Termite soldiers and termites are working.

Flying Ants vs. Termites: Differences and Identification (2022)

By Sarah Horvath

Both flying ants and termites can be annoying, but that’s where the negative points stop with flying ants. Not only are termites unwanted houseguests; they can also cause catastrophic structural damage to your home. So, when it comes to flying ants versus termites — how can you tell which one you need to get rid of if you can’t identify which insect is infesting your home or property? 

At House Method, our team understands that you need to get the best possible pest control service the first time you call. The first step in determining how to treat an infestation is to identify the specific pests that are causing trouble on your property. Read on to learn more about the differences between termites and flying ants and to determine whether you have a termite infestation or a less serious problem with pesky ants.

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How to Tell the Difference Between Termites and Flying Ants

Though termites and flying ants might look similar, these pests require very different treatment approaches to tackle. Thankfully, there are a number of methods that you can use to determine if you need to schedule a termite inspection or look for over-the-counter ant treatment. 

Appearance 

The easiest way to tell if you have a flying ant problem or if you have a more serious issue in the form of termite takeover is to compare their appearances.

Flying ants have bent antennae. Don’t confuse flying ants with carpenter ants, which can cause structural damage because they chew through wood. Carpenter ants are about the same size as flying ants, but most types of carpenter ants cannot fly. Apart from bent antennae, flying ants have two sets of wings, with the top pair being larger in size than the bottom pair. Ants also have “pinched waists;” the abdomen and thorax are thick and adjoined in a tiny, pinched midsection area.

Although both flying ants and termites have rounded bodies, termites do not have the appearance of a pinched waist. Their bodies are the same width all the way down. Termites have two sets of wings as well, but their hind wings are equal in length to their front wings. Interestingly, a flying termite’s wings are twice the length of its body. Winged termites also have straight antennae, unlike flying ants.

In short, termite antennae are straight while flying ants have bent antennae. Flying ants and termites both have two sets of wings. Termite wings are two times the length of their bodies while flying ants’ fore wings are larger than their hind ones. Regarding body color, flying termites, or swarmers, are brown or black in color. Winged ants can be black, brown, or reddish in color, and their wings have a brownish tint to them; termites’ wings are usually clear. 

Behavior 

Behaviorally, there are several noticeable differences between flying ants and termites. Although there are termite colonies just like ant colonies (with designated roles and hierarchies), termites make their homes in stumps, decaying wood, and unfortunately, the wood in your home. They sometimes construct huge mounds to house their colonies. One sign that you have termites can include the presence of mud tubes on your property. These tubes are created by the termites as they tunnel.

Ants tend to make their colonies in the most humid areas of your home or wherever food is available. These two types of flying insects prefer different food sources, and the availability of food drives much of their behavior. Most species of ants are omnivores — they will eat anything and everything, which is why you always see them crowded around insect carcasses, discarded food, and even rings from condensation on glasses. Termites, however, consume a diet of cellulose, which is fiber found in plants and wood. Subterranean termites are the most common termites in warmer regions because they require moisture and humidity to survive. If they cannot make their mud tubes, they will be cut off from their food source.

Longevity 

Although an ant queen can live for a few years and worker ants live for several months, termite queens can live for decades. The rest of the colony of termites can also live for several years. The longevity of these destructive pests is cause for concern, and hiring a pest control company as soon as possible is the best way to get rid of these harmful bugs. 

Ant infestations are less likely to become a major problem in your home due to their short lifespans. The average flying ant will live only a few days after it hatches, which is why it’s common to see piles of dead flies anywhere you have a food source available. While flying ants are annoying, they’re not nearly as destructive as termites. 

Termite Activity

Termites can cause serious and expensive damage, and their damage is usually not covered by homeowner’s insurance. This makes it especially important for homeowners to know and recognize the signs of termite activity early. Calling an extermination service like the team at Terminix just a few days early can potentially mean the difference between a quick fix and thousands of dollars in repair bills. 

Peels and bumps appearing in the paint on wooden parts of your home is one of the first signs of termite activity you’re likely to notice. This is where the termites are making tunnels through the wood. When you check for tunnels, look along the grain of the wood. You should also check for mud tubes in the crawl space under your home if you have one. Other signs that you might have a termite problem include discarded wings or seeing the termites yourself. You can also sometimes hear chewing or digging in the walls, especially if the infestation is severe.

If you suspect or confirm that you have termite activity anywhere in your home or on your property, it’s best to call an exterminator immediately. They have the proper baits, insecticides, equipment, and experience to deal with this problem, and you should not wait to call pest management. Another tip is to simply have a cursory termite inspection annually to keep your home termite-free and catch a problem before it has a chance to become a major risk to your home.

If you have a problem with flying ants, you can also call a pest control expert. They won’t cause damage to your home, and they do not pose a danger to you or your family. However, their swarms can be a huge nuisance, which is why some homeowners prefer to call for a professional fix.

Are flying ants termites?

No. Flying ants and termites are two different types of flying insects. With the methods above, you can compare their appearances to tell the difference between the two.

Are termites ants?

Although they live in colonies and they have queens, termites are not ants. They survive on cellulose and plant fibers, and subterranean termites build their homes from their own feces or the excrement of other insects. Drywood termites chew holes in wood and then excrete the wood into dust-like mounds. Ants typically do not cause structural damage to buildings or wooden structures — termites can, and they do.

What Does a Termite Look Like with Wings?

A termite with wings is brown or black, and its wings are twice the length of its body, which would be about an inch long. The body itself is less than half an inch long. They have black eyes and straight antennae.

What Do Termites Look Like Without Wings?

Termite antennae, winged or not, are straight. Their bodies are black or brown and stout. They are about the same width all the way down their torsos, and they are less than half an inch in length.

Why Do Flying Termites Suddenly Appear?

Like other flying insects (including honey bees, wasps, and ants) termites will perform a behavior known as swarming. Swarming occurs when there is inclement weather or a rise in temperature, both of which termites find undesirable. Males and females will produce young with wings, and then the colony will swarm from their home together and go to find a place to establish a new colony. This is usually what’s happening if you suddenly encounter a swarm of insects, including termites. 

Final Thoughts

If you live in an area where both flying ants and termites are problems, it’s important to know how to recognize the differences between both insects. While flying ants can be a nuisance, they will not damage your home like a termite infestation will. If you suspect that you might have termites in your home, don’t wait until the damage gets worse — call for assistance as soon as possible. We recommend getting a quote from both Terminix and Orkin Pest Control by clicking each of the respective links before you take on termites. 

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