Flying Ants vs. Termites

Posted: July 13, 2021

Ants, Termites

Flying ants and termite swarmers are frequently mistaken for one another. And if you’re a homeowner, spotting a cloud of flying insects is usually an unwelcome sight – especially if you suspect they might be flying termites. Flying ants and termites do have some key differences to note, and our experts break them down below.

Do Termites Fly? 

Certain types of termites do fly, and spotting flying termites may be a sign that an infestation is beginning. When the weather warms up, termite colonies often begin to release reproductive winged termite swarmers, also known as alates, whose main purpose is to fly away, mate, and find a place to start a new colony. This typically occurs during termite swarming season, beginning in early spring as the weather warms up. At the same time, winged ants often leave their nests for the same purpose. Unfortunately, it can be hard to determine which flying insect is which. Making this distinction can be a big deal, as termites eat the cellulose found in wood and can cause major damage to nearby wooden structures if they are allowed to start new colonies.

How to Tell the Difference Between Flying Ants and Flying Termites

Both termite and ant colonies will release their winged reproductive swarmers about mid-morning on the warm day that follows a rainy day in the spring or summer. Since termite swarmers are poor fliers, they can only tolerate a light breeze. If the wind picks up, they will cease swarming and try again later that day or on another day. Also, termites have trouble controlling moisture loss from their bodies, so a calm day with high humidity is ideal for a successful swarm.

If you viewed a a termite swarmer and an ant swarmer side by side, you would be able to identify which is which based on a few factors:

  • Wings: Termites have four wings of almost equal length that have many barely visible, pale veins. Ants also have four wings, but their hind wings are much shorter and smaller than those of termites, and their wings have only a few veins that are dark in color. Furthermore, termite wings easily break off as they prepare to mate, and they will often leave their discarded wings in piles as they begin building a new colony. In contrast, ants keep their wings until they’ve mated and begun establishing a company, and once they become queen ants, their wings come off.
  • Body: The termite has a uniform body shape with a wide, straight waist behind the spot on their exoskeletons where their wings are attached. In contrast, ants have constricted or pinched waists at the spot where their wings are attached.
  • Antennae/feelers on the head: The antennae of termites resemble a series of round beads. In contrast, ants have straight antennae that are “elbowed”—the first segment is about as long as the rest of the segments combined and the rest of the segments are all small.
photo comparison of flying ants vs flying termites

Photo Comparison of Flying Ants vs. Flying Termites

Ant and Termite Pest Control

As mentioned earlier, termite infestations often begin as a result of swarming termites building new colonies in wooden structures. Therefore, if you’re a homeowner finding swarming insects on your property, it’s important to contact a pest professional immediately and determine if you’re at risk for a termite infestation. Flying ants can cause similar problems with swarming, building new nests, and looking for food on your property, but they won’t damage the structural integrity of your home like termites will.

Nonetheless, if you find that you have a disruptive colony of ants or termites on your property, call a pest control company immediately. If you have a difficult time identifying whether the insects swarming on your property are ants or termites, a professional pest control technician can help you identify them. At Dodson Pest Control, we offer free inspections to assist with this very issue. Contact us today to schedule one!

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