Case Studies

Pests We Treat Case Studies: Winged ants vs. termites: What you need to know - Parling, NJ Insect & Pest Control Services

Thursday, August 11th, 2016 by Bill Cowley


I was dispatched to a home in Parlin, NJ after the homeowner contacted Cowleys. She reported that her home was infested by winged insects that were congregating around the windows in her living room and bedroom. Upon arrival, I confirmed with the homeowner the nature of the problem and the areas in the home where these insects were observed. The homeowner was worried because she thought she may have a termite infestation and that these insects were swarmers (flying termites). 

It is quite common for homeowners to confuse flying ants with swarmers. However, it’s an important difference. Wood-destroying termites are capable of causing significant property damage. When your home is invaded by a swarm of flying insects, an experienced pest control technician can confirm the type of infestation. The good news for this customer was that,based on my inspection, this was a flying ant infestation. While she still had an insect infestation problem that needed to be resolved, it is much less of a concern than a termite infestation and its potential for property damage.

I explained to the customer that ants and termites are social insects. Both live in colonies and they reproduce in a similar way. The colony releases winged reproductives, known as alates, to mate and start new colonies when the existing colony becomes too large. These insect colonies are established through a mated queen, a sexually mature female that sheds her wings after mating.  She initially rears wingless, non-sexually mature workers to build and expand the colony. After several years, when the colony is well-established, winged reproductive ants are reared. These winged insects are mostly males along with some female future queens. When this swarming happens in or around your home, and you’ll see a sudden appearance of a large number of winged insects. For any homeowner, its’s an upsetting site to see. The males die almost immediately after their day of attempted mating, while the mated females move on to attempt to establish their own colony.  I also explained to the customer that the flying ants she observed in her home had more than likely emerged somewhere else than in her living room or bedroom. The insects were attracted to those spaces behave of the outdoor ultraviolet light coming from in through the windows.

Once I told her that she had a swarm of flying ants, the customer told me that she had observed ant activity in the attic. She just didn’t make the connection until now. I inspected the attic where I discovered an ant nest around the chimney. I observed numerous worker ants and reproductives walking along the beam coming from behind the chimney. Ants require a source of moisture. Otherwise, they’ll dry up. To have an ant infestation in a normally dry attic, there has to be some moisture or water intrusion problem. With this home, based on the insect activity, I was confident that there was a leak in the flashing around the chimney causing the wood to be constantly wet. 


Now that I knew the type of infestation and the location of the colony, it was time to treat and get these annoying bugs out of her house. With insects that breed and live in colonies, it is critical to find and kill the nest. Otherwise, you are just killing isolated insects, and the problem will not fully resolve. I treated the areas around the windows and along the baseboards downstairs where the mating swarms were observed to make sure there was no more ant activity in those living spaces. However, I concentrated my efforts on the ant nest upstairs around the chimney. By killing the nest, there would be no more ants flying or crawling around her home from this nest.

I suggested to the homeowner to have the flashing around the chimney inspected for leaks. The source of moisture needed to be removed to permanently eliminate her ant problem. I told the homeowner that I could resolve the current infestation and eliminate the nest that was responsible for producing this swarm, but the underlying condition that caused the infestation in the first place needed to be fixed for a permanent resolution. The homeowner was anxious to have her chimney inspected and fixed immediately to make sure that there was no damage to the wood and to stop any further ant infestations. According to her, this one ant infestation was one too many!

The homeowner was pleased that she did not have termites (I can’t take credit for that one), and that I was able to quickly find the colony responsible for her ant problem, kill the nest, and treat the infestation. When I was done, this home was free of flying ants downstairs and crawling ants in the attic.