved into our home in 2007, never having termite problems at all, before or after until about 2 years ago. Last year, I remember distinctly because we had bugs coming out of outlets, behind countertops, out of the baseboards, light fixtures, etc. It was like the Mummy movie. We later found out it was swarming termites. This year, we turned off all the lights after it gets dark. Its like we live in a cave. But we are still finding termites crawling all over our tiled floors in the kitchen and bathrooms. I found 4 just last night in our bed…ALIVE. is there anything I can do? We have a NEW termite company coming out in 4 days to do termite treatment and inspection. Anything else you recommend?

  • I believe by what you describe-you have drywood termites or perhaps ants. I’m assuming that because it sounds like they are coming out in the evening and subterranean termites swarm usually by the thousands in the late am. Make sure to get a positive ID. In the meantime just live normally and keep the vacuum cleaner plugged in and suck up what you see…. sounds like help will be there soon and spraying will be pointless if you can’t get to the source and you’ll end up spraying far too much.

  • TheTimeVortex

    There was a huge rainstorm recently, and after it stopped I found some bugs stuck to my door. They somehow made it into the glass, as if they’d crawled under the metal screen and onto the glass. I didn’t know what they were, and tried to rescue them and some made it off with their wings, but some didn’t and their wings were just stuck to the door, and they have equal-length wings and there are two pairs per de-winged bug! ARE THESE TERMITES??? Please help, I’m really scared now!

  • Scott

    Hi Sara,I moved into condo over year ago.I didn’t have or notice any issues at first but late last Spring 2014 strange stuff began occurring..To make long story shorter after a summer of hell,being displaced,running literally out of my home at all hours of the night without neighbors thinking a schizophrenic moved in I was misdiagnosed with Scabies and numerous exterminators looking at me as if I’m nuts I’m still plagued with what seems to be exactly what you started to explain.Im just curious if you were able to pinpoint what type of insect class they are or if it was just a false alarm.A year later I’m still here experiencing the manifestations of another summer from hell.Family and friends are worried I may be suffering from delusional parasitus.I know I’m not because I have to jump into a hot tub of water to draw them out from underneath my skin.I have evidence of what they generally look and fee like.I also am starting to see evidence of droppings around my house.Looks like pepper but also have seen white salt grain size almost looks like lint but are eggs.Let me know how things are currently.Thanks Scott.

  • democrat CockRoach

    If you see any long muddy looking “tubes” coming out of your wall you know you have termites. They build them fast.

  • That’s a good thing to look for–Thx.

  • Joi

    A termite inspector found a few termite wings in my attic and has recommended the installation of pest control insulation. This will require quite a bit of work, as there are many boxes up there in storage on top of particle board planks. Are a few wings a cause for concern?

  • Lovelyonuoha

    Our house finished being built in 1998, and we moved in that same year. We have never had a termite problem before. A week ago I was folding my laundry in my bedroom, and heard my blinds move. I immediately assumed it was a wasp, or hopefully just a house fly trying to get outside. You can’t even imagine my shocked expression, when I moved my curtain to peek at at my uninvited guest. I saw a huge swarm of these tiny, ugly, big wing bugs flying. Crawling and entering through the sides of my bedroom window. I have never seen these scary creatures before. ever. And the wings broke off so easily when my house slipper came in contact with them. I was so confused, but thankfully I found bug spray under the sink in our downstairs kitchen. It’s the Home Defense Insect killer, which kills the bugs instantly for 12 months, after freaking out I swept and vacuumed up every dead insect. I even washed my curtains , and threw away my blinds, because I was not gonna keep it. A week or two has gone by, and I have not seen these bugs since. But today I woke up and found these dead bugs everywhere, on the windowsill, and on the carpet. After reading this it all makes sense now. So we are defiantly getting an exterminator. Thank you so much.

  • Andrew

    Is spot treating worth it or tenting tue best method.

  • I fail to see how insulation will stop termites who are eating/living in the wood.

  • That’s tricky (I assume you’re talking about drywood termites) Sometimes a spot treat is all you need. I’d have a qualified inspector out to see if he or she can pinpoint them for you. Sometimes you do get lucky but your 100% “you know” they’re gone treatment is a successful tent job.

  • Elyshia

    I need some help please.
    I live in a townhouse, in a community. My home is connected to 2 others – 1 next to me and 1 behind me. Last year, I found a whole bunch of these wings in my bathroom on the 2nd floor. I originally had attributed it to the open window. I also found a little pile of dirt, that I cleaned up and next day it was back again. After looking more closely, I found a small hole, the size of a pinhead, from which the dirt was coming out of. I sealed this hole up. I have closed this window now and the bathroom has been freshly painted. No sign of any more wings.
    Recently, our Maintenance people have cut down the tree that was directly outside my bathroom window. When I asked as to why they were cutting down this tree, they simply said that a branch was broken on it and about to fall. When I asked why they couldn’t just cut the branch off, they said the whole tree had to go. I am now feeling suspicious that there might have been a bug issue with this tree and they are not telling us….
    Yesterday, in a room on the other side of my home, again I found a whole bunch of wings by the window sill. I have never seen any type of swarm or any bug. Only the wings. This room is also on the 2nd floor and is used for storage. The window has never been opened here. I have 3 kids and I keep all their papers and stuff from school, in cardboard cartons, in this room. This is also the room I work in. I spend 8 hours a day in here and have never seen 1 bug.
    So, I have several questions here….
    I’m wondering….should I be concerned that I have termites? Or could this just be an isolated incident? I have never seen any wings or bugs on my 1st floor, and I thought they needed soil to live….
    I am opposed to tenting, or fumigating in any way. I do not want any of that poison on my things…it would be impossible to cover or move any of my stuff…. I have tons of toys, stuffed animals, papers, etc. And I live on a small, fixed income and cannot afford any ‘extras’. Please do not tell me the chemicals they use are not harmful. Also, how would that be done anyway, being that I live in a townhouse and am connected to others? Is there an alternative treatment that can be used?
    I’m also wondering if the tree outside might have been affected. I have since gone out to look, but there is only a stump left there and I don’t see anything at all there.
    If anyone can advise me, I would appreciate it!