Termite Swarmers vs. Ant Swarmers

We received a great question on the AmeriGuard Pest Defense Facebook page recently regarding winged ants. This article will explore the difference between termite swarmers vs. ant swarmers. People often confuse termite with ants because they appear similar and both winged forms swarm during the same times of year.

Termite and ant colonies are matriarchal societies dominated by a queen who is responsible for mating and laying eggs. Both termite and ant colonies produce winged reproductives, also referred to as swarmers,  that leave the nest to establish new termite and ant colonies after a mating flight. Both termites and ants share the division of labor between specialized members of the colony or caste. The three basic castes include: reproductives, workers and soldiers.

Termite Swarmers

Winged termites belong to the reproductive caste and emerge from a mature termite colony following seasonal weather patterns. Temperature, moisture, light, wind and pressure all influence the timing of the nuptial flight. Winged termites are not great fliers and rely on wind currents to carry them through the air. Once termite swarmers leave the nest they encounter many hazards, including other predators and unfavorable weather elements, among other conditions. The number of swarmers produced in any given colony depends on the age and size of the nest.

After landing, the reproductive termites shed their wings and go in search of a mate. The female reproductive termite sends out a pheromone to attract a male. Once a nesting site is selected, the pair mate and establish themselves as queen and king of the new termite colony and remain either underground or in the wood the rest of their lives. Unlike ants, the male reproductive termite continues to mate with the queen throughout their lives and contributes to the colony.

Ant Swarmers

Ants have three basic castes, including: queen, males and workers. Not all ant species produce a reproductive caste – for example, Pharoah ants and argentine ants do not produce swarmers. Winged male ants leave an established colony in search of winged female ants to fertilize and create a new ant colony. Some ant colonies,  have only one fertilized queen while other ant species leave with a few workers and 1-2 queens. The nuptial (mating) flight usually occurs in optimal environmental conditions after a period of warm weather and humidity. Female and male ant swarmers release pheremones to attract a mate once they have landed at the mating site. The winged male reproductives die after mating.

Ant vs. Termite
Termite Swarmers vs. Ant Swarmers

 

Winged Ants

  • Elbowed antennae
  • Narrow, segmented waist
  • Wings are different sizes

Winged Termites

  • Straight antennae
  • Thick, cigar-shaped waist
  • Wings of same size

Although ants and termites have similarities, there are also differences that separate the two insect species. It is important to identify the differences to determine if you need a termite inspection or termite treatment OR an ant service. An ant control service may be approached differently depending on whether the structure is infested with argentine ants or carpenter ants, which excavate wood to build their nest.