Nashville, Murfreesboro, and Mt. Juliet, TN
Question: What Is The Difference Between Flying Ants and Winged Termites?
Both flying ants and winged termites are small, black household pests that can give homeowners the creeps, and not without good reason. These four-winged pests are notorious for their disastrous effects on the sanitation of indoor spaces and on the health of family members.
Both pests nest in indoor spaces (now you know what they’re doing in your home or garage) and then swarm to form new colonies. Swarming is the mating and breeding phase of winged ants and termites. Flying ants, in fact, develop wings specifically for swarming and shed their wings soon after mating and settling in a nest.
Though flying ants are relatively less harmful than winged termites, you don’t want any of the two pest groups to be buzzing around in your house. However, for good riddance, you need good information about the kind of pest swarming in your home. Using termite control methods for flying ants or ant control methods for winged termites will get you nowhere.
But fret not. Spotting the difference between the two kinds of black and winged household pests is not rocket science. It is instead a visual science – one that you can master yourself with little effort. So let’s get started!
Spotting the difference between flying ants and winged termites
There are three simple ways to distinguish one pest from the other. To spot the differences, you’ll need a microscope. If you don’t have one, you can use a regular field glass as well.
Catch the flying insect and pull back its wings to get a close look at its body parts through your field glass or microscope. If the insect has three distinctly visible body parts – 1) the head, 2) the thorax and 3) the abdomen, it is a flying ant. Flying ants have a thin, pinched-in waist that divides their body into three different parts.
On the other hand, if the insect has a relatively straight body and you can only distinguish the head from the body, it is a termite. Winged termites have a straight waist; for this reason, no distinct difference between their thorax and abdomen exists.
After inspecting the body parts, let the wings resume their original position by releasing them. View the entire insect under your microscope so that both pairs of wings are visible together. Are the wings long in comparison to the body? Are both pairs of wings equal in length?
If all four wings (two pairs) of the insect appear to be of equal lengths, then you’re looking at a winged termite. If on the other hand, two wings (the front wings on each side of the body) appear to be distinctly larger than the two remaining wings (at the back), then you’re looking at a flying ant.
Another point of difference is the size of the wings. If the wings you see are short and proportionate to the body, you’re looking at an ant. The wings of termites are disproportionately long and are twice as large as the insect itself.
Finally, get a closer look at the antennae of the insect. If the antennae are relatively straight, it’s a winged termite. If the antennae are bent or “elbowed”, it’s a flying ant.
Additional methods to differentiate flying ants from winged termites
Flying ants are more likely to be seen out in the open than termites are. Thus, if you see flying pests localized in your kitchen or a room, they’re most likely termites. If you see flying pests in the garden or outside the garage, with the occasional ones welcoming themselves indoors, they’re probably flying ants. Another distinction is the time of the year – termites swarm mostly in the warm and rainy weather of early spring while flying ants follow different times of the year.
Quick recap: If you’re looking at a pest with straight antennae, straight waist and a straight body that has two long pairs of equal-length wings attached to it, you’re looking at a termite. Call pest control ASAP! If you’re looking at a pest with elbowed antennae, constricted waist and a segmented body that has two short pairs of unequally long wings attached to it, it’s a flying ant.