Have you ever seen a swarm of flying ants and wondered why they have wings? Yes, some ants do have wings. And these pests may seem like something out of a sci-fi movie, and you may think they’re a cause for concern. Well, the answer is pretty simple, and the good news is, it’s not as scary as you may have thought.
Some species of ants develop wings at their reproductive stage. These are referred to as “alates,” and they’re on a very important mission: to mate. Flying ants are usually males and young queens. Fortunately, reproducing and finding a nest are the only things on these ants’ minds, and they pose little to no threat to humans.
Once a year, typically in the late spring or early summer, these winged ants undergo a “nuptial flight” or “dispersal.” These large swarms occur as the ants meet up and mate in flight. They find protection in numbers, and their large numbers can help keep predators away.
After they have mated, the males die. Fertilized females continue to fly around in search of a suitable nesting site. Once an appropriate site is found, the queens lose their wings and use them as a food source while they build their colonies.
Ant or Termite?
While they are generally harmless, one thing to keep in mind about flying ants is that they can closely resemble a more troublesome pest: the termite. Reproductive-stage termites also have wings and swarm like ants. Of course, termites eat wood and can cause serious structural damage to your home or property if an infestation is established, so it’s important to know how to tell the difference between the two.
There are a few key differences to help you identify which kind of pest you’re dealing with:
- Antennae – Ant antennae are bent, and termite antennae are straight.
- Waist – Ants have a pinched waist, while termites have a fatter, straight waist.
- Wings – Flying ants have two pairs of wings that are different sizes. Termites, on the other hand, have two pairs of wings that are the same size.
If you notice flying insects, especially if they are swarming in a single location on your property, keep these characteristics in mind to help determine the issue. Of course, if you’re in doubt, call a pest or termite professional to investigate the issue. These professionals are trained to identify pests and provide treatment and protection recommendations.
Whether you’re dealing with flying ants or termites, Terminix® can help get the problem under control. Call today for an inspection and help keep your home pest-free this season.