Winged Ants or Termites? How to Tell the Difference

Unless you’re an entomologist, it’s pretty likely that you haven’t spent much time up-close-and-personal with a lot of insects. In fact, lots of people would rather run in the other direction when confronted with a gross or scary bug than break out the magnifying glass.

Because of this, it can be tough to tell whether your home has ants—typically just an annoyance—or termites—a devastatingly destructive force.

It’s crucial to know the difference in order to develop an effective treatment plan. You don’t want to ignore a serious termite problem, thinking the termites are ants, or start an unnecessary termite treatment, when you actually have ants.

Learn the difference between winged ants and termites, below. If, after reading this post, you still aren’t sure, contact the experts at ScherZinger Pest Control!


Ants and termites are quite similar in appearance—especially during the winged period of their life cycle. For both insects, this is the period when they sexually mature and leave their colony to seek out mates. This period usually happens when the weather is warm and humid, in spring and early summer. You might be noticing them around your house right now!

Winged ants and termites have a few key differences in appearance:

  • Termites have straight antennae, while ants have bent antennae.
  • Termites have a wider, straight body, while ants have a “pinched” waist.
  • Termites are typically dark brown or black in color, while ants can be brown, black, or reddish in color.
  • Termites have translucent, rounded wings that are equal in size and length. The wings also seem to stack on top of each other, making them appear very white. Ants can have pointed, yellow- or brown-tinted wings of unequal size, with the pair in front being larger and the pair in back being smaller.

Winged termites, or termite swarmers, are usually smaller than winged ants. (Unfortunately, this fact isn’t always immediately helpful, since you won’t have both insects in front of you to compare them.)


If you’re seeing termite or ant swarmers, it’s a good sign that there is a termite or ant colony nearby. That doesn’t mean that it’s time to panic, but you should be on the lookout for signs of an infestation. If you see swarms of winged insects inside your house, call a pest control expert right away as it’s very likely that termites or ants have built their colony inside your home.

Knowing whether your house has termites or ants is incredibly important, because these pests can do very different types and amounts of damage.

There are hundreds of different ant species. Depending on the type of ant and the size of the colony, the presence of ants can range from a definite nuisance to a significant problem. For example, odorous house ants are annoying and have the potential to contaminate your food, but they are not as destructive as carpenter ants, a wood-destroying insect that can devastate your house.

Unless your home has carpenter ants, termites pose a much more serious threat. Like ants, there are different varieties of termites—but all will chew through your home’s walls and foundation. Some types can destroy a house in just a few years, while other types take much longer. Because termites often live underground, they can go unchecked for years or even decades, causing thousands of dollars in damage. The most common type of termite in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky is the eastern subterranean termite.


The solution to your pest problem depends not just on the pest itself but on the severity of the problem. Regardless, whether you are dealing with a few odorous black house ants or an infestation of house ants, it is best to call a professional. One may think that a few odorous black house ants can be dealt with by killing and removing the individual ants. However, treating this yourself can make them split up and create two new colonies, thus making the problem worse.

Similarly, an infestation of carpenter ants or termites warrants a call to pest control. Carpenter ants and termites are not a pest that you want to attempt to eliminate yourself for a number of reasons: it takes professional knowledge and experience to identify pest points of entry, apply any needed pesticides or traps, and determine when the infestation is fully gone.

Concerned you might have an ant or a termite infestation on your hands? Contact ScherZinger Pest Control, a trusted pest control company in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, including Dayton, OH, and Columbus. We’ve been pioneers, engineering new standards for ways of eliminating and controlling bugs and pests. Contact us by phone at 1-877-748-9888 or through our website, Facebook, or Twitter.