Expert Answer

Q: What is the white pigmentation of these swarmers (alates) termites and are they a rare subterranean termite swarmers?  


I reached out to Dr. Vernard Lewis, BCE and a Cooperative Extension Specialist from UC Berkeley. According to Dr. Lewis, the simple answer as to why this is happening (observing white flying termites or termite swarmers) is stress. Usually termite workers are white with no pigment which is needed for protection from the sun.  Swarmers (alates) termites have pigment "melanin" which is needed to protect from damaging ultraviolet rays.  He also noted that soldiers also have melanin and have dark brown heads, needed for strong mandibles for defense.  If the colony is stressed, it will give them an extra pale appearance. One of the reasons for stress can be lack of food quality.


Video: White Flying Termites



- Sylvia Kenmuir, Board Certified Entomologist, PCA