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Mild Winter Temps Lead To Increased Insect Activity In IL, KY And IN

Termite swarmers crawling on the ground

This winter has been a mild one for Indiana, Kentucky, and southern Illinois. The warm winter weather has received some national attention as well. While there have been many advantages to the mild temps we’ve seen this season, a major disadvantage could be an increase in insect activity throughout the year.

Every species handles cold temperatures differently. Some insects, like butterflies, migrate south for the winter. Insects like termites and Japanese beetles, burrow more deeply into the soil but remain active. Many insects like wasps and ants slow their metabolism and respiration and go into a hibernation-like state until temperatures rise in the spring.

So what does this mean for you? Normally, the ground gets cold enough to stop termite activity above ground, but a lack of a hard freeze means termite foraging may have continued under a warm zone (like your home). We’ve already experienced termite swarms this quite unusual season. A termite swarm occurs when the primary reproductive termites (swarmers) leave the colony to begin a new colony. Swarmers look quite similar to flying ants and are often found around a window or door as they are attracted to light. The presence of termite swarmers around the exterior of your home usually means a colony is in or near the structure. Termite swarmers are weak flyers and usually fly no more than 100 yards from their nest.

Termite Swarmers Can Be Distinguished From Reproductive Ants In Three Ways:

  • A termite’s antennae are straight while ants are jointed.
  • The forewings of the termite swarmer are the same length as the hindwings while the ant’s hindwings will be shorter.
  • Ants have a narrow, distinguishable waist between the thorax and abdomen and termite swarmers do not.

Another problematic pest this season is odorous house ants (the tiny black ones). They may have been kept warm enough this winter to continue foraging throughout the season instead of entering their usual diapause. These ants will begin foraging for protein as the colony ramps up reproduction soon unless we have a hard, late cold spell. And, according to one of Action Pest Control’s staff entomologists, Scott Robbins, spiders, centipedes, and ground beetles have been observed moving outdoors for several weeks now.

“We experienced an increase in fleas and flies last year and expect they will be heavy again this year. Furthermore, the lack of an extended winter freeze will likely lead to increased populations of ladybird beetles and boxelder bugs as more of these overwintering insects likely survived the mild winter,” said Robbins.

If you’re seeing insect activity in or around your home and would like help with identification, feel free to send a photo to or post it to our Facebook wall!