Flying Termites vs. Ants: What’s the Difference?

February 23, 2021by

Spring brings warmer weather, blooming gardens, and swarms of flying carpenter ants. Or are they termites? It’s hard to tell exactly what kind of pest is flying around your yard or in your home, but understanding the difference is critical to preventing further damage. 

That’s because if you see a swarm of ants or termites, you can bet there’s a pretty sizable nest somewhere nearby. When it comes to termites vs. ants, making the right call when identifying these destructive home invaders makes all the difference regarding professional termite or ant treatments.

Flying Termites v Flying Ants

Flying Ants vs. Termites

If you see flying ants or termites, the colony likely isn’t too far away. A termite colony, or multiple colonies, is nestled somewhere nearby, and it’s probably been there for quite a while. The same applies to carpenter ant colonies. Just like termites, when ants swarm, it means their colonies have grown too large and they need to build a new nest. The queen of the new colony finds the best spot to create a new nest and settles in with her mate. 

The most important difference between carpenter ants vs. termites is the amount of damage these two pests can cause. Consider that the ants are just living in your home, while termites are literally eating it! When it comes to the structural integrity of your home, knowing whether you have flying ants or termites is so important. 

To tell the difference between flying ants and termites, you’ll need a specimen. Find a swarmer who didn’t make it and give it a careful examination to determine if you have termites or ants. Here are a few tips on how to identify winged ants vs. termite swarmers:

Flying Termites

  • Swarming termites are tan, dark brown, or black, and about 8 mm long. 
  • They have straight antennae and unsegmented bodies.
  • Their wings are of equal length, about twice the length of their body.
  • Termite wings are a pale, cloudy shade with veins running throughout.

Flying Ants 

  • Flying ants are dark red and up to 18 mm long.
  • They have angled antennae and segmented bodies with a pinched waist.
  • Their wings are shorter and proportionate to their bodies, and the hind wings are shorter than the forewings.
  • Ant wings are transparent with few veins.

Since the conditions for swarming have to be just right and happen only at certain times, flying termites and ants can easily go undetected. But swarming termites and ants aren’t the only signs of an infestation. There’s the destruction the colonies cause as they grow and multiply. 

Termites vs. Ants: Signs of Damage and Infestation

Many termite species nest in soil instead of wood, but can easily attack your home and cause destruction for years. Subterranean termites are some of the most destructive termite species, so knowing the early signs of damage and infestation is critical. 

Here are some of the most obvious signs of termites: 

  • Mud tubes are the most common sign you have a termite problem. The termites that eat the wood in your home build these tunnels to get back and forth from the nest. Termite mud tubes are most visible when they are on concrete foundations or piers beneath a crawl space. 
  • Termite infestations cause damage that results in blisters or bubbling on drywall, hardwood floors, and other areas where wood is available. Because termites stay out of sight traveling along their tunnels and the galleries they chew in your framing, termite infestations can remain undetected for years.
  • If you suspect damage behind a wall, baseboard, or other surfaces, tap the spot lightly and listen for a hollow sound. Once exposed, you’ll see that the galleries have a rough finish and will often have bits of mud throughout. 

Ants don’t need tunnels to get to your home because they’re already living there—and they do their fair share of damage. Even though carpenter ants don’t eat wood, they can cause extensive damage by building their nests. 

Here are a few signs you may have an ant infestation:

  • Fortunately, carpenter ants are much easier to spot because they aren’t reclusive like termites and scurry around in the open. So one of the most common signs of an ant infestation in your home is seeing one of the ants. The workers responsible for construction are black, or black and red, and can be up ½ inch long. 
  • Carpenter ant damage can be easier to spot than the damage caused by termites. Because ants aren’t eating the wood as they tunnel, they have to have a way to get rid of their construction debris. This debris, known as frass, is pushed out of holes and creates small piles that look like sawdust. 
  • If you see holes that are frayed around the edges or dashes and dots cut into wood along with frass nearby, you probably have an established colony living in your home. Once you expose the galleries, you’ll find them to be uniform, smooth, and much tidier than termite galleries. 


Now that you know how to tell the difference between ants and termites, contact Hi-Tech Termite Control for a free termite inspection. We proudly provide service throughout Southern California, including Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County.