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Are They Flying Ants or Termite Swarmers?

What Am I Seeing?

Now that spring and the warmth it brings is here, a host of bugs are starting to return. After a few warm days and a good rain, you may start to see some swarms of winged insects in your yard. On one hand these could be flying ants or they could be termite swarmers. One of them is a mild nuisance and the other can cause catastrophic property damage. So the real question will be, which one are you seeing?

Distinguishing between flying ants and swarming termites is crucial when determining what to do. While both will exhibit similar behaviors, there are some distinguishing characteristics that can be used to help identify them. The physical differences between the two will be the best way to identify which one is which. 

Flying Ants

The most common flying ants in South Carolina are carpenter ants. Carpenter ants are larger ants that range from 1/4th in to 3/4th in. They can also be black, red, or a combination of both. There are three things to look for when determining if it is an ant or termite. The antennas, wings, and waists will be the primary points of interest. An ant will have a sharp elbow antenna, and a slender segmented waist. While there are two wings on flying ants, they will be of an unequal length. If all of these are present, what you’re seeing is a flying ant and not a termite. 

Termite Swarmer

There are a number of types of termites across South Carolina, and all types of them have a swarmer stage with wings. Thankfully, their physical bodies are noticeably different then ants. The primary points to look at are the antenna, waist, and wings. A termite swarmer’s antenna will be straight and rounded without the sharp bent of an elbow antenna. They will also have a segmented body like ants, but the termite’s body will be consistent in size with a broad waist. Termite swarmers will also have two wings, but they will be equal in length and size unlike the inconsistent wing size of flying ants. While these differences can sound small, these are the best and most consistent ways to tell if you’re seeing a termite swarmer or a flying ant. 

What To Do If You Can't Tell?

If you are seeing small flying creatures in mass, it is something to check out for sure! Hopefully the above information will be helpful in identifying whether or not they’re termites. If you aren’t sure or if you want an expert opinion, we are always happy to help you identify what’s in your yard. Take the best photo you can and reach out to us. We are always happy to help with these problems! 

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