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Why Do Flying Ants and Termites Often Appear at Night?

October 31, 2021
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Flying ants and winged termites are a sight that no homeowner wants to see in their homes. These two destructive pests are known to cause extensive damage that can amount to thousands of dollars in repairs. Now if you have an active ant or termite infestation, you might be wondering why they only appear at certain times of the day, specifically when it’s dark out. They might even appear in swarms and frighten your family in turn. 

So what exactly is the reason for the swarming activity of ants and termites at night? Swarms of winged carpenter ants and termites often come out at night because of the high humidity levels as well as attraction to sources of light. Both flying termites and winged ants like to swarm in huge groups because they’re  searching for food, or pairing off with a new partner to establish a new colony. 

The Reason Why Ants and Termites Like to Swarm at Night 

One thing that sets ants and termites apart from other household pests is that they’re social insects. This means that they thrive in living together with large groups, and ant colonies or termite nests can house up to thousands or hundreds of individual members. 

To have a better understanding of where swarming ants and termites come from, you have to understand that these insects follow a very specific caste system or hierarchy in their colonies. They’re divided into three general groups: workers who are tasked with hunting for food; soldiers who are responsible for protecting the queen and the entire colony from predators; and male and female reproductives who will lead the swarm when it’s time to leave the colony.

It’s the group of reproductive ants and termites that have wings and when swarming season comes around, they will depart from their colony to mate and create a new nest. Ant and termite swarmers are most widespread during evenings. You’ll most likely see them in a huge huddle flying around a streetlight or near lights in your backyard or porch. 

The warm and humid temperature at night is highly favorable for these winged ants and flying termites. It’s also said that a swarm is more likely to happen after a heavy rain during summer months. Ants and subterranean termites that live underground will fly to look for a dry shelter after the rain. 

Once the reproductive swarmers have successfully paired off, they’ll look for a new location where they will build their colonies. So if you see an ongoing swarm outside your homes, it’s best to turn off any light source to avoid attracting them inside. You should also make sure that all windows are tightly shut and any potential entry points are blocked to keep them from swarming into your home. 

The Differences Between Flying Termites and Flying Ants  

Plague of ants through a glass

​​From afar, it can seem that flying termites and flying ants have similar appearances and characteristics. But if you observe closely, there are quite a number of differences when it comes to their bodies, habitat, and diet.  It’s important to know the difference between the two to help determine the appropriate method of pest control. 

Flying Termites  

A termite swarmer can differ in color according to their specific termite species but in general, they have a straight antenna on the top of their head. They have a broad and thick waist and their body shape is typically uniform in width. A female or male termite swarmer can measure around 6 mm to 12 mm in length. They also have a unique set of wings that can appear white or almost translucent in color. 

Some species of termite may also have distinct markings or patterns on their wings. For a Formosan termite and Eastern subterranean termite swarmer, their wings can have two peculiar vein outlines while drywood termites will have three or more. Termite wings are also equal in size and length and they come in two pairs. 

Termites are usually attracted to environments with moist conditions and their population can be typically found near piles of wood debris, tree stumps, lumber, trees, garden mulch, and wooden structures. Their diet consists of cellulose and they prefer to feed on furniture, dead wood, paper, and other cellulose-based material. 

Flying Ants

On the other hand, you can identify a carpenter ant swarmer with their uniquely bent pair of antennae. They also have a thin body and a pinched waist which clearly separates their abdomen and thorax. Flying ant swarmers also have two sets of wings but compared to the wings of termites, theirs have different lengths. The front portion of the ant wings is usually longer than the ones in their back. 

Flying ants are also considerably bigger than flying termites. The size of the body of the ant swarmer can range from 13 mm to 17 mm in length. Ants are adaptable insects and they can survive both in the underground or inside trees when outdoors. Meanwhile, you can find their satellite nests or ant colonies inside wall voids, behind cupboards, countertops, or in any wood structure. 

Unlike termite insects, ants are not particular with their diet and can eat almost anything. They’re omnivorous types, feeding on sugars, sweet snacks, pet food, grease, meat, leftover food debris, and even dead insects. 

Common Signs of Ants and Termites Infestation at Home 

A professional pest control company can help determine whether you have an ant infestation or termite infestation at home. For starters, here are the common telltale signs of carpenter ant infestation: 

  • Actual sighting of ants inside your home - One of the visible signs of ant problem is when you see large clusters of ants roaming surfaces and walls in your home. 
  • Ant trails or pathways - When ants are traveling in search of food, they often leave behind a pheromone trail which can help direct other ants to their food source. These trails can be seen along cracks, gaps, or on the floor, and it’s very obvious to catch them walking in a straight line. 
  • Piles of dirt or soil - If you’re wondering what is the heap of dirt or mounds of soil that you’re seeing outside your yard or garden, it’s most likely an ant nest. It’s important not to step or disturb this nest site or else the ants will become aggressive. Usually, it’s the fire ants species that love to build their mounds outside. 

Meanwhile, the signs of termite infestation are the following: 

  • Presence of mud tubes - These can be found along basement walls and foundation surfaces of your home. 
  • Termite droppings or frass - These are the small, fine pellets or wood shavings that termites like to push out of their tunnels after feeding on the wood. 
  • Hollow-sounding wood - Another obvious sign of termite infestation is when the walls or wood structure you have in your home produce a hollow sound. Dampwood termites are notorious for making these sounds. 
  • Noises inside the walls - When termites are hitting their heads on the walls or currently chewing the wood, you can hear a rattling or vibration sound. 
  • Discarded wings - When flying termites land on the ground, they will shed their wings from their body. Usually, you can find this clutter of discarded termite wings on surfaces like window sills, corners, baseboards, crawl spaces, and on the ground. 

What You Need to Do if You Have Swarming Ants and Termites 

There’s no telling when flying ants and termite swarmers can come attack your home. So before an active infestation happens, here are some best prevention practices that can help keep ants and termites from swarming indoors: 

  • Secure and seal all holes, cracks, and gaps where termites and ants could potentially enter from the outside. 
  • Avoid leaving any leftover food unattended on the table to prevent  attracting ants. 
  • Get rid of excess moisture and keep indoor spaces dry. Termites are attracted to moisture, so if there are any leaks in your roofs, pipes, or under the sink, be sure to fix these issues. 
  • Remove termite attractants such as wood piles, stacks of firewood, and tree logs away from your home. 
  • Schedule an annual termite inspection to detect early signs of termite ant activity and prevent costly damage and repairs. 

Keep Flying Ants and Termites From Your Home With Help From Positive Pest Management  

Find the best termite and ant elimination methods and services with Positive Pest Management. We have an experienced team of pest control technicians who can quickly and effectively exterminate your pest problems for good. 

Our services include pest control extermination, safe application of pesticides, thorough home inspections, and more. We offer a customized and comprehensive treatment plan for all kinds of pests including bed bugs, roaches, fleas, mites, and moths. To learn more about our pest treatment solutions, call us now for a free quote or book an initial inspection.

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