Typically a new termite colony is formed when the winged adults, also called alates, disperse from the colony. After the alates molt into fully formed winged adults they group themselves into special chambers that lie on the outside of the nest.


Preparing for Flight

The special chambers the winged adults prepare in are built by worker termites. The chambers are tunnels to the surface of the nest that are open to the air. Sometimes the workers construct launching platforms, prior to the alates emerging. Soldiers guard these exit holes from enemies, but also from alates that attempt to re-enter the nest. The fully formed winged adults stay in the chamber for several days or weeks, preparing to leave the colony they were born in.

Taking Flight

Once the fully formed winged adults a ready – usually when the atmospheric conditions are perfect – they emerge and take flight. Though in the alate form, they avoid light, when they mature, they become attracted to the light – and thus fly towards it. This is what drags them out of the nest. In some termite species this happens once a year, in others there can be multiple successive flights.


The flight is commonly called a nuptial or mating flight. It is also referred to as dispersal. Mating occurs after the winged adults take flight. After the alates finish their flights they land and shed their wings. Only the base of the wing remains attached to the thorax. There is a short courtship in which the female attracts a male, and then the pay moves off in tandem to seek a place to create their nest.


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