If you have a backyard, you’ll know that it can be a haven for outdoor activities, such as swimming in the pool, having a barbecue, or hanging out with friends and family. Unfortunately, a backyard may also become an unintended haven for pests. Whether that means pesky mosquitoes interrupting your time outside, or even more squirm-inducing: flying ants taking a lap in your pool. Keep reading to learn more about flying ants, how they end up in your pool, and what you can do about it.

What are flying ants?

Before we get into any more detail about flying ants that land in your pool, let’s take a minute to talk about what flying ants actually are. You may be wondering what kind of species flying ants are, if there’s just one species, or if there are many. In fact, “flying ant” is a fairly broad term that can apply to most species of ants. That’s because flying ants develop and emerge during specific times of the year. Read on below to learn more..

At certain times of the year, many ant species will begin to produce both winged males and winged fertile queens that will fly into the air. This is part of the mating ritual and then they travel to establish new colonies. After they mate, the winged males die shortly afterward, while the fetilized winged queen will find somewhere to establish a new colony. Whenever she finds this new suitable location, she will break off her wings and remain flightless for the rest of her life. These winged forms of ants even have a specific name applied to them: alates.

There’s another pesky insect with a winged form called an alate that you might also be familiar with: termites. In fact, sometimes flying ants and flying termites are mistaken for one another. There are a few physical differences between flying ants and flying termites:
  • Ants have elbowed antennae while termites have straight antennae
  • Ants have a pinched waist (like a wasp) while termites have straight bodies
  • Ants have front wings that are longer and tinted brown, while termites have equally sized wings that are translucent

What kinds of flying ants are in my pool?

As mentioned above, it isn’t just one species that can have winged or flying ants. And while there are many different kinds of ants that can have winged forms if you’re dealing with flying ants in your pool or pond and you live in a southern state or California, there’s a chance that those flying ants are red imported fire ants. The queens may drown in the pool and be eaten by fish in the pond.

What do I do when there are flying ants in my pool?

It’s important to keep in mind that the wing form of ants, the alates, you might find in your pool can exhibit the same behaviors that unwinged forms do. For example, ants that bite—such as carpenter ants—may still bite; ants that sting—such as the red imported fire ant—may still sting. That said, after some time some of the ants that land in your pool will end up drowning if they are not able to escape.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any fool-proof ways to keep flying ants out of your pool. Keeping your pool covered, the lights off when not in use and frequently skimming your pool may help limit the problem, but results aren’t guaranteed. Because flying ants usually occur only during certain times of the year (depending on the species), the good news is that you likely won’t have to be battling flying ants in your pool all year round.