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Why Some Carpenter Ants Have Wings, and Other Flying Ant-Related Questions

When you think of the prototypical ant anatomy, it’s a pretty standard appearance – dark coloured, small, crawly, with a proclivity for ruining picnics.

carpenter ants with wings carpenter ant

Not all ants fit that stereotype. If you can believe it, they can be even more dreadful and nightmarish. Anyone that watched Marvel’s Ant-Man would have seen those outrageous flying ants. Now stuff you see in movies should be taken with a grain of salt, but the movie makers got that trait right: some ants do have wings, and they can indeed fly.

While ants with wings are seemingly rare, they’re more common than you’d think at certain times of the year.

Are these winged ants a more resilient pest compared to their grounded brethren? What’s the difference between carpenter ants with wings, and those without them? Will flying ants attack your face, rather than nibbling at your ankles?

We’ll answer all of those buzzing questions about flying ants and more below.

Why Are There Some Ants with Wings, and Some Without Them?

This is probably the reason you’re here: what’s the deal with winged ants? Why are some blessed with the gift of flight?

The answer isn’t some strange genetic mutation, but a rather simple one. Flying ants are just ants that are sexually mature, and are in mating season.

These winged ants are the only ones in the colony with the ability to reproduce, offspring of the colony’s queen and fed and nurtured by the worker ants. Ants of similar species will emerge from their colony at roughly the same time to find their partner, triggered by temperature or fresh rainfalls. When the ant colony is ready to expand, these pests take flight, with one goal in mind: mating.

Referred to as a ‘nuptial flight’, this is when they tend to fly in mass numbers on their pursuit for love, hence the shorthand ‘swarmers’. Swarming keeps predators away, thanks to the – appearance – of strength in numbers.

The exodus of the mating colony only happens for a few days a year. It gets so hectic and widespread in some countries, like Britain, that there’s actually a ‘Flying Ant Day’, thanks to the abundant frenzy of mid-air mating.

Are Carpenter Ants with Wings Indicative of a Bigger Problem?

Thankfully we don’t experience anything like Britain’s Flying Ant Day; carpenter ants with wings are the most common aerial ants we’ll encounter. Seeing them outside in the summer around your home isn’t something you should usually concern yourself with. They’re likely on the prowl for a mate, and will be narrow-mindedly focusing on that task.

Carpenter ants with wings that you see in your home, however, are a problem. Now, the sight of carpenter ants in your home at any time is a cause for concern, but the winged version foreshadows a critical issue.

Winged ants are one of the first indications of an indoor infestation. This is especially true in the winter, as ants are not active during that season. Therefore, any ant activity in the cold season signals a strong likelihood there’s a carpenter ant nest lurking somewhere in the structures of your home, requiring some form of carpenter ant control. Carpenter ants with wings that you see flying around your home in the summer may have flown in through an open window, but don’t discount the possibility of a nest.

Are Winged Ants More Aggressive?

Despite ants with wings being in heat, and traveling in intimidating mobs, they aren’t any more aggressive than your typical grounded ants.

Having said that, if the non-flying ant variant of a species bites or stings, so will their winged counterpart. So carpenter ants, which are known to bite and annoy, will also bite and attack in aerial assaults.

They’ll only bite if they feel threatened, but that can be said for any type of ant that’s in danger. Remember these ants are more lovers than fighters – at least, in those few days of nuptial flight – so they’ll likely be more occupied attracting a mate than attacking you.

Are Swarms of Flying Ants a Sign of an Ant Infestation?

Flying ant swarms outside your home may not mean there’s an infestation close by. They’re simply trying to mate and start a new colony, which is dependent on factors like location, weather, predators, and luck. That means the nests aren’t necessarily close to your home, as they may’ve flown a fair distance to cross paths with you.

To play it safe, seal any entry points to your home if you notice ant swarms buzzing nearby.

Seeing a swarm in your home is a pretty clear sign you’ve got trouble, and should contact a professional pest company asap.

Why Are These Flying Ants Light in Colour?

Ants are usually dark in colour. If you see flying ants that are light…those might be termites.

Many people mistake termites with wings for ants with wings. They look somewhat similar, but if you look closely (hopefully you don’t need to get too up close and personal), there are some noticeable differences. Besides the difference in shades, flying ants consist of three sections – head, thorax, and abdomen – while termites are only comprised of a head and thorax.

Confusing the two flying insects can lead to major complications. For example, you may be more relaxed about dealing with your alleged flying ant problem – how harmless can they be? If they end up being termites in your home, you’re giving them extra time to go to work on the structural wood of your house. We don’t think we need to detail the destruction a termite colony can do to a home.

Regardless if the ants have wings or not, seeing them in your home isn’t a good sign in any sense. While seeing a swarm outside may not be indicative of an ant infestation to be concerned with, any sort of winged ants in house likely means you’ve got a problem on your hands.

For efficient carpenter ant control, contact Magical Pest’s Ant Removal Division at 905-738-6676.

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