Fort Myers Pest Control: Tip 2 “How Do I Know If I Have Flying Termites or Flying Ants? ”

Fort Myers Pest Control: Tip 2 “How Do I Know If I Have Flying Termites or Flying Ants?”

This is the 2nd of 7 Tips to Prevent Termites from Eating You Out of House & Home.

Learning the difference between flying termites and flying ants during the Spring swarming season in Florida can be difficult. Often, winged ants can resemble the winged-swarming termite.

For example, BOTH termites and ants…

  • Are small with 6 legs, a head, thorax, and abdomen
  • Have species that can be tiny or big
  • Have queens who lay eggs and kings who fertilize them
  • Have a worker caste who do most of the running around and hauling
  • Have soldiers who defend the nest

Now, when it comes to species, ants far outnumber termites in the variety. There are about 4,000 species of termites, but ants have close to 14,000!

Although they have many similarities, ants and termites do have some distinctive differences. If you know these differences, it is actually quite easy to decipher flying termites from flying ants and you won’t even need a microscope.

When the bug is standing relatively still, look for these characteristics.


  • Flying termites have 2 pairs of wings that are the same size and shape, and are twice as long as their body.
  • Flying ants, however, have front wings that are larger than their hind ones and are generally no longer than their body.


  • Termites have a two-segmented body, with fairly short legs
  • Ants have a three-segmented body, narrow waist, and longer legs


  • Termites do not have a slender waist, their entire body is basically the same width around
  • Ants have “wasp waists” (meaning it is a very narrow connection between the thorax and abdomen, just like in wasps)


  • Termites have straight antennae, like a string of pearls
  • Ants’ antennae are bent like elbows and longer


  • Termites have softer bodies and are typically whitish, often almost see-through. You can usually see the food in their gut, but the flying ones are usually much darker
  • Ants have darker, more hardened skin, and are usually black, dark red, or brown

In addition to their physical differences, ants and termites also behave differently. Ants are almost always easier to find, and often live in visible holes or nests. They may also come from cracks in the concrete, and their nests are formed by removing earth from holes they dig in the ground.

Termites, however, are usually h />

They also have different eating habits. Ants feed on just about anything, from anything sweet, to leaves, vegetables, and even other bugs. Termites stick to a very strict diet of wood.

If you’re dealing with a termite infestation right now, request a free termite inspection from your friendly neighborhood Fort Myers Pest Control company.

Termites with Wings

If you find a bug of any kind in your home or business, it can be quite alarming. What can be even more alarming is when you find a bug in your home that has wings.

At this point, you are probably thinking to yourself “It couldn’t get much worse than that!” But it really can. What if you found a bug in your home that had wings and could compromise the structural integrity of your home — causing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

Flying Termites

Termites are a mysterious pest. Most homeowners are only aware that termites may have wings and can look similar to ants. Termites also may leave small piles that look similar to dirt in your home.

That’s where most public knowledge and experience of termites ends. Before we got into the pest control industry, that’s pretty much all we knew about termites as well.

Occasionally you may see homes and buildings with fumigation tents over them and cross your fingers you won’t be having to pay for your home to be tented for termites one day.

Ant or Termite?

So you found an insect with wings in your home and it looks like a termite. Or is it an ant?

Carpenter ants and fire ants can look very similar to termites, since both of their reproductive stages have wings.

The easiest way we’ve found to quickly differentiate between an ant and a termite is to look at the waist of the insect. Ants have a pinched waist that is narrow, while termites have a thick waist that is the same width as the rest of their body.

A second easy way to confirm you are dealing with termites is to inspect the antennae of the insect you found. Ants have elbowed antennae with a 90 degree angle. Termites have straight antennae.

There are other more detailed methods of differentiating between ants and termites such as examining the length of the wings and the number of veins on the wings, but usually the waist and antennae will allow you to rule out the presence of ants.

If you cannot differentiate between a termite and an ant, simply contact us at Native Pest Management. We’d be glad to look at a picture you have or even better set up a free termite inspection.

Termites with Wings in My Home?

If you identified termites with wings or even just found wings in your home with no termites attached, you could be dealing with what is called a flying termite swarm.

It takes a termite colony three to five years to mature enough to produce alates, known as swarmers. By the time you see them inside, there is the potential significant wood damage in your home has already occurred.

The areas of homes we most often identify the presence of a termite colony include the attic, windowsills, door frames, baseboards, wooden furniture, hardwood floors, and wooden studs within walls.

Termites take flight for the purpose of reproduction and creating new colonies. Flying termites include both male and female termites, and when environmental conditions are right, they will swarm in your home if a colony is present.

