Ants are curious little critters. We may not like them, but we at least feel comfortable with our knowledge of them. Ants are typically small, and they make ugly mounds in our yards. They quickly scurry to ruin a perfectly good picnic, and in bad weather, they may even find their way inside your home. You may be aware that all worker ants come from queens, but where do queens come from? If the title didn’t shock you, you probably want to sit down when I tell you that queen ants fly. Let’s discuss the different types of ants, why some ants fly, and how to distinguish a flying ant from a termite.
Ants: Scavengers, Workers, and Queens
Ants are closely related to wasps, both being members of the taxonomic order Hymenoptera. Take a look at a picture of an ant and one of a wasp with its wings spread. There are clear correlations in their physiology. Ants and wasps also conduct themselves much the same way in colonies.
Within the colony of all Hymenoptera, ants included, is a caste system. At the top of this hierarchy is a queen. She’s incapable of stinging you, and she is typically the only reproductive female present in the mound. She gives birth to every ant in the colony, most of which will be workers and scavengers, almost entirely composed of non-productive females. Since they can’t reproduce, their abdomens contain a modified ovipositor that we know as a stinger.
Why Do Some Ants Fly?
During certain seasons, the queen will produce reproductive males and females, and these are the ants that have wings. The primary function for flying ants is reproduction. The females will be slightly larger than the males, and, just like their mother, they can’t sting you. Instead, these females have the required capacity to start a colony of their own. Their male counterparts are smaller and are only a haploid organism. This means they only have half of the DNA of their female counterpart, and they only live to make sure she’s fertilized to become queen.
These flying ants generally swarm the day after a heavy rain in spring. Both male and female alates will disembark from the colonies in search of opportunity. Once fertilized, the female will look for places to establish a colony. This could be the formation of a new in-ground colony, but cracks in your home may provide the opportunity she is looking for, too.
If there has been a colony in your house previously, there is the potential for an ant swarm to occur inside your home, just like a termite swarm. That sounds terrifying, right? You come home on a nice spring day, and now there are flying insects in your home.
How Do I Know If I Have Ants or Termites in My Home?
Fortunately, there are a few quick ways to tell the difference between flying ants and termites. The flying reproductives of termites and ants look quite different but can appear similar with a quick glance. Here are the key differences to look for:
- The waist: The body of a reproductive ant looks very similar to their wasp cousins. The waist between the thorax and abdomen is pinched and petite on an ant. A termite’s waist is much wider.
- The antennae: The antennae protruding from the head of an ant are bent; the antennae on a termite’s head are straight.
- The wings: Each has 4 wings, but the front wings on an ant are larger than the back. Termites have 4 equally sized wings.
Either way, if there is an active colony in your home, you should call a professional you can trust. We’re partial, but we think very highly of our knowledgeable pest professionals at Nature’s Turf. They are quick to respond and ready to help with your pest needs–in this case identifying whether you have a population of ants or termites active in your home and what to do about that.
If we can provide this service or any other, give us a call at 770-461-4156, or email us at email@example.com. We’d love to discuss this and the many other ways we can make your home the place you most love to be.