At this time of year, hardly a week goes past without phone calls from nervous homeowners who aren’t sure whether they’re finding winged ants or termites in and around their home. “They look like ants, but they have wings,” they say. “What are they? Can you send someone to look at them? How much is this going to cost?”
It’s difficult to answer their questions without seeing the mystery pest. Flying ants are similar in size and appearance to winged termite swarmers; the most significant difference between the two pests is the amount of money required to solve the problem — and to repair damage, in the case of termites.
Here are several things to look for when attempting to identify your mystery pest:
- Body. Both ants and termites are insects, and therefore have three distinct segments (head, thorax, and abdomen), an ant’s segments are much more defined. A termite’s body, on the other hand, is straight-sided.
- Wings. Each has four. A termite’s wings are all the same size; an ant has two large front wings, and two smaller rear wings. An ant’s wings feature dark veins, but the veins of a termite’s wings (which might be twice as long as its body) are nearly invisible. Additionally, a termite’s wings are easily detached. One of the most common signs of a termite swarm is the presence of tiny wings on and around windowsills.
- Antennae. A termite’s antennae are relatively straight, and somewhat smaller than those of an ant, which are long and elbowed.
- Legs. An ant’s legs are longer than those of a termite.
- What else? If you’re still not sure, take a moment to look around. Are there signs of wood damage? Termite tubes creeping up the foundation? Detached wings lying around? If so, you’re almost certainly dealing with termites, though carpenter ants also damage wood by excavating (not eating) it. Flying ants might turn up anywhere, but are much more likely to be encountered in the kitchen than, say, that old pile of lumber in the back of the garage.
When in doubt, call us at 302-436-8140. We don’t charge to identify samples, and will gladly come out, look at your mystery pest, and recommend treatment options.