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What Are Flying Ants Attracted To?


Ever noticed a sudden swarm of flying ants invading your home? You’re not alone. These winged insects, often appearing during the onset of their mating season, are drawn to specific factors that might be present in your environment. Bright lights and food sources are the main culprits that attract these ants indoors.

In this text, I’ll investigate into what exactly draws flying ants to your home and why they seem to appear out of nowhere. Understanding their behavior can help you manage these unexpected visitors more effectively. So, let’s explore the intriguing area of flying ants and uncover the reasons behind their sudden appearances.

What Are Flying Ants

Characteristics of Flying Ants

Flying ants, or alates, possess distinct physical traits that set them apart from other insects, such as termites. One noticeable feature is their wings: the front wings are larger than the hind wings, giving them an uneven appearance. Their antennae are bent or elbowed, unlike the straight antennae of termites. Female flying ants are larger than males, which helps in identifying them easily.

These ants also have a narrow waist, making a clear distinction between the thorax and abdomen. Coloration varies among species; they can be black, brown, or even red. Recognizing these characteristics is crucial to differentiate flying ants from other pests.

The Lifecycle of Flying Ants

The lifecycle of flying ants begins when they reach sexual maturity. During specific times of the year, typically spring and summer, mature male and female ants develop wings to participate in a mating flight. After leaving their colonies, they gather in large swarms, mate in mid-air, and then shed their wings.

Post-mating, females, now fertilized queens, look for suitable sites to start new colonies. Males generally die shortly after mating. The queen establishes a nest, lays eggs, and rears the first brood, which develops into worker ants. These workers then take over colony maintenance, allowing the queen to focus on reproduction. This cyclical process ensures the continuity and expansion of ant colonies.

What Attracts Flying Ants?

Light Sources

Flying ants are irresistibly drawn to light. During their mating season, which usually happens in the summer, you’ll notice them swarming around artificial lights. Bright indoor lights or outdoor fixtures like porch lights act as a magnet for these insects. They are particularly seen near windows, doors, or any other light sources as they search for mates. If you’ve seen an increase in flying ants near your home, it’s likely due to your light fixtures. Sealing gaps in windows and doors can help reduce their entry into indoor spaces.

Sweet Foods and Substances

Sweet foods and substances are another major attraction for flying ants. These ants aren’t just after mates; they also search for food sources that can sustain their new colonies. You’ll often find them gravitating towards sugary items like fruit, soda, and other sweet residues. Ants communicate the location of food through chemical trails, making it easy for others to follow. Keeping your kitchen clean and storing food in airtight containers can significantly reduce the chances of attracting these pests.

Water Sources

Water sources are essential for flying ants, especially when they are starting new colonies. Pooled water, leaky pipes, or even damp areas can draw them in. Bathrooms, kitchens, and basements are common areas where flying ants may be found due to the availability of moisture. Eliminating standing water and fixing any leaks can help keep these pests at bay. Ensuring proper ventilation and using dehumidifiers in damp areas can also make your home less attractive to flying ants.

Reducing the attractiveness of your home involves minimizing light exposure, keeping areas clean, and managing moisture effectively.

Flying Ants Versus Termites

Differences in Appearance

Flying ants and termites may look similar, but there are key differences in their appearance. Flying ants have a pinched waist and a distinctly segmented body. Their antennae are elbowed with clear joints. Termites, on the other hand, have a more uniform straight body without a distinct waist. Their antennae are straight and look like they are made of tiny balls stacked on top of each other. If you’re finding winged insects that are smaller than 13 to 17 mm, you probably have termites since carpenter ant swarmers can be up to 17 mm in length.

Nesting and Swarm Behaviors

Flying ants and termites have different nesting and swarming behaviors. Flying ants, which include species like carpenter ants and fire ants, swarm mainly to mate and establish new colonies. This usually happens on hot, humid days, often after heavy rainfall. Swarming fire ants emerge from spring through late fall, while white-footed ants swarm in the summer. Indoors, you’ll often find flying ants nesting in decaying wood or hidden voids. Outdoors, they might be under leaves, in loose soil, or tree holes.

Termites, but, swarm primarily during the spring. Their main focus is on finding new nesting sites and establishing colonies. Termites often nest in wood structures, which can lead to significant damage if left unchecked. They can create nests in walls, foundations, and other wooden structures around your home. Identifying and addressing termite swarms quickly is critical to prevent extensive damage.

Both insects need moisture to survive, making areas like swimming pools attractive to them. It’s common to see both flying ants and termites drawn to water sources and light, but their different nesting habits can help distinguish between the two.

Managing Flying Ant Infestations

Preventive Measures

Flying ants can become a major nuisance at home, but there are effective ways to manage their presence. Start by sealing any cracks or crevices in walls, floors, and foundations, which these insects can use as entry points. Keeping your home clean, especially in kitchens and dining areas, removes potential food sources that attract flying ants. Ensure that you remove rotten decaying wood from walls and floors, as this decaying material often harbors and supports ant colonies. Regularly inspect and repair leaks in plumbing, as moisture attracts ants.

Natural Remedies for Controlling Flying Ants

Natural remedies can help control flying ants without chemicals. Peppermint oil is an effective ant repellent due to its predator-like scent. Combine one part liquid dish soap with two parts water in a spray bottle, then add several drops of peppermint oil. Shake well and spray any flying ants you see. The soap will dehydrate the ants, while the peppermint oil suffocates them.

If peppermint oil isn’t available, other essential oils like tea tree, cinnamon, clove, cedarwood, and patchouli are also effective. Mix these oils with water and dish soap as with the peppermint oil, and use the mixture to spray affected areas.

When to Opt for Professional Pest Control

Sometimes, it can be hard to find the source of a flying ant infestation. They might nest under your house’s foundation or within the walls, making them difficult to locate. If you observe flying ants but can’t find their colony, it’s best to call a professional exterminator. Experts can identify and eliminate the colony, ensuring that you get rid of the problem permanently. Don’t wait if you’re unsure; acting quickly can prevent significant damage.


Flying ants often invade homes during their mating season, drawn by light and food sources. Recognizing their physical characteristics and lifecycle is essential. Fertilized queens establish new colonies, increasing infestation risk.

Physical Characteristics
Flying ants have noticeable differences from other pests. They possess elbowed antennae, thin waists and wings of unequal length. This helps differentiate them from other insects.

Preventing infestations involves several steps. Sealing cracks, maintaining cleanliness, and removing decayed wood can deter these pests. Homeowners should also use essential oils like peppermint as a natural repellent.

Professional Assistance
If the source of the infestation is hard to find, calling a professional pest control service becomes crucial. Experts can locate and eliminate the colony effectively, ensuring a flying ant-free environment.

Living in Canada or the USA, particularly in areas prone to these infestations, emphasizes the importance of proactive measures and professional help.

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My gardens have been my outdoor classrooms, where I've endlessly experimented with new techniques and varieties through years of trial and error. Gardening is so much more than just beauty - it's about cultivating life, nurturing the soil, and finding new ways to work in harmony with nature. I've deep expertise across all aspects, from soil preparation and seed starting to pruning perennials and managing pests naturally. You'll always find dirt under my nails as I put my know-how to the test. When I'm not out tending my gardens, I lead workshops to share my passion and inspire novices and master gardeners alike. I also write for gardening magazines and hold court at my local nursery. My greatest delight is equipping and empowering others to find success in their own gardens.

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