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The majority of insects have wings in their adult stage and move around mainly by flying. However insects like cockroaches, have wings but are reluctant flyers and mainly use crawling as a form of transportation. Termites and ants are flyers, but only for a brief time in their reproductive stages during their breeding season.
The flying insects described on this page reflect those referred to as pests.
Most insects go through a life cycle that consists of four stages: egg, larva (e.g. caterpillar, maggot — which can be crawling insect pests), pupa (often sealed in a cocoon) and adult, which usually has wings.
Insects have an exoskeleton with a three-part body, consisting of a head, a thorax with six legs, and an abdomen.
Flying insects come equipped with either one to two sets of wings which are attached to their thorax.
Flying insects can be unwelcome in the human environment for a number of reasons:
Ants are generally more of a nuisance than a danger, though some species do bite and sting. Most species of ant swarm during a short breeding season, triggered by temperature rise in spring or rains.
The nest produces large numbers of winged male and female ‘reproductives’ that swarm to pair up and breed.
This rarely causes a problem as they rapidly disappear and are easy to clear up if they appear indoors. In the US, however, carpenter ants can damage wooden structures and foam insulation.
Bees are generally regarded as beneficial insects because of their role in pollinating food and horticultural crops. Unlike wasps and hornets they do not forage for human food, only visiting flowers for nectar and pollen. Female worker bees only sting as a defense mechanism and is triggered when they feel threatened.
When social bees build their nests near or in homes and other buildings, however, then they will need controlling. Africanised honey bees are more aggressive than the European strains so need very careful handling. Rentokil can provide a professional service to remove bee nests safely.
A bee sting is painful, especially for children, and in some cases produces a serious allergic reaction — the toxin is different from wasps. Bees also leave their stinger in the skin, so it will need to be removed.
House flies, blow flies and flesh flies visit sites contaminated with faeces and other filth to feed and breed, picking up organisms that cause disease and carrying it to food and surfaces in homes and businesses. They are both a nuisance and a health risk, which for businesses can mean economic and reputational loss and litigation.
Other species of fly, such as horse flies, and known for their biting habits, as well as midges and gnats. Biting flies generally stay near water or damp places. The highland midge is a nuisance in many rural areas across the northern hemisphere, producing an irritating bite. Blackflies, sandflies and horse flies, however, bite and can also transmit diseases.
Mosquito bites can produce itching, pain and swelling around the bite for several days. Generally it is the female mosquitoes which require a blood meal to survive, seeking animals and humans to feed on.
A relatively small number of mosquitoes also transmit pathogenic viruses, bacteria and parasites that can produce serious illness in humans such as malaria and dengue fever. These diseases mainly affect poor areas in developing countries or remote rural areas, but some such as Dengue are rapidly spreading worldwide in urban areas.
The larvae of several moth species feed on products of animal origin including wool, silk, animal hair, leather and feathers. They can damage products such as clothing, carpets, upholstered furniture and tapestries. They feed on the protein keratin that is found in animal products. The adult moths will fly to find new sites to lay their eggs.
A wide variety of insect species can infest food from the field to the consumer in every stage of the process. They reduce the quantity of saleable goods, causing economic losses to farmers and businesses. This causes reputational damage by affecting the quality of goods. Flying insects that affect stored food include weevils and other beetles (which have thousands of species), moths? and fruit flies.
Termite colonies produce ‘reproductives’ that are temporarily winged during a short breeding season, and are often mistaken for both white ants and flying ants. Termite swarms usually appear at the start of a rainy season (early spring) when there is less risk of them dehydrating out of the nest.
The male and female reproductives, also known as alates, leave the colony and fly in swarms to find a mate. They pair up and drop to the ground, losing their wings in the process and crawl to find a suitable location to start a new colony. Large numbers of flying termites can invade gardens and inside buildings, attracted by lights at night.
Learn about the specific areas of your home you should check for termites
Find out why your home is a prime location for termite activity
Wasps and hornets are seen as a threat because of their painful stings, which some individuals are severely allergic to.
Wasps and hornets only sting to defend themselves. However wasps are far more aggressive than hornets and require very little disturbance to initiate an attack.
Wasps and hornets are actually beneficial for gardens and food crops, preying on many pest insects to feed their larvae.
When wasps or hornets build their nests near or in homes and other buildings they run the risk of disrupting the everyday occurance of humans by foraging for food around food preparation and eating places.
Find out how to remove a wasp or hornets nest from your property
Learn how to prevent wasps and hornets from entering your home
Find out more information on crawling insects such as cockroaches and spiders