Winged Ants or Termites? How to Tell Them Apart

It’s spring, which means winged ants and termites are searching for new homes. Here’s how to tell them apart and keep them away from your house.

Recent record high temperatures have termites and ants swarming outside — and inside for some unfortunate home owners.

Seeing a swarm of flying insects emerge from walls of your home, foundation, or crawl space is horrifying, but it’s lucky, too. If you don’t see the swarm, you might not detect termites until much later.

Swarming is the insect equivalent of speed dating and house hunting. Ants and termites grow wings, fly out of the nest, hook up, lose their wings, and then settle in a new colony.

To tell ants and termites apart, catch a couple without squishing them and look for these three clues:

  • Ants have a nipped-in waist; termites have a straight waist.
  • Ants have bent antennae; termites have straight antennae.
  • Both insects have two sets of wings. Ants’ front wings are longer than their back wings; all four termite wings are the same size.

You can vacuum insects that swarm inside your house. Outside, try to figure out where they’re coming from. Termites emerging from a dead stump in the yard are less of a concern than termites coming from your siding, or fire ants living anywhere in your yard.

To keep termites, ants, and other insects from damaging your home, follow these 6 tips:

1. Don’t give them water to drink. Immediately fix leaks in the roof or pipes.

2. Don’t entice them to move in. Termites like dead wood, so don’t store firewood near the house and leave a gap between mulch or plantings and your foundation as well as between the soil and your siding.

3. Storing wooden items in the crawl space is like setting out a termite buffet.

4. Ventilate crawl spaces to keep the moisture level down.

5. Use downspouts to direct water away from your home.

6. Seal leaks such as cracks and spaces around pipes, vents, and any other holes in your home.