Termite swarmers are very poor fliers and their wings will break off soon after swarming as they attempt to pair off for reproduction. You may not actually see the swarm, but if you have found termite wings in your home, termites may have been present.

Since the swarmers are attracted to light, you will most likely find wings near light fixtures, and on windowsills. Once flying termites lose their wings, they will try to find new areas in your home to create nests.

It is important if you see flying termites in your home or business to contact us right away to schedule a free termite inspection.

Drywood Termite Swarm Inside My Home?

Drywood termites do not need soil moisture to survive. They excavate their nests and live directly in the wood.

In addition to finding swarmers or their wings, a common way Drywood termites are identified is by the presence of their fecal pellets, called frass. As drywood termites consume dry wood, they push these pellets out of the infested wood and create what is called a kicker hole in the wood.

These wooden pellets are smaller than rice grains and often found in small piles on floors, windowsills or under furniture. The pellets can be various colors and is not related to the color of the wood. During a termite inspection, we will also look for the presence of the kicker holes drywood termites create in our search for an active termite infestation.

The peak season that Drywood termites swarm are in the late Spring and Summer months. Swarmers are most active following heavy rains when the humidity is high.

Drywood termite colonies are typically much smaller than Subterranean termite colonies and they will produce fewer swarmers in your home than subterranean termites colonies will produce. Fortunately drywood termites for this reason will cause less wood damage as well.

Subterranean Termite Swarm Inside My Home?

Subterranean termites need soil to survive. They enter homes from the soil with a common indicator of their presence being the mud tubes they create.

Subterranean termites use mud tubes to retain moisture as they travel towards their food source, the wood within your home.

Due to the prevalence of subterranean termites and the severity of the economic damage they create, new construction soil pretreatments are required in Florida. This termite pretreatment process involves a barrier of insecticide being applied to the foundation of your home.

New construction pretreatments may only effective 3-10 years depending on the active ingredient applied, environmental conditions and the type of soil underneath your home.

If subterranean termites are found to be active within your home, a post-construction soil barrier treatment or subterranean termite bait stations are needed to eliminate them.

It is a common misconception that concrete block houses do not need preventative treatments for subterranean termites since there is limited wood for them to consume. These termites can actually still enter these homes through cracks in the concrete slab underneath homes and through plumbing penetrations.

Due to the risk involved in damage to your home from subterranean termites, most pest control companies offer renewable annual termite warranties that provide a re-treatment guarantee if subterranean termites are found within your home following a soil or bait treatment.

Flying Termites Outside Of My Home?

Dampwood termites live outside and require very moist or rotted wood to survive. These termites most often nest in trees, fence posts, rotting logs, and rotted wood on the exterior of homes.

They are the largest of all termite species, so if you find their wings on the outside of your home, you may be concerned of the presence of termites on your property. Luckily for us, the Florida Dampwood termite does the least amount of structural damage and they rarely infest homes.

The best way to control and prevent Dampwood termites is to eliminate moisture from any wood on the exterior of your home.

This can often require the replacement of damaged and moist wood or modifying the exterior foundation of your home to make sure wood is not in contact with the ground.

How to Prevent Termites From Getting Inside My Home?

In addition to foundation treatments and bait stations which are recommended for subterranean termite control and prevention, there are preventative measures that should be taken to reduce the presence of conducive conditions for termites on your property.

  • All firewood and excess building materials should be kept away from your house and kept off the ground.
  • Channel all gutter down-spouts at least two feet away from your home.
  • Do not place landscape plants within two feet of your home foundation.
  • Prevent wood to soil contact by keeping all wood s >For Flying Termite Control – Call Native Pest Management

If you find flying termites or termite wings in your home, don’t panic. After all, knowledge is always the first step in developing a proper response to a pest control issue. You now know a whole lot about termites and as one of the best termite control companies in South Florida, we’d be glad to provide a free termite inspection if you live or work in Palm Beach or Broward counties. .

To find one of the best termite control companies in your area, like ours here at Native Pest Management, simply search for terms like “termite control West Palm Beach”, “termite control Delray Beach”, “termite control Boca Raton”, “termite control Jupiter”, “termite control Lake Worth”, “termite control Wellington”, or “termite control” matched up with your South Florida city.

We would be more than happy to come to your home and make it pest-free once again! If you have termites or termite wings in your home or business, or want to avoid having them in the future, contact us today.

Termites with wings florida

As a member of the highly specialized termite family Termitidae, Amitermes floridensis is unique among all termites found in the eastern United States. Occurring only in Florida, it is an ancient scrubland relic of a once broad distribution of Amitermes that extended across Texas and the Gulf region. Although astute pest control operators knew of this termite decades before, Amitermes floridensis was not described until 1989 from specimens collected in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is the most recent native termite species to be recognized in the United States.

