Winged Ants vs Termites: Key Differences and Similarities

A Winged ant and a flying termite can look very similar, and often they are the object of confusion for homeowners. While quite similar, they are still different insects with distinct lifestyles. If you have trouble with pest control and insect infestation, it is important to differentiate these two species. 

In this article, you will learn the key differences and similarities between ants and termites.

Winged ant vs. termite – what are the biggest differences?

Winged ants and termites can look very similar at first glance, but they are quite different in many ways. 

Appearance

The looks of flying ants and termites can be tricky because they share key features. Both of them have four wings and antennae. However, if you look closely, there are key differences. 

Wings

Winged Ants

Winged ant

Firstly, a flying ant has wings that are different in size. The front and wings are way larger than the back ones. Additionally, they have a darker color. On the other hand, termites have equal-length wings that are clear and lighter in color. Termites have noticeably larger wings while ant wings are smaller. Termite wings are around twice as long as their body length. 

Antennae

Termites’ antennae are beaded. They look like straight antennae that may get a bit rounded. Ant’s antennae get bent during the flight and get corners. This type of antennae is called elbowed antennae. 

Color

Another key difference is color. Termites are overall darker; they range from dark brown to black. Winged ants have more range in color, they may be red, brown, or black. 

Body

Flying ants’ bodies are distinctly segmented into two parts, while winged termites have long bodies with a broader waist. Termites’ entire body is a single shape and does not have visible division. 

Habits and lifestyle

Termite appearance

Termites

Like termites, flying ants like to live in colonies. However, they live in different locations. 

Termites mainly live in tree stumps or decaying trees. Their preferred living location also includes wood debris and wood structures. This is because termites eat wood, especially soft or rotted wood. 

Like termites, carpenter ants live in wood and trees. Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat decaying wood. 

As mentioned, termites eat wood and have a cellulose-based diet. The biggest difference in eating habits is that ants are omniverse. So, they can eat various things: nectar, food debris, and even other insects. 

Flying ant vs. termite – life cycle

Flying ants and termites have similar reproductive cycles, making their life cycles pretty much alike. 

According to Michigan State University, “Winged ants are the reproductive forms. They drop their wings soon after mating and begin to search for a suitable nesting site”. So, while some flying ants and termites can live a long life, their winged life is short-lived because getting wings is part of their lifecycle.

Flying ant life cycle

Mainly, there are 3 kinds of ants: the queen, the males (or drones), and the worker ants. 

Ants have 4 stages of life:

  1. Egg stage
  2. Larvae stage
  3. Pupae stage
  4. Adult stage

Queens live for the longest time. Each colony has one queen that lays as many eggs as possible during the mating season. Fertilized female flying ants or queens may live up to 15 years, according to The Guardian.

Drones are fertile males responsible for reproduction, and they die shortly after mating season. Worker ants live for a few months on average, but it can be up to 7 years for some species. 

Winged termite life cycle

The Winged termite life cycle has 3 stages:

  1. Egg stage
  2. Larvae stage
  3. Adult stage

Unlike ants, both male and female termites live for a long time after the swarming season. Termites have longer lives than ants. Average termites live for a couple of years, and queens can live up to decades. 

The termite life cycle begins with swarming. This is when adult males and females get wings, fly and mate. This process is known as swarming or “nuptial flight”.

As the Royal Meteorological Society reports, monitoring swarming insects is crucial for their conservation. So, pay extra attention to winged insects during summer when these flying insects have a mating season. 

Frequently asked questions

What are flying ants attracted to?

What are flying ants attracted toFlying ants are just like other insects; hence they are attracted to bright lights and warmth. Additionally, do not forget their love for sweet things such as honey and sugar. 

Pest control experts advise keeping away sweet food from the reach of winged ants and other pests. Additionally, close up any cracks and holes that might give access to ants. Pay special attention to carpenter ants because they are the ones that like to establish new colonies in the buildings. 

What are flying termites attracted to?

Like ants flying termites love light. So, to avoid termite infestation, you must keep them away from the lights in your house. You can do it using dark drapes that act as a barrier and do not show termites the light source

Final thoughts

Despite apparent similarities, flying ants and termites are very different. They lead different lifestyles and even have diverse looks if you observe them closely. 

Termite swarmers and winged ants cannot be seen during the whole year. These insects appear in their winged forms seasonally. So, follow the control measures to avoid infestation and be aware that these two insects are very interesting.

Finding winged insects is not possible for the whole year. Therefore, it is a sign of a mating season if you see one.

If you cannot get rid of pests, the best policy would be to call pest control service providers.

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