A swarm of ants is often the first visible symptom of termite infestation in many homes. Teeming insects are not all termites; some are flying ants. Based on a few physical traits, pest control professionals are taught to distinguish between flying ants and termites.
Although ants and termites differ in many ways, it might be difficult for people to tell the two apart at first.
- Flying ants have a pinched waist, bent antennae, and two pairs of wings with different lengths, while termites have a straight waist, straight antennae, and two pairs of wings of equal length.
- Flying ants are attracted to sugary substances and can cause structural damage by tunneling through wood, whereas termites consume cellulose in wood, causing severe damage to structures.
- Termites are social insects that live in colonies while flying ants can be solitary or live in colonies, depending on the species.
Flying Ants vs Termites
The difference between flying ants and termites is that flying ants have bent antennae, unequal-length wings, and pinched waists as well as their color is black, reddish-brown. But termites have straight antennae, equal-length wings, and straight waist, and their body color are creamy and peachy with a pinch of brown tone.
Flying ants are also known as carpenter ants and have a keen attraction towards wood and scrap, just like termites. Ants have four developmental stages: embryo, larvae, mud dauber or pupa, and adult. Worker ants have a short lifespan, but queen ants can live for years.
The termite life cycle, on the other hand, contains egg, nymph (larvae), and adult stages. Termite queens can live for decades, although most termites only live for a few years. The ants also have a set of unequal wings along with posterior bent antennas.
Termites are also colonial insects that task together functionally and serve one queen termite. Termites have wings on occasion, but they lose them quickly after mating.
In general, they have straight antennae, broad bodies with no constricted waistline, and wings that are all the same length.
They mostly consume wood and cellulose-based materials. Worker termites live for a few years, whereas queens might live for as long as 10 straight years!
|Parameters of Comparison||Flying Ants||Termites|
|Wing Type||The wings of winged ants are considerably bigger in the front than those in the back.||Termite wings are consistent in size and length, and they are longer than the body|
|Body Colour and Type||Flying ants are black or reddish brown in colour with segmented bodies. Their wings are equivalent to their body size.||Termites have a plain smooth body along with light toned peach or white colour.|
|Diet||Ants are omnivores that mostly consume nectar, seeds, other insects, and food detritus found in and around dwellings.||Termites eat on cellulose, a nutrient-rich substance found in plants, and they also devour wood.|
|Life Cycle||Ants evolve via four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Worker ants have a short lifespan, but queens can survive for years.||The egg, nymph (larvae), and adult phases of the termite life cycle are all present. Termite queens can live for decades, although most termites only live for a few years unlike their queen.|
|Habitat||Ants live in organised nest groups all over the place and they build a nest made out of soil and natural elements. The nest is preferably made in tree trunks or soil mounds.||Termites live in wood, dead trees, structural timbers, and wooden structures that have tunnels drilled into them.|
What are Flying Ants?
Flying ants aren’t a result of a genetic mutation or hybridization of two different species. Flying ants, also known as alates, are sexually progressive and grown ants. These are the colony’s “reproducing members,” generated by the “queen” and supported by the “workers.”
Inside the colony, the reproductives go through their immature phases of development. The flying ants prepare to take the stage when the ant colony is fully able to expand.
Flying ants, or the males, die shortly after mating in these assemblages, their life’s mission accomplished. The fertilized female then flies about, looking for a suitable nesting location.
These flying ants have constricted waists and lunged antennae. Their bodies are often black, brown, or reddish in color.
Flying ants have two sets of brown-tinted wings, each of which is slightly different in size. They pose no harm to infrastructure, no matter how frightening they appear.
These massive swarms of flying ants may appear threatening, but the ants are only interested in mating and aren’t as harmful as the home-wrecking termites!
Flying ants are visible in the open and build their nests in wood that they tunnel through. They like to nest in soggy, moist, and/or decaying wood, but they may also be found in wood shavings and soil mounds.
The worker ants also are responsible for the health of the nest and the “Alates”.
What are Termites?
Termites are colonial insects just like ants but are much more dangerous and fatal for the infrastructures they reside in. Termites have straight antennae, equal-length wings, a straight waist, and an unsegmented plain body.
No constriction is found between the thorax and abdomen; as a result, they have a cylindrical structure with equal-sized wings.
Worker termites are creamy in color and measure approximately 3 to 4 mm in length. They are most often discovered when mud-probing tubes or infected wood are torn apart.
Meanwhile, swarmers, which are around 4 mm long and dark brown or black in color, are the reproductive kind. Termites eat cellulose-based goods such as wood, paper, and other cellulose-based items.
They prefer to consume wood and furniture, and they are dangerous because of their quickness and flexibility.
Subterranean termites can be seen all year, although swarmers are most common in Texas during the months of March and April. The most prevalent Texas pest species, the eastern subsurface termite, swarms during the day.
Termites are significantly important because of various reasons. When they eat on and frequently destroy timber buildings or precious vegetative materials, they are destructive.
Introduced species seek refuge in protected areas because they are not as well adapted as native species to respond to changes in their new habitats.
Main Differences Between Flying Ants and Termites
- Though both species have four compound wings, winged ants have a bigger front pair than the back pair, whereas termite wings are all the same size.
- Because of their narrow waists, flying ants seem segmented, but termites have broad waists and are a consistent width across their bodies.
- The antennae of flying ants are elbowed, whereas the antennae of termites are virtually straight.
- Flying ants are omnivorous and feed on small worms or dead scrap and leaves, but termites only feed on cellulose-based products like wood and leaves.
- The wings of ants are shorter and more proportional to their bodies, but the wings of termites are twice as long as their bodies.
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Piyush Yadav has spent the past 25 years working as a physicist in the local community. He is a physicist passionate about making science more accessible to our readers. He holds a BSc in Natural Sciences and Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental Science. You can read more about him on his bio page.