Flying ants can be a big pain, especially when they are swarming around a particular area. Luckily they primarily seen during the spring and summer months. These pests cannot withstand the colder climate and generally die before or during the first frost when located in the northern part of the United States. Below you will find information on flying ants including everything from what they are to how to get rid of them when they pose an annoyance greater than you can stand.
What are flying ants?
Flying ants are essentially ants with wings. They live in colonies built by a queen and maintained by workers. Because they fly, these insects are sometimes mistaken for termites. Homeowners sometimes fear flying ants because they aren’t sure whether or not they are a termite. They have two pairs of wings to use when flying, one for taking off and one for staying in flight. After a colony is established by a queen and wingless male worker ants, the reproduction can begin. Several winged males are reared along with winged females who will become the future queens.
Flying ant reproduction
Flying ants are simply just the ants used for reproduction and new colonization. Once the females have mated, they will shed their wings. The queen will then go out and try and start a new colony. Many will try, but only a few will survive and build a thriving colony. The eggs laid will be worker ants, which will help the colony grow. Once that occurs, the sexually built ants will begin being born. The males will then seek out the females and mate. This is when the life cycle repeats itself again.
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Different ant species
Surprisingly flying ants are not species-specific. All of the ants you see in nature have their flying counter parts back in the nest waiting to be released to mate. When they emerge in swarms, it is because they are looking to mate and move onto their own. Here is a small look at some of the species that are associated with flying ants.
- Carpenter ants.
- Pharaoh ants
- Field ants
Hilltopping and flying ants
When the flying ants are getting ready to mate, they are usually found hilltopping. This is a process where they conform to a landscape monument or something similar. Swarms of ants from all over the area meet in this place and the mating then begins. You may see this happening on a statue in the park, a tractor out plowing the fields, around a boat docked in a marina, and any other place you can imagine. After they mate, the flying ants scatter and try to begin new colonies. The male flying ants die and the females shed their wings and begin the process as the new queen. The process of building a new colony then begins with the eggs she has from mating.
Do flying ants pose an increased risk for infestation?
Flying ants can be incredibly annoying and may even be frightening to people with their insane swarming. It is often thought that swarming ants will lead to an infestation of your home if they are on your property. That is fortunately just a myth. The reality is these ants have always been near your home, you are just seeing them in increased numbers because it is time for mating. Once the flying ants have mated, they will not return to the colony, so the chance of them ending up in your home is unlikely.
On occasion, a flying ant could end up in your home. This happens when the hilltopping happens near your home. Chimneys are often a hopping place for flying ants to mate, so they could easily fall down the chimney into your home. Sometimes they will also fly in through open windows and doors if they are swarming nearby.
Flying ants vs. termites
Because they are similar in appearance, flying ants are sometimes mistaken for termites. It is important that you know how to tell the difference between the two pests, especially if you are trying to treat an infestation. These are some ways to tell whether you are dealing with a flying ant or a termite.
- Their bodies. Termites have a straight body, flying ants have a cinched waist. While it may seem funny, this is the easiest way to tell the two apart.
- Antennae. Flying ants have bent antennae while the termites have straight antennae. While this difference may not be able to be seen unless looked at closely and sometimes with the use of a magnifying glass, it is an important detail.
- Time of year the swarming happens. Termites usually swarm in the spring and after it has been extremely rainy. They will not swarm at any other time. Flying ants can swarm whenever, but typically choose to do it through spring and summer after it has rained a few days in a row. Occasionally you may see flying ants in the fall, especially in the states that stay warmer throughout the year.
How to get rid of flying ants
A flying ant infestation is rare, but can occur when the conditions are favorable. If you happen to leave your windows or doors open when the flying ants are mating and swarming, you may find your house full of these unwanted pests. It is incredibly important that you handle the situation immediately before the flying ants try and build a colony in your home. Also make sure you are positive what you are dealing with are ants and not termites since the two are often mistaken for one another. These are some suggestions for handling the flying ants in your home.
- Soapy water. Mix dish soap and water together in a spray bottle. You can spray the ants as you see them and essentially stun and kill them. This is both cost effective and child/pet friendly.
- Poison mixture. Honey and Borax are said to be the best products to mix, but you can choose whatever makes you comfortable. Some add artificial sweetener to make the mixture more appealing, but that is optional. You will need to mix the ingredients of choice together and then place them around your home. This will ensure the ants find them and bring them back to their colony. The poison will then kill the ants in the nest as well. You should only be using this option if you are completely sure you are dealing with colonization in your home, not just a few stray flying ants. Also if you have children or pets, this isn’t the best option at all.
- Electric trap. There are now bug traps made to attract the insects and essentially electrocute them. You can hang this in your home and let it do all of the work. Because ants and other insects are attracted to light, this invention works perfectly. Make sure you keep it out of reach because small children or pets could become interested in it and get hurt. You can purchase one of these at your local hardware or big box store. They aren’t terribly expensive and can be used over and over again. Obviously you will need to periodically clean them but if you are looking for something that is easy and quick, this is it.
Flying ant prevention
The wacky part of all of this is that you really can’t prevent flying ants, but you can prepare in case of them. They generally aren’t seen until they are swarming and ready for mating, which comes anytime in spring through late summer. After the process occurs, they scatter out and die or begin to look for another place to build a colony. In a rare occurrence they could end up in your home, and when that happens you will need to address it immediately. You can take some prevention steps that are minimal if you are inclined, but they aren’t a guarantee you will be completely free of flying ants.
- Use insecticide around your home. Spray the foundation of your home and along the windows and doors as well. This will essentially build a barrier the ants won’t want to cross and hopefully will keep them far enough away from your home that you won’t hear them swarming.
- Keep your screens repaired. If you have holes in your screens, the flying ants are practically invited in. Make sure you don’t leave windows open if they don’t have screens for the very same reasons.
- Keep food put away. After meals make sure you clean the counters and sweep the floor. Food particles attract pests and you may be asking for more than you can handle by not cleaning up properly.
Flying ants are somewhat uncommon both in your home and outside, unless they are hilltopping and mating. At this point, there could be hundreds or thousands of them swarming around areas while they are mating. The good news is that once they mate, they will disappear in search of a new home or die off. You can get rid of flying ants that are bothering you, but usually they will disappear on their own in a few days.