What to Know About the Flying Ant

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on January 23, 2023
4 min read

Flying ants, also known as alates, are swarming adult hive members of various ant species. Ants have complex societies that require each subgroup of ants to perform different tasks to contribute to their ant colony. Flying ants are typically the sexually mature queens and ants of the ant colonies whose mission is to create new colonies. 

The life cycle of a flying ant has four stages: egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. Ant eggs will either continue to grow and mature into their next stage of life or be eaten by fellow nestmates as a means of extra nutrients. Once the egg has hatched into larvae, the ant's priority becomes nourishing itself and preparing for the pupae stage. In this stage, they will relax and regroup before becoming adult ants and beginning their work for the colony.

Once an ant takes on the form of a flying ant, they are identified by a few distinct characteristics. Flying ants are small in size, with queens being larger than the male flying ants, known as drones. Flying ants are either black or brown in color and can be differentiated from other common flying pests by their two sets of wings.

Flying ants are not found in a specific geographic area. Instead, where they are seen is dependent on the environment. Flying ants tend to gravitate toward moisture, and can be found around pools or moist wood. When found near homes, flying ants will nest near water leaks, including near windows, doors, and faucets.

If you have noticed some flying pests in or around your home, chances are that you have had some trouble determining exactly what the intruders are. In fact, it's quite common for people to mistake flying ants for termites. If you are trying to determine if you have flying ants in your home, you should consider their physical characteristics. Additionally, you can compare them to termites by assessing their antennae and their wing size. Flying ants have elbowed antennae and a smaller set of wings.  

Unfortunately, if you notice flying ants in your home, it may indicate that there is an ant infestation nearby. These ant infestations usually begin when your home develops sites of increased moisture due to things like leaks, and when a home has accessible food or garbage nearby. Addressing leaks and keeping a clean home are easy ways to prevent these infestations from beginning and progressing into flying ant swarms. 

Flying ants are generally considered harmless. Since these ant swarms are on a mission to reproduce, they are often less concerned with being aggressive toward people. However, it is important to consider that these insects can bite and sting defensively, which can be irritating to the skin and particularly dangerous for those with an allergy to these flying insects.

Flying ants pose more of a risk when it comes to potential damage to your property. As these infestations grow in and around your home, the flying ants can burrow in the wood that contributes to the foundation of your home. This can lead to structural damage and collapse if the infestation is large enough.

If you do experience a flying ant bite, you may notice that area of your skin becoming increasingly irritated, red, itchy, and raised. Each species of ant has flying ants as a part of the colony, and the type of flying ant that bites or stings you could affect how painful it is. You will also experience a more severe discomfort if you are allergic to the venom let out through the ant bite.

If you notice you were bitten by a flying ant, you should first be sure to clean the affected area and assess the severity. If it is not a severe reaction, you can manage the discomfort and swelling by using the following treatment options:

  • Apply ice
  • Take an antihistamine for itching
  • Take acetaminophen for pain 
  • Take corticosteroids for pain

If you are experiencing a more severe reaction, you should contact your healthcare provider and use an epinephrine injection to control your symptoms.

Flying ants are not typically dangerous or threatening to your property. However, these pests can be a nuisance and are understandably unwanted in or around a home. Some of the actions you can take to get rid of flying ants once they have made their presence known on your property include:

  • Identify the source of the infestation and seal it off
  • Spray visible ants with a solution that will dehydrate and suffocate them
  • Vacuum visible flying ants
  • Spray pesticides
  • Use ant bait in order to poison the nearby ant colony
  • Remove any rotting or decaying wood

These methods will work effectively to eliminate flying ants from your home or property. However, in order to ensure that this infestation does not continue, you should proactively put preventative measures in place in and around your home. Some things you should consider if you are wanting to prevent these pests include:

  • Seal all windows and doors properly
  • Spray a natural deterrent
  • Remove any moisture sitting in and around your home
  • Keep a clean area, ensuring that food and garbage are disposed of in an inaccessible manner

If you continue to notice an infestation of these pests or have a difficult time removing them on your own, you should contact a local pest control professional for guidance on how to proceed.