Flying termites around the house can be a scary site: not because they can bite you, but because an infestation already in place. However, before you jump to conclusions, let’s first make sure that what you are seeing are actually termites.
Termite infestations are infamous for the havoc they wreak on homes and furniture, often causing severe structural damage.
Finding any type of termites in or around your home can be a cause for alarm, and you might be thinking of contacting pest control.
However, before you take termite treatment measures, it’s better to make sure whether the bugs you saw are indeed termites.
The insect world is incredibly diverse, and various species look very similar to each other. Let’s look at a few other bugs that you might wrongly confuse for termites.
What Do Flying Termites Look Like?
Many people may not know that termites can fly as well. But the fact is, flying is one of the main ways these pests spread around the house.
Remember, not all termites fly. Only certain types of termites can do it, and these little guys are called swarmers.
A big problem with winged termites is that they reproduce very fast, which means you need to identify and eliminate them as quickly as possible.
Their main job is to find a good spot to make a new nest and then reproduce quickly so that a colony can quickly come up.
That said, let’s get a brief overview of what flying termites look like.
It’s easy to confuse flying termites with winged ants since they look quite similar. Termites have small bodies, growing up to a quarter of an inch.
Their color ranges from black to dark brown, depending on the species. Worker termites tend to have a relatively lighter color.
The wings are white and transparent, with rounded tips. Flying termites have short and straight antennae devoid of any segmentation.
Their waists are thick and do not have any constriction between the abdomen and the thorax.
The members of a termite colony serve specific roles. Soldier termites help protect the nest from threats while the workers gather food, repair the nest, and groom other members of the colony.
7 Bugs That Look Like Winged Termites
Thankfully, there’s a chance that the insects you suspected to be winged termites might turn out to be something else.
There are many insects that you might be getting confused by: carpenter ants, acrobat ants, mayflies, lacewings, and more.
Sadly, six out of these seven insects also cause damage to wood, so you might still need that exterminator! Still, let’s understand what we are dealing with before we jump to conclusions.
1. Acrobat ants
Like termites, acrobat ants tend to nest in wood and inside walls, often utilizing tunnels, and wood galleries dug earlier by carpenter ants or termites.
They share a particular trait with dampwood termites – a preference for moist wood.
The nesting habit of acrobat ants, together with their appearance (especially the tiny size), makes it easy to mistake them for termites.
However, unlike termites, acrobat ants do not cause any major damage.
Despite their similarities, you can differentiate between acrobat ants and winged termites if you take a close look:
- While the entire body of a termite is of the same thickness, acrobat ants have a narrower abdomen compared to the head and the rear part.
- Unlike termites, these ants have bent antennae.
- Termites have a straight abdomen, whereas acrobat ants have heart-shaped abdomens.
- The front wings in acrobat ants are longer than the rear wings, but termites have four equally long wings.
The most distinguishing feature of acrobat ants is their unique behavior when they feel threatened – they stand on their heads with their abdomen and legs in the air.
2. Carpenter ants
Carpenter ants and termites display similar behavior, which makes it easy to confuse them for each other.
Unlike the acrobat ants described earlier, carpenter ants cause heavy damage to wood.
They bore holes in the wood and dig deep tunnels, leaving shredded wood at the entrance.
Like winged termites, they also tend to swarm around during the mating season too.
As for their appearance, carpenter ants usually do not grow longer than half an inch, and their color ranges from reddish-brown to black.
The winged carpenter ants are bigger, growing up to 3/4th of an inch. They have two sets of wings, with the front wings being a little longer than the ones at the rear.
You may distinguish a carpenter ant from a flying termite based on the following characteristics:
- Carpenter ants also have a tapered thorax and a pair of bent antennae.
- Termite tunnels are rough as they chew the wood. Carpenter ant tunnels are very smooth.
- While a flying termite’s wings are twice as long as its body, the wings of a carpenter ant never exceed the length of the body.
- The holes dug by these ants may be hard to spot.
3. Carpenter bees
These bees drill holes into wooden structures and dig tunnels for their nests too.
While the holes look similar to those dug by termites, the tunnels aren’t as deep because carpenter bees are solitary insects and build individual nests.
Hence, they cause relatively less damage compared to termites.
Thankfully, carpenter bees are different from flying termites in almost every other way besides their tendency to tunnel into wood structures:
- You can tell a carpenter bee from a flying termite the moment you lay your eyes on one. These bees look like bumble bees without stripes, with chubby bodies.
- While carpenter bees are solitary insects, termites live in colonies.
