Flying Ants VS Termites: What's the Difference
Updated: Jun 21, 2021
Finding winged insects flying around your home or office can be disturbing. Termites and carpenter ants are known to eat away at structures and cause damage to property. Most people only discover the problem when it's already too late and they ended up paying dearly in terms of structural repairs. Both insects are responsible for millions of dollars worth of damages each year so it's very important to address this infestation problem. But it all starts with identifying which species is the culprit.
So what exactly is the difference between flying ants and termites? Most people consider a swarm of flying insects as the first obvious sign of a termite infestation. But not all swarming insects are winged termites - some of them are actually flying ants, such as carpenter ant swarmer. From afar, it's pretty hard to distinguish one from the other, which is understandable. You really have to look at them up close to notice the difference based on physical characteristics.
Differences Between Ants and Termites
A flying ant and a winged termite have distinct differences in terms of appearance, behavior, diet, and life cycle.
Appearance - a winged ant has elbowed antennae and pinched waists. They can be reddish, brown, or black. A swarming ant has two pairs of ant wings that are tinted with brown and differ in size. A swarming termite antennae is straight and it has a wide body. Their waists are not pinched. Their bodies are usually dark brown or black. Their wings are all the same length and clear in texture.
Behavior - both insects have designated caste systems and nest in large colonies. Ants, especially carpenter ants, live in wood and wooden parts of structures to build their ant colony while termites are found in decaying wood, be it trees, stumps, lumber, and wood debris. Ants do not eat wood but they do hollow it out in order to build their nests. Termite swarmer feeds on a wooden structure which leads to serious damage in your home.
Life cycle - ants go through four stages of development in their lifetime: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Queens can live for years while worker ants live for a few months. The life cycle of a termite includes egg, nymph (larvae), and adult phases. A termite queen can live for decades while others survive for a couple of years. Both ant and termite have similar reproductive cycles. They fly from their nests during the warm months to mate and build a new colony. Male ants typically die after mating with the females. In contrast, both male and female termites live on and expand their termite colony. Both insects lose their wings after procreating.
How to Tell Them Apart From A Distance
You can still be able to distinguish a flying ant from a flying termite even if you can't get close just yet. Both insects lose their wings after they mate (watch out for discarded wings) but the wingless termites do not typically walk around with the winged ones. They will go inside the wood and tuck themselves in. So when you see insects walking around it's probably the flying ants. It's highly unlikely that winged termites will hang around with winged ant swarm.
You can already see these insects' wings even from a distance, so you can tell them apart by taking note of the shape and color. Both of them have four wings, but termite swarmers have white ones that are stacked on top of each other. A carpenter ant has yellowish wings that look more transparent. There's a cleft at the end of an ant's wings and unlike termite wings, they are not stacked on top of one another.
Which is More Harmful of the Two
Termites take the cake when it comes to inflicting damage. They can be destructive to houses and other structures, leading to serious structural problems in the future. Flying ants are more annoying than harmful.
Indicators of a Termite Infestation
When you see swarming during spring and autumn, this is a typical sign of a termite infestation. Swarms only happen when a colony has reached a certain size. You will also see small tubes of mud or mud tubes that are about the diameter of a pencil. Termites will be resting on your foundation or protruding from the cracks between beams and boards. When you tap wood and it produces hollow sounds, it's a sign that the wood is infested. The wood will also feel extremely soft when you probe it using a sharp object.
It's important that you act immediately when you see insects flying around your home. Even if you discover that the culprit is ants, whether it's fire ants, carpenter ants, or pharaoh ants, you can't ignore it since ant infestation can still do a tremendous amount of damage after a while. You can try using ant bait to control the problem. The presence of carpenter ants is also a sign that your property is getting damaged by water, as these insects thrive in soft and rotted wood where they will build their nests.
Now if you discover that your problem is a termite infestation, such as drywood termites or a subterranean termite, you might consider calling termite exterminators to deal with the flying insect problem, especially if you already see visible infestation termite damage.
Letting Experts Do the Work
Whether you're dealing with flying ants or flying termites, you always have the choice to ask for help from a pest control service. Midway Pest Management is just a phone call away to inspect your property and create the right exterminating plan for your termite swarm or ant swarmer your situation. Call now for the best pest control service in Kansas and its surrounding areas.