Difference Between Flying Ants and Termites

Big Winged Ant

Colonies of ants produce winged ants in the spring and summer. These male and female ants do not do any work in the colony where they develop. Their job is to fly out of the nest when the signal comes. They fly out of the nest in a swarm, so many people call them swarmers. The scientists call these winged ants alates.

During the swarm flight from the nest, the winged ants will mate. After they have mated, the males will die. The females will start new colonies where they will be the queens.

Spring and summer is also the time when termite colonies produce winged swarmers. These winged termites also leave the colony to mate and start new colonies.

Homeowners are often confused and frightened when they see a swarm of flying insects inside the home. They do not know whether the insects are ants or termites. There are three body parts that are very different between winged ants and termites – the wings, the waist, and the antennae. It might help to use a magnifying glass to make the identification.

Winged ants have front wings that are much larger than their back wings. Termite swarmers have front wings that are exactly the same as the back wings. When termite swarmers find a mate, they shed their wings. It is common to find only the wings on a windowsill or in spider webs. If all of the wings are the same, the swarmers were termites.

The body of an ant has a “pinched waist” and three distinct segments. Termites' bodies look like there is only one long, slender segment.

Ants have antennae that are bent or “elbowed”. Termite antennae are straight.

Even after using a magnifying glass to examine the swarmers, many people are still confused. It is often helpful to contact a pest control professional. An inspector can help with the identification. He or she can inspect the home for signs of an infestation. And if treatment is appropriate, the inspector can help homeowners choose the best treatment option.