How to Tell the Difference between Termite Swarmers and Flying Ants

When you think of termites, you probably think of the pale, subterranean worker termites or perhaps even the slightly less pale subterranean soldier termites with their large mandibles. However, spring and summer bring about a different kind of termite that homeowners have to worry about – the termite swarmer.

The 50 or so species of termites found in the United states can be divided into three main categories, which are subterranean termites, dampwood termites, and drywood termites. These three types of termites differ in several ways, but all three of them have termite swarmers. At first glace, termite swarmers can be easily mistaken for flying ants, but upon closer examination a person can easily tell the differences between the two if they know what to look for.

Generally speaking, flying ants are larger than subterranean termite swarmers, but depending on where you live in the U.S., that may not be helpful information since the size of termite swarmers varies depending on whether the termites are subterranean, dampwood, or drywood. If you want surefire proof that an insect is a termite or an ant, you have to look at the smaller details.

For starters, winged ants have two sets of wings, the front wings are much larger than the back wings. Termites also have two pair of wings, but both sets of wings will be about equal in size. Knowing the different wing sizes may not be helpful though unless the insects are actually flying around. The next best place to look is the insect’s antennae. Winged ants have bent or elbowed antennae, while termite swarmers have straight antennae.

Finally, look at the insect’s legs. Flying ants have long legs that jut out a decent length from the ant’s thorax. Termite swarmers have much shorter legs than flying ants, and their legs only branch out a little ways away from the termite’s body which has a much bigger waist at the abdomen and thorax than ants do. If you want some practice in guessing whether an insect is a flying termite or a flying ant, watch this video and see if you can figure out what these are.

The bugs in the video above are flying termites, but whether you see winged termites or winged ants, be warned that both of these insects are swarmers, meaning that they are both the reproductive units of their respective colonies. If you see a few winged ants or termite swarmers in your house, contact us immediately for ant extermination services or a termite extermination visit.

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