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October 18, 2023

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    Dealing with pests is a nuisance for any homeowner, but with both flying ants and termites, the stakes can be much higher than a simple annoyance. As a former professional in the pest control industry, I’ve seen firsthand the havoc these tiny invaders can wreak. Flying ants, while a seasonal nuisance, are relatively harmless compared to termites.

    I understand the urgency of getting the right pest control service the first time you reach out. Identifying the invading insects is the first step toward effective treatment. Below, I’ll dive into the nuances that set termites and flying ants apart.

    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, it’s not too hard to determine if you need to schedule a termite inspection with a professional pest control company or look for over-the-counter ant treatment.

    Appearance

    There are a number of differences in the appearance of flying ants and termites. Here’s what to check to tell them apart:

    Antennae: Flying ants’ antennae have a noticeable bend, while termite antennae are straight.

    Wings: Flying ants and termites both sport two pairs of wings. On flying ants, the top pair of wings is notably larger than the lower pair. Termites’ hind wings match the length of their front wings. Additionally, flying ants’ wings are about as long as the ant’s body, while termites’ wings are almost double the length of the body.

    Body shape: You’ll spot what I term as ‘pinched waists’ on ants, where the abdomen and thorax connect in a slender, pinch-like fashion. In the termite corner, you’ll find insects with rounded bodies, but no pinched waist. Their bodies maintain a uniform width from top to bottom.

    Color: Flying termites, or swarmers, are typically brown or black. Winged ants, on the other hand, vary in color from black to brown or even reddish tones, with brownish wings. Notably, termite wings tend to be more transparent in comparison.

    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 a 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 ant queens 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 them.

    Ant infestations are less likely to become a major problem in your home due to their shorter lifespans. The average flying ant will live only a few days after it hatches.

    Termite Activity

    Termites cause serious and expensive damage, and homeowner’s insurance usually will not cover the property damage. 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 early means the difference between a quick fix and thousands of dollars in repair bills.

    Peels and bumps appearing in the paint on wood in your home are 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 professional ant control.

    What Do Termites Look Like Without Wings?

    Termites, whether they have wings or not, share certain physical characteristics that distinguish them from other insects. Here’s a detailed description of what termites without wings look like:

    • Antennae: One of the key features of termites, whether winged or wingless, is their straight antennae. Unlike the bent or elbowed antennae of many other insects, termites have simple, straight antennae that they use for sensing their environment, communicating with colony members, and locating food sources.
    • Body Color: The body color of termites is typically black or brown, although this can vary slightly depending on the species. These earthy tones help termites blend into their natural habitats, which are often soil or wood.
    • Body Shape: Termites have a stout and cylindrical torso. Regardless of whether they have wings, their body shape remains consistent. There is no noticeable narrowing or constriction between body segments. This body shape allows them to move easily through narrow tunnels and galleries within wood.
    • Size: The size of a wingless termite is usually less than half an inch in length. They are relatively small insects, which can make them challenging to spot without close inspection.

    Whether you’re observing wingless or winged termites, their straight antennae, black or brown coloration, stout body shape, small size, and uniform width along their torso are consistent characteristics. These traits are essential for their roles within termite colonies, where they fulfill various functions, including foraging, tunneling, and caring for young termites.

    Why Do Flying Termites Suddenly Appear?

    Like other flying insects (including honey bees, wasps, and ants) termites perform a behavior known as swarming. Termite swarmers are most active when the temperature rises in Spring or early summer.

    Males and female alates will produce young with wings that 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

    Living in an area frequented by flying ants and termites means you need to be able to tell these critters apart. Flying ants might be pesky, but they won’t wreak havoc on your home like termites can.

    If you’ve got the nagging feeling that termites have made themselves at home in your house, don’t sit on it. The damage they can do only gets worse with time. I’d strongly suggest reaching out for professional assistance as soon as possible.

    To get you started, consider getting quotes from both Terminix and Orkin Pest Control. It’s a smart move to gather all the information you can before tackling a termite problem head-on. Stay bug-savvy, my friends.

    FAQs About Flying Ants Vs. Termites

    What should I do if I find flying ants or termites in my house?

    If you find flying ants in your home, it’s usually a temporary nuisance. However, if you suspect termites, it’s crucial to act promptly. Contact a pest control professional to conduct a thorough inspection and determine the extent of the infestation. Early detection and treatment are essential in the case of termites.


    Can flying ants and termites coexist in the same area?

    Yes, it’s possible for flying ants and termites to share the same environment, as they may both be attracted to similar conditions, such as warm, humid weather. However, it’s essential to differentiate between the two because termites can cause significant structural damage to your home.


    Do flying ants and termites have different behaviors at night?Do flying ants and termites have different behaviors at night?

    Yes, they do. Flying ants are typically diurnal insects, which means they are more active during the day. In contrast, termites, especially subterranean termites, tend to be more active at night or during low-light conditions. If you notice winged insects swarming around your home at night, it’s more likely to be termites.


    Do flying ants and termites prefer different types of wood?

    Flying ants don’t typically infest wood — they are more interested in finding a mate and establishing new colonies. Termites, on the other hand, are notorious for feeding on wood and cellulose materials. They can damage a variety of wood types, but some species may show preferences for specific types of wood.


    Can I rely on DIY methods to eliminate flying ants or termites?

    While DIY methods like insect sprays may help manage flying ants temporarily, they won’t effectively treat a termite infestation. Professionals can assess the extent of the damage and apply appropriate control measures. Trying to handle a termite infestation on your own can lead to more significant structural damage if not done correctly.


    Article Update Log
    9/29/2023
    Reviewed for accuracy, cost data, industry best practices, and expert advice by Jordan Tyler Quinn Farkas.
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    Jordan Tyler Quinn Farkas

    Expert Writer & Reviewer

    Jordan Tyler Quinn Farkas is a globetrotting content writer hailing from the USA. With a passion for pest control, he brings a unique perspective to his writing from his early years working for one of the largest pest control companies in America. Throughout his early 20s, Jordan gained valuable experience and knowledge in the field, tackling pest infestations head-on and ensuring the well-being of countless homes.

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    Lora Novak

    Senior Editor

    Lora Novak meticulously proofreads and edits all commercial content for Today’s Homeowner to guarantee that it contains the most up-to-date information. Lora brings over 12 years of writing, editing, and digital marketing expertise. She’s worked on thousands of articles related to heating, air conditioning, ventilation, roofing, plumbing, lawn/garden, pest control, insurance, and other general homeownership topics.

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