Here's What To Know If You Find Yourself Wondering Whether It's a Flying Ant or a Termite

We hope it never comes up, but we've got you covered just in case.

Flying Termites
Photo: Getty/Gigih Hardhia / EyeEm

I didn’t know flying ants existed until about three days after I found my children dropping Honey Nut Cheerios down one of our air registers. It’s wasn’t a great revelation. At first, we assumed they were termites. Panic ensued. We had termite specialists out to our house within 24 hours, and they quickly put our fears to rest. Our little (uninvited) friends were flying ants—not the lumber ravaging creatures we first suspected. If you ever find yourself in a similar creepy, crawly situation, here are a few key differences to help differentiate the two.

Flying Ant vs Termite Antennae

If you have good eyes you might be able to spot this defining feature from the get-go. A termite will have straight antennae, while those of flying ants are bent.

Flying Ant vs Termite Body Shape

Ants have a defined head, thorax, and abdomen. When you spot a termite, it will look like a little peg with a straight shape—no pinched-in waist.

Flying Ant vs Termite Wing Shape

If you’re looking at a creature with two wings, the top being longer than the bottom, then you’re looking at a flying ant. Termites will also have two sets of wings, but they’ll both be the same length.

Flying Ant vs Termite Food Sources

Wood, fabric, and even carpet can all be a part of a termite's well-balanced diet. They leave the crumbs, seeds, and plant nectar to the ants. So the sticky Cheerios (as they’re called in my house) that attracted these little flyers to begin with were quite the telltale sign. Termites wouldn’t be at all interested. But, what about the carpenter ants? They eat wood, right? Wrong. Carpenter ants make their home in decayed wood, but don’t actually eat it. They just chew it up until it has a sawdust-like consistency—yikes.

WATCH: The Best Way To Control Fire Ants

I’m happy to report that the problem has since been remedied. My family can sleep soundly knowing we are in a flying-ant-free household once more.

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