- Carpenter bees leave sticky yellow waste near the entrance of their nests, whereas flying termites leave tiny black pellets.
Regardless, if you have too many carpenter bees on your property, you need to eliminate them to prevent more damage.
4. Flying ants
Flying ants may look like flying termites, too, although the degree of resemblance depends on the species in question.
You should note that the term flying ant doesn’t refer to any specific ant species – mature reproductive ants of all species grow wings.
They fly away and move in large swarms during the mating season – a trait that flying termites share too.
So, how do you know whether the winged bugs in your home are flying ants or termites? Just look out for the following differences:
- Most of the flying ants do not cause any damage to wood, which is the complete opposite of what termites would do.
- Termites won’t swarm around food, but flying ants will.
- Unlike flying termites, the body of a flying ant comprises three distinct segments.
As flying ants rarely cause any damage, you don’t have to work on getting rid of them unless you are facing problems due to an infestation.
Mayflies share several behavioral patterns with flying termites, which is why they are often confused for the latter.
For instance, both mayflies and drywood termites are most active during the summer and spring and go into a frenzy of activity right after rains.
Like termites, mayflies move around in huge swarms too. Both insects are attracted to light and tend to settle on doors, window screens, and patio decks.
Key characteristics of mayflies that set them apart from flying termites are:
- Mayflies lay eggs in water, and their larvae remain aquatic until maturity.
- A mayfly has a long and thin abdomen with 2 to 3 thin tails attached at the end.
- Growing up to an inch, mayflies are bigger than flying termites.
Mayflies can be of various colors – whitish, yellowish, grayish, or brown.
6. Green Lacewings
Green lacewings are a highly beneficial species, which makes them quite different from termites.
Besides the fact that green lacewings do not cause any damage, they help protect gardens from harmful pests by preying on them.
Hence, you mustn’t start killing green lacewings because you mistook them for termites.
These beneficial bugs often seem like termites due to their swarming nature. Although they are initially bright green, their bodies turn brown while overwintering.
Even after the change in color, you can identify green lacewings based on the following points:
- In contrast to a termite’s short antennae, a green lacewing has long and thin antennae.
- The wings of a green lacewing are far more transparent than that of a flying termite, with membranous running vertically.
- You can easily see the abdomen of a green lacewing through its transparent wings. Unlike a termite’s oblong abdomen, the abdomen of a green lacewing is long and thin.
If you notice termite-like bugs in your garden, take a close look to check if those are green lacewings.
7. Powderpost beetles
Growing up to about 3/4th of an inch with their color ranging from reddish brown to dark brown, powderpost beetles look very similar to termites.
Their larvae live in wood structures and feed on the same, drilling holes in the wood. Here are some tips to differentiate between powderpost beetles and flying termites:
- Adult powderpost beetles don’t feed on wood; only their larvae do that.
- Although they have two pairs of wings like termites, only the rear set is functional.
- The body of a powderpost beetle resembles that of a classic beetle more than a termite.
However, don’t breathe a sigh of relief just because the bugs in your home turned out to be powderpost beetles instead of termites.
You still need a pest exterminator because powderpost beetle infestations can be quite nasty and destructive.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I worry if I see flying termites?
If you see flying termites on your property, it might mean bad news.
The presence of flying termites indicates that your home already has a termite infestation going on or is at risk of attracting one soon.
You should take preventive measures early on to protect wooden structures.
How do you get rid of winged termites?
You may use bug sprays and natural insecticides like orange oil spray to kill termites infesting your home.
Installing a bug zapper is a good idea, too, as termites are attracted to light. However, large termite infestations call for urgent professional termite treatment.
Why do I have flying termites in my house?
Flying termites are especially attracted to untreated or decaying wood that they can easily dig into.
If your home has such wood structures or furniture, it would explain the influx of flying termites.
However, these bugs live in treated wood as well, and may choose your home simply because it offers them a suitable environment.
What are the little black bugs flying around my house?
“Little black bugs” is too vague of a description – it could be winged termites, flying ants, fungus gnats, carpenter bees, or a variety of other insects.
However, you should be careful if you see them flying around in large swarms, as those could be termites.
It is always a good idea to keep an eye out for wood-boring insects, especially the different types of termites.
Not all termites build their colonies in wood structures – subterranean termites live in underground colonies.
Hence, you should always watch out for termite mounds in your garden.
Hopefully, the knowledge you gained from this article will prove to be useful, and you can correctly identify the bugs on your property.
Thank you for reading!