Distribution (Back to Top)

Amitermes floridensis has a spotty distribution in west central Florida in a region bordered by Tarpon Springs to the north, Punta Gorda to the south, and Sebring to the east. Reports by pest control operators and collection data indicate that Pinellas County has the greatest urban abundance of A. floridensis in the State with most of the activity limited to St. Petersburg.

Figure 1. Distribution of the Florida darkwinged subterranean termite, Amitermes floridensis Scheffrahn, Su, and Mangold. Illustration by Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, University of Florida.

Description and Identification (Back to Top)

As with other subterranean termites, A. floridensis builds a system of foraging galleries that connect the nest chambers in the soil with feeding sites above and below the ground. Colonies of A. floridensis consist of three primary castes: the reproductives (king, queen, unmated winged forms called alates, and immatures called nymphs), soldiers, and workers. The workers of A. floridensis are true sterile adults. They cannot molt and will not become reproductives or soldiers. The workers excavate soil and feed on wood to nourish themselves and their nestmates. Deeper into the nest, young whitish termites, called larvae, and eggs can be found. The king and queen live furthest into the nest system and attempts to collect them have been unsuccessful. The queens of other Amitermes species have greatly enlarged abdomens for massive egg production. Soldiers and alates have the most obvious characters for species identification, but workers of A. floridensis can also be distinguished from other subterranean termites found in Florida. All castes except for the nymphs and alates are present in colonies year round.

Figure 2. Broken foraging tube of the Florida darkwinged subterranean termite, Amitermes floridensis Scheffrahn, Su, and Mangold, on patio stone to expose black fecal coating. Photograph by Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, University of Florida.

Figure 3. Alate of the Florida darkwinged subterranean termite, Amitermes floridensis Scheffrahn, Su, and Mangold. Photograph by Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, University of Florida.

Figure 4. Nymph (A), worker (B) and soldier (C) of the Florida darkwinged subterranean termite, Amitermes floridensis Scheffrahn, Su, and Mangold. Photograph by Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, University of Florida.

Amitermes floridensis alates develop from nymphs that appear in the colony before flight season. Nymphs resemble large workers but have wing pads and often have less abdominal coloration than workers. Alates are small and have two pairs of smoothly textured and darkly pigmented wings that are about equal in size and shape. Each wing has two darkened and enlarged veins (subcosta and radial sector) in their leading (costal) margins. The upper surfaces of the head, thorax, and abdomen of alates appear dark brown to black. The alate body is about 0.15 inches (4 mm) in length without wings and 0.35 inches (9 mm) with wings. Shed wings are about 0.3 inches (7 mm) long and appear disproportionately large for the size of the alate body.

Figure 5. Comparison of the wings of the Florida darkwinged subterranean termite, Amitermes floridensis Scheffrahn, Su, and Mangold (A), and the eastern subterranean termite, Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar) (B). Photograph by Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, University of Florida.

The soldiers are very small (less than 3.5 mm long) and have a bulbous orange head and black, sickle- shaped mandibles. They differ from other subterranean termites in Florida by having a prominent conical tooth near the base of each mandible. The soldiers have an opening near the front of the head called the fontanelle through which is secreted a mixture of ant-repelling, volatile compounds called sesquiterpenoids.

Figure 6. Soldier of the Florida darkwinged subterranean termite, Amitermes floridensis Scheffrahn, Su, and Mangold; dorsal (A) and lateral (B) views of soldier head capsule; scanning electron micrograph (C) of dorsal view of soldier head capsule; dissected soldier mandibles (D). Photographs by Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, University of Florida.

Figure 7. Size comparison of soldiers of the eastern subterranean termite, Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar) (A), and the Florida darkwinged subterranean termite, Amitermes floridensis Scheffrahn, Su, and Mangold (B). Photograph by Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, University of Florida.

Workers of A. floridensis are about the same size as soldiers, but workers lack the defensive structures and coloration of the soldier head capsule. The workers move more slowly than those of other subterranean termites and have a more constricted thorax and inflated abdomen giving them a “plump” appearance compared with workers of native subterranean termites in the genus Reticulitermes. The abdominal wall is transparent and the coiled digestive tube is filled with dark fecal contents that give the abdomen a distinctive gray color.

Life History (Back to Top)

In the spring of each year, nymphs appear in mature colonies. The nymphs molt into alates that leave the colony during a series of dispersal flights over the summer. Alates of A. floridensis launch themselves from free-standing tunnels called “swarm tubes”. Alates are restricted to flights in calm air during or immediately after rain showers. Flights occur during daylight hours from July to September in contrast to the springtime flights for other subterranean termite species in Florida. These dispersal flights or “swarms” are often massive and a witness once described a series of alate launches as looking like plumes of smoke coming from the ground. There are no reports of indoor flights. The alates are weak fliers and are often found adhering en masse to wet vehicles, buildings, and vegetation. After a brief flight, the alates shed their wings and segregate into male/female pairs. Males follow females in tandem in search of subterranean nest sites under wood, stones, and other surface debris near food. After many years of growth, successful colonies mature to produce their first crop of alates.

Figure 8. Free standing foraging/flight tunnel of the Florida darkwinged subterranean termite, Amitermes floridensis Scheffrahn, Su, and Mangold, extending from sandy soil. Photograph by Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, University of Florida.

Damage (Back to Top)

Unlike most other subterranean termites in the eastern United States, A. floridensis workers tend to graze wood surfaces instead of excavating them with galleries. Foraging tunnels are built over feeding sites and are covered with characteristic black fecal lining. Attacked wood may be partially decayed and is often in direct contact with the soil such as fallen branches, tree trunks, fence posts, and storage sheds. Although colonies may be large and foraging tunnels extensive below ground, A. floridensis forages only short distances above ground in search of food sources. Therefore, structural infestations are usually limited to porches, door frames, carpet tack strips, and foundation elements where foragers gain entry through cracks and joints.

Figure 9. Partially broken foraging tube of the Florida darkwinged subterranean termite, Amitermes floridensis Scheffrahn, Su, and Mangold, in decayed 2×4 board showing black fecal coating. Photograph by Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, University of Florida.

Figure 10. Foraging tubes and workings of the Florida darkwinged subterranean termite, Amitermes floridensis Scheffrahn, Su, and Mangold, to a palm trunk in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photograph by J.R. Mangold.

Pest Status (Back to Top)

For reasons mentioned above, A. floridensis is an uncommon structural pest. Wood damage is usually minor, however alates, wings, and foraging tubes are a sanitary nuisance.

Management (Back to Top)

As with all subterranean termites, wood-to-ground contact should be avoided. In structures, chemical barriers should be applied as “spot” treatments in areas were the termites are suspected of emerging from the soil. Because of their limited foraging potential, extensive barrier treatments beyond the immediate area of the infestation are usually not warranted. This species is known to enter and feed inside termite bait stations although the efficacy of baits against A. floridensis is unknown. In baits containing insect growth regulators, any effect would be protracted because the workers do not molt so only the developing young would be affected.

Selected References (Back to Top)

  • Fasulo TR. (2002). Eastern Subterranean Termite and Wood-destroying Insects. Bug Tutorials. University of Florida/IFAS. CD-ROM. SW 158.
  • Scheffrahn RH, Gaston LK, Sims JJ, Rust MK. 1983. Identification of the defensive secretion from soldiers of the North American termite, Amitermes wheeleri (Desneux) (Isoptera: Termitidae). Journal of Chemical Ecology 9: 1293-1305.
  • Scheffrahn RH, Mangold JR, Su N-Y. 1988. A survey of structure-infesting termites of peninsular Florida. Florida Entomologist 71: 615-630.
  • Scheffrahn RH, Su N-Y, Mangold JR. 1989. Amitermes floridensis, a new species and first record of a higher termite in the eastern United States (Isoptera: Termitidae: Termitinae). Florida Entomologist 72: 618-625.
  • Scheffrahn RH, Su N-Y. 1994. Keys to soldier and winged adult termites (Isoptera) of Florida. Florida Entomologist 77: 460-474.
  • Scheffrahn RH, Su N-Y, Mangold JR. 1990. A new termite species in Florida: Amitermes floridensis. PCO, Official Magazine of the Florida Pest Management Association, October, cover and pp. 10-14.
  • Scheffrahn RH, Su N-Y. Key to termite soldiers of Florida. Ft. Lauderdale Research Report 96-2.
  • Scheffrahn RH, Su N-Y. Key to winged termites of Florida. Ft. Lauderdale Research Report 96-3.

Authors: Rudolf H. Scheffrahn and Nan-Yao Su, University of Florida
Photographs and illustrations: Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, University of Florida, and J.R. Mangold
Web Design: Don Wasik, Jane Medley
Publication Number: EENY-112
Publication date: August 1999. Latest revision: July 2007. Reviewed: December 2017.

An Equal Opportunity Institution
Featured Creatures Editor and Coordinator: Jennifer L. Gillett-Kaufman, University of Florida

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