Whether it’s in your kitchen, garage, or back porch- it’s always a nasty surprise to discover that several flying ants suddenly appeared. Due to their life cycle, all of the of-age ants prepared to mate and move will appear all at once, winged and ready to find a suitable place for their new colony.
Though the circle of ant life is beautiful and fascinating, it might not feel that way when you see them crawling around in your home. It’s okay to initially feel a bit unsettled and worried about the possibility of infestation. In this article, we’ll briefly go over how to identify these flying ants and why exactly they come about in such large quantities. We’ll also relay a bit of advice regarding how to get these bugs out of your home.
Identifying Flying Ants
To begin, we should learn a bit more about flying ants and how to identify them. Essentially, flying ants are ants of various species that have matured to the age of reproduction. Ants are creatures that have a variety of shapes, sizes, and jobs within their colony. Swarmers, the formal name for the winged ant’s function, are present in nearly every colony. A flying ant is also known as an “alate.”
It’s important to take note of the flying ants’ features, as they might risk being confused for another invasive inset like a termite. Though these two insects have some similarities, it’s actually quite easy to identify them from one another due to a few of the distinctions flying ants possess.
Flying ants, for example, have bodies that are very segmented. Their torsos are pinched, visually separating them from the other parts of the ant’s body. Ants also have antennae that are elbowed or bent, while most other household insects have straight antennae. The last distinguishing characteristic that flying ants share is their wing shape and size. You see, the wings of a flying ant extend out past their bodies. They have two sets of wings, frontal and hind, and their hind wings are notably smaller than their frontal wings.
Should You Worry About Flying Ants?
The good news about your unwelcome guests is that, generally, they’re harmless. When flying ants suddenly appear in your home, you shouldn’t need to panic about any structural harm or potential injury. At the end of the day, they are simply ants and thus have little impact on surrounding humans. Granted, there are a few exceptions to this rule.
If the kind of ant you’re seeing is large and black, then it could be a carpenter ant. These ants love to build their homes in wood, and if you have a wood-frame house, there could be nest-building happening in important structural areas of your home. If this is the case, consider contacting a pest control professional to help you assess the situation.
Why Flying Ants Suddenly Appear
Now that you’ve been able to identify these flying ants, it’s time to break down the factors that cause them to appear. There are multiple reasons as to why these ants may have shown up, but here they are broken down into three groups.
1. It’s Time to Mate
When you first notice these groups of ants arriving, take note of the time of year. The primary reason these ants emerge is because it’s mating season, which typically falls in the summertime. The reason the ants grow wings is to take part in something called nuptial flight. After this flight has been completed, the male ants will typically die, while the female ants shed their wings and begin their search for somewhere to establish a new colony.
Since the male ants die so quickly after the mating process, they are hasty to find their partners and move en masse. They release pheromones to attract one another, which leaves them concentrated in certain areas. While this is typically no issue outside of the home, with nowhere else to turn, it might be a concern that these ants will choose somewhere within your residence to create the new colony.
2. The Environment is in Their Favor
The primary purpose of the mating ritual is to find a new place to establish a colony. There are certain criteria that make some areas more appealing to them. One of these things is food availability, as well as proximity to other colonies. If your home has plenty of crumbs lying about, this might make it a good spot for the ants to consider settling down. Especially considering that, at least usually, there are no competitive colonies or nearby predators in your home for the ants to worry about.
During the ant’s mating season, they also become incredibly attracted to bright lights. These sources of artificial light could be a factor that makes your home so appealing to the ants. If this is the case, you’ll likely see the ants gathered near windows or light fixtures.
A reason for concern would be, above all else, the presence of these ants during the winter. Since their wings only emerge when it’s mating season, they must be living within your residence. The conditions required for these insects to mate are warm, humid environments. And, during winter, this is not something they would be able to experience outdoors.
3. That’s Their Way of Survival
You might be stuck on the sheer number of these flying ants that can suddenly appear, and that is understandable. But, you should know that there is a specific reason why their mating is done in such a swift way. There is safety in numbers, and ants have adapted to this mass breeding because large quantities can act as a deterrent for predators.
Potential predators, like birds, can often see the sheer number of ants and get overwhelmed. This gives the ants enough time to escape and get their mating accomplished without incident. Even in the instance that some of the ants are eaten during their attempts to mate, a large release means that at least some members of the colony will be successful in their efforts.
Getting Rid of Flying Ants in Your Home
Our last section is going to cover response. Even when you know that flying ants suddenly appeared, and you understand the conditions that led them to engage in this process of mass mating, you probably still don’t want them to stick around your home. This is perfectly understandable, and there are some ways to get rid of flying ants and ensure your home is less susceptible to these bugs in the future.
To prevent these guys from getting into your home in the first place, it’s important to seal any possible entryways. Take a look around your home and see if there are any cracks or gaps that you might not have noticed before. Seal these up to create a barrier for your house. Also, though this is quite general, try to keep a clean and neat home. If there are any messes that could attract ants, make sure those get cleaned as soon as possible. In particular, ants really enjoy sweet and salty foods. Flying ants are highly attracted to anything that might be a potential food source, though. Eliminate these before they take notice.
If you’re certain that there is an infestation, there are a few things you could do to get rid of the ants. There are plenty of non-chemical ways to eliminate these ants without potentially harming any humans or pets in the home. If all else fails, though, it’s best to contact a pest professional. Find someone credible within your area and have them come in for a brief inspection.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Denis Vesely/Shutterstock.com
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.