During the summer months, you may notice a swarm of flying ants invading your home/business. But why is this? What are flying ants, and why do they only appear at certain times of the year?
Click to view our full infographic on flying ants and flying termites
What are flying ants?
Often referred to as alates, flying ants are the fertile male and female ants whose sole purpose is to reproduce and start a new colony. This happens in the form of swarms where the winged ants take flight and breed mid-air.
Do all ants have wings?
Although it is true that only ants with wings are the alates (flying ants), this can vary between different species. Some species of ants have winged workers. However, the majority of the time sightings of an ant with wings are usually the alates rather than workers.
Do queen ants have wings?
Yes and No.
During the early stages of their life queen ants do have wings. However, once they have successfully mated they will shed their wings before starting a new colony, spending the remainder of their lives wingless.
Flying ant swarms
In the insect world, this is often referred to as nuptial flight and is the most important phase of the reproductive cycle of ants, termites, and some bee species.
Flying ant swarms is when the virgin queens and males take flight and breed with other ants of the same species to start a new colony.
When do flying ants swarm?
Flying ants swarm during the summer months when the temperature, humidity and wind conditions are just right.
Little is known as to why ants swarm during this time and what signals ants to swarm.
Flying ant swarms usually happen in large numbers, this is to ensure the survival and growth of the species. During the ant swarm, many of the ants won’t survive past the day, with birds preying on these insects during this time.
Starting a new colony
After they have successfully mated the male flying ant dies and the queen then lands and finds a place to start the new nest. The location for the new nests depends on the species. Flying carpenter ants will find a piece of timber to inhabit whilst garden ants will build their nest in the ground.
Once a nest has been found the new queen will shed her wings and start a new colony. If successful, the new queen will lay her first batch of eggs, looking after the young until they develop into workers. From then on, her sole purpose is to become a continuous egg laying baby factory.
However, for some ant species, this isn’t the typical breeding pattern or habit. With army ants, for example, only the males have wings, they fly out and impregnate virgin queens from other colonies inside their nests. Red imported fire ants also follow a different breeding habit due to their multi-queen colonies.
What do flying ants look like?
Flying ants can be identified by their appearance, which differs from other flying insects. Identifying flying ants need to be done by closely examining the insect, as they can often be mistaken for flying termites.
Flying ants have two sets of wings: a front pair and a back pair. A flying ant’s back set of wings are significantly shorter than their front pair and generally have a brown tint to them. Like most insects, ants have two antennae located at the top of their heads and are elbowed, differing from other insects.
Flying ants vs flying termites
Find out everything you need to know about flying termites
You can easily identify a termite swarm or a flying ant swarm by the time of year it is occurring and the appearance of the insects swarming. Termite swarms usually occur in the spring whilst ants swarm in the summer.
Flying ants have a very distinct thin waist compared to their thorax and abdomen, whereas termites have a much thicker body shape.
Find out the difference between ants and termites
Flying ant bite
Can flying ants bite?
Flying ants can and will bite or sting if they feel threatened. However, it is important to note that this depends on the species. Not all ants bite or sting, only some species. You are only at risk if the species swarming are known biters and/or stingers.
Flying ants in home
Flying ants can often invade your home through open doors and windows. Depending on the species, they can pose a huge threat to your property.
Carpenter ants, for example, get their name from the damages they cause to wooden structures, as they build their nests inside pieces of timber.
Open doors and windows, as well as cracks in walls and roofs, provide flying carpenter ants with easy access to your home.
How to get rid of flying ants
To get rid of flying ants in your home, there are a few prevention methods you can adopt during the swarming season.
How to prevent flying ants
Seal cracks and crevices
Sealing cracks and crevices around your property to reduce the entry points for flying ants
Keep windows and doors closed
Keeping windows and doors shut is one of the most effective methods of preventing flying insects, and flying ants, reducing the ways in which they can enter your home or business
Install a fly screen
Sometimes keeping windows and doors shut during the summer months isn’t ideal due to the high temperatures. Installing a fly screen will prevent flying ants from entering your home whilst leaving windows and doors open.
Professional ant control
The most effective solution against flying ants is enlisting the support of a professional pest control company to identify and control an ant problem.
Flying ants mean the start of a new colony. Getting rid of ants will limit the possibility of future ant problems as well as eradicating an existing one.
Worried about flying ants? Contact Rentokil today for expert advice, services and solutions for ants.
I joined the Marketing and Innovation team at Rentokil in 2015, and my mind has quickly become accustomed to the weird and wonderful world of pests. Outside of work my main hobby is music. I am a huge Led Zeppelin and Queen fan as well as an avid drummer.