3 Places Flying Ants Come From & How To Repel Them

close up flying ant isolated on white background. Winged Carpenter ant

Any ant, let alone a flying ant, can be very intimidating. Due to their small stature and ability to climb through the teeniest, tiniest of cracks, they are a hard nuisance to get rid of.

Flying ants, otherwise known as Hymenoptera, are male ants or queen ants in a colony who have possession of wings and are usually leaving their colonies to mate or to find new homes. A water and white vinegar solution sprayed near ants can cause them to relocate. Contact a professional for removal.

Ants, can be incredibly annoying to us in our homes. Read on to learn more about what flying ants are, and how you can repel them for good!

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How To Know If You Have A Flying Ant Problem

So, how do you know if what you’re dealing with is an ant? This might seem silly, but actually, flying ants get mistaken for termites all of the time. It’s so common, there are a plethora of articles out there dedicated to knowing the difference between a termite and a flying ant.

Did you know a flying ant is not a species of an ant? That is correct. There are over 13,000 different species of ants according to the National Park Service and none of them are a complete species consisting only of flying ants.   

Flying ants are typically just the male ants in a colony or the queen ants. However, usually, a colony is made up of mostly female worker ants who are incapable of laying eggs and reproducing who cannot fly. So if there are a lot of flying ants near you, think of how many ants there are potentially under the ground-scary, I know.

Ants are deemed as some of the best and most numerous land-dwellers to roam the planet. They’ve been here for over 100 million years (a little fun fact from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, there are more at the end of the article if you’re interested).  

Ants are members of the Formicidae family in the Hymenoptera order. They are insects that have the typical three-body part system: head, thorax, and abdomen.

The University of Minnesota describes flying ants as insects with very distinct characteristics such as:

  • 1 set of antennas, bent in an almost 90-degree angle
  • A petiole with nodes (a petiole is a small area between the thorax and the abdomen of the ant)
  • Usually have no wings, like stated above, only males and fertile females (or queens) have wings
  • Black or brownish, except for new baby ants which are white and look a lot like maggots
  • Depending on the species of ant, they can range anywhere from ½ inch to 1/20 of an inch

When trying to decide what type of ant you have more specifically, there are a few key features on them that can help you when you are making a google search to find out. Depending on where you live in the country and your environment, there could be different options.

When trying to decide what kind of ant you have, look at the following 5 things:

  1. Number of nodes on the petiole (the small area between the thorax and abdomen that we just talked about earlier)
  2. The shape that the thorax is
  3. If there is a spine that you can see on the backside of the thorax or not
  4. If the antenna has different sