How to Get Rid of Flying Ants

Everything You Need to Know About Flying Ants

Most people think of ants only as creatures walking or crawling on the ground and don’t necessarily think of ants flying, but there are some species of ants that nature has endowed with the power of flight. Most ants do not have wings, but some ants within a colony leave to mate and start new colonies. Ants who perform this role have wings and are called flying ants, alates or swarming ants. These winged ants are most commonly seen during mating periods when they fly together in swarms to their mating sites.

Ants live in colonies that vary in size from a few hundred individual ants to several million ants in very large multi-layered structures. Ants are extremely organized and all colonies have distinct castes: queen ants, fertile male ants and female worker ants. Queen ants lay eggs to create more ants. The ants you most commonly see are worker ants searching for food sources and taking food back to the colony. Some larger colonies have a soldier ant caste. It’s rare to find an individual ant, winged or wingless, unless there is a colony nearby.

During the warmest months of the year, winged ants leave the colony to mate and establish new colonies. After mating, male winged ants die and females search for a location to build a new colony. If they are successful and find a location, they shed their wings and establish a new ant colony, becoming the queen ants of that new colony.

 

Why Flying Ants Exist

Flying AntsWithin an ant colony, flying ants exist exclusively to reproduce and provide more ants for the colony. Flying ants are created by the queen ant(s) of the colony and stay inside of the colony until they reach sexual maturity. Worker ants forge for food to provide for flying ants, allowing flying ants to exclusively mate and expand the colony.

Winged ants can be both male and female, and the females are larger than the males. The only time you are likely to see flying ants in the air is during a “nuptial flight” or “swarm” – the time flying ants leave the colony to mate. Winged ants are sometimes called “swarmers” because of this. Both male and female swarmers leave the colony at the same time to increase the likelihood of finding a mate. Winged ants mate in elevated locations such as chimneys, truck beds, trees, shrubbery and on roofs. A single swarm can last anywhere from one day to several weeks.

 

When Do Flying Ants Leave the Colony?

Flying ants can only leave the colony to swarm at certain times of the year when there is bright sunlight, warm temperatures and high humidity. Because of this, you are usually only likely to see winged ants during the spring and summer.

 

What Happens to Flying Ants After They Mate?

Winged AntsAfter mating, male flying ants simply die. Their one and only purpose is to mate. Once they have mated, they are no longer needed by the colony. Once a female ant has been fertilized, she flies in search of an appropriate nesting site to begin colonizing. Once a suitable location is found, the female’s wings break off as she no longer has any need of them. She is now the queen ant of a new colony, and begins to lay eggs to create worker ants and new flying ants.

Some species of ants build colonies underground, while others prefer dead tree stumps, fallen trees or concrete. This is where flying ants can present a problem – they might choose your home or garden to colonize! Ants can become a serious pest if you have an ant colony on your property. There are a number of different ant traps and baits you can use to attack the queen(s) of the colony if you find swarming ants in or around your home.

Black Ant on LeafSeeing swarming ants around the outside of your house doesn’t necessarily indicate that you will have an ant colony there in the future. Many of the female flying ants are unable to start a new colony for various reasons, including being unable to find an appropriate site, being attacked by natural predators and the wrong temperature and humidity conditions. If you find swarmers inside your house, the chances are very high that there is an existing colony somewhere nearby. If this is the case, you will probably need to hire a professional exterminator to remove the colony for you.

 

Are Flying Ants Dangerous?

Winged Red AntsNobody enjoys being pestered by flying insects, but winged ants are generally harmless to humans. Flying ants exist only to mate and rarely attack other creatures or cause any property damage. However, if you observe swarming ants it’s likely there is a colony nearby, which means worker ants will be searching for food and water sources. This can be a nuisance if they are inside your home or in your garden.

Some species of ants such as bull ants, fire ants (AKA red ants) and carpenter ants sting or bite attackers, and flying ants of these species are no exception. If the crawling ants of an ant species stings, the flying ants of that species also sting. Some species of ants (most notably fire ants) have a venomous sting. For most people, fire ant stings are painful and irritating but usually don’t present a serious danger unless they become infected by scratching the sting, which can scar the tissue. Some individuals have a severe allergic reaction to the venom in fire ant stings, which can cause chest pains, dizziness, breathlessness, swelling and can in some cases can be fatal without immediate emergency treatment.

Because they are primarily preoccupied with finding a mate, flying ants rarely bite humans while flying. It’s far more likely that a crawling ant will bite you if you disturb it than a flying ant.

 

Do Flying Ants Cause Property Damage?

Ants, unlike termites, do not cause property damage in most cases. Even carpenter ants, despite their name, do not eat wood or building materials as termites do.

 

What Are the Differences Between Flying Ants and Termites?

Winged ants and termites can appear very similar causing many people to think that flying ants are termites. Also, many people think flying ants are termites because they weren’t aware that there are species of ants that can fly. To make the distinction even more complicated, termites are often called “white ants”, even though they are not ants.

 

Flying Ants

Termites

Front wings longer than back wings Both wings are equal length
Wings are black or brown in color Wings are clear in color
Antennae are angled Antennae are straight
Abdomen larger than thorax  Body is wide and straight

 

Both ants and termites live in large colonies. Termites build colonies in fallen trees, tree stumps, walls and buildings, and some species of ants also create colonies in these environments. Ants have a diverse diet, eating other insects, seeds, food and trash outside and inside homes, and any other food sources they can find. Termites can only consume on the cellulose found in wood, cardboard and other construction materials.

How to Get Rid of AntsTermites also live far longer than most ants. Termites can live for 2 or more years, and queen termites can live for 10 years or longer. Worker ants rarely live longer 5-6 months and queen ants rarely live longer than 2-3 years. Both ants and termites reproduce during the spring and summer, and you can find winged swarmer ants and termites mating and starting new colonies during this time of the year.

Termites usually cause much more damage to property than flying ants, and you definitely want to make sure any flying ants you see are actually ants and not termites. Termites can quite literally eat away your home from the inside out (see our article on termite treatment methods if you need information on how to remove termites).

 

How to Get Rid of Ants

Amdro Ant Block Home Perimeter Ant Bait Granules 24ozIt can be alarming to find groups of ants in your house, and oftentimes they can be difficult to get rid of. It’s much more common to find flying ants in the spring and summer, although they can turn up at any time of the year.

If you just see one or two winged ants then that doesn’t necessarily mean there is a colony nearby, although it is still possible. However, if you find several winged ants or a swarm, the chances are very high that there is a colony close by. If there is an ant colony near your home or in your garden, you definitely want to take steps to remove it straight away.

The first step is to inspect your entire home to find out where the ants are currently and where they are coming from. Ants are experts at finding entry points under floorboards, in roof rafters, window sills, plumbing and by sinks. It’s common to find ants in bathrooms, garages, basements and kitchens. Essentially, ants are looking for food sources, so make sure you don’t leave food out in the kitchen and keep all trash covered.

 

Using Baits and Traps

TERRO T300 Liquid Ant BaitsAnt baits can be a very effective way of getting rid of ants. You simply place the bait somewhere in the ants’ trail, ideally close to where they have gained access to the house. Baits come in liquid bottles which you can place on small tear-off pieces of cardboard, and also as pre-baited plastic structures which you just place on the ground and leave. The worker ants then take this bait back to the colony which they feed to the queen(s) and thereby eliminating the colony, and ants are usually gone from that location in 24-48 hours.

Once you have eliminated the ants using this method, seal off their entry point using silicone caulk to prevent any future ants from entering the house in the same way.

 

 

Carpenter Ant Baits

Carpenter Ant Control Kit, Carpenter Ant GelMost ants can be removed with common ant removal products, including so-called “natural” ant killers. However, sometimes in can be difficult or even impossible to get rid of ants using just consumer ant killers. If standard ant removal products are unsuccessful, you can try using commercial-grade aerosols or pesticides. These are the same materials that professional pest removal companies use to exterminate pests, and have a much higher success rate that most consumer products. These products are usually very strong and can be dangerous, requiring special care and equipment when handling them. Before using any chemicals, be sure to do your research so you know exactly what you are handling, how to safely use and dispose of it, and its potential health hazards.

If you are unsuccessful in your attempts to remove ants from you home or just want to let the pros handle the work, you can hire a professional pest removal company. Professional pest control companies can be expensive, but it is usually more than worth the cost to have an experience expert handle the work for you.

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