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Winged ants can seem like a strange sight, but they’re not as uncommon as you might think. You’re most likely to see a big black flying ant in late spring or early summer when they mating. Identifying winged ants is the first step in developing a plan of attack for ant control. Don’t let winged ants settle in your home, as they will quickly establish a colony, which can cause serious damage. Read on to learn what to do about winged ants.
Identifying Carpenter Ants With Wings
Image via Flickr by fotopamas
If you have big black ants with wings in your home, they’re likely carpenter ants. Carpenter ants are either dark brown, black, or black with red markings. They’re larger than many other ant species. While the worker ants are only about 6-12 mm in length, winged carpenter ants are bigger. Winged swarmers can grow up to 18 mm in length, and a queen can get up to 20 mm long.
The ant’s thorax is its upper body just below the head. A carpenter ant’s thorax is rounded. The waist is pinched and the midsection below the thorax is slimmer. Carpenter ants have bent antennae.
If you have carpenter ants living in your home, you may see other signs besides the ants themselves. Look for wood shavings. Carpenter ants do not eat the wood as they’re tunneling into the home. Rather, they excavate small tunnels and kick the wood shavings out behind them. A rustling sound in the walls is another indicator of carpenter ants. Knocking on the wall will often cause the noise inside to increase.
Carpenter Ants vs. Termites
Carpenter ants and termites are often confused with one another. It’s important to understand the difference so you can use the right pest control methods to get rid of each. Termites differ from carpenter ants in a few key ways. Termites:
- Have a straight body rather than the pinched waist of an ant.
- Are light-colored rather than dark brown or black.
- Have long wings, almost double the length of the body.
- Have wings of equal size and shape, while a carpenter ant’s hind wings are shorter than the forewings.
- Have straight antennae.
- Leave a messy nest, while carpenter ants excavate a smooth tunnel.
Both carpenter ants and termites require a quick response to keep the problem under control. It’s best to call an exterminator no matter which pest you have in the home. A professional can offer an accurate identification and effective solution.
The Meaning of Winged Black Ants
Most ants do not have wings, which is why some homeowners are confused when they see ants flying around the house. Winged ants are those that are mating. Most ants are female, and the workers are sterile. Male ants exist solely for reproductive purposes. Only males and fertile females have wings.
During mating season, winged ants take to the air for their nuptial flight. They often do this in swarms. There’s safety in numbers, and predators have a harder time eliminating a swarm of ants than they do catching a single insect. Ants usually swarm in late spring and early summer. They seek out tall structures like towers or trees in an action known as hill-topping.
If you see winged ants during a different time of the year, this is a prime indicator of an indoor infestation. Carpenter ants won’t breed in winter if they’re nesting outdoors. If you see winged ants inside, you should contact a pest control professional right away.
After mating, the winged males die. Fertilized females seek a proper nesting place to become queen and establish a new colony. Once the queen has found a nest, she will drop her wings and use them as a food source.
What to Do About Winged Black Ants
If you see a giant ant with wings in the home, it can be alarming. One big black flying ant may not be a problem, as it could be a swarmer who lost its way looking for a mate. However, any time you see more than one ant, you can be relatively sure that there’s a nest nearby.
It’s important to keep in mind that carpenter ants with wings are often queened looking for a new home. You don’t want one of these queens to select your home for her nest. Schedule a home inspection with an exterminator when you see winged black ants so you can determine where the nest is and whether the infestation is inside your house.
If you have carpenter ants in the house, it’s important to eliminate them as soon as possible. An exterminator will usually do this with a specialized bait that’s made to attract carpenter ants. The foraging ants take the bait back to the nest and share it with the rest of the colony as a food source. This is the most reliable way to get rid of ants.
Spraying ants with a topical insect killer will only kill the ants that you can see. This doesn’t get rid of the queen in the nest. She can continue to reproduce, replacing the ants that were killed outside the nest. You must get to the nest itself to take care of carpenter ants.
The Dangers of Carpenter Ants
Carpenter ants don’t eat wood, but they do destroy it. They look for wood that’s been damaged by moisture to tunnel in. This is why carpenter ants are most common in bathrooms, around porches, near gutters and drain spouts, or around your plumbing. If you have a leak or water damage in any of these areas, the wet wood can attract carpenter ants.
Carpenter ants can cause serious structural damage to your home if they’re left to continue tunneling in your wood and expanding their colony. Address carpenter ants quickly and never ignore reproducing carpenter ants with wings.
While carpenter ants are the most common type of large winged ant, there are other species that have wings when mating. Call a pest control professional for proper identification and an effective treatment plan to protect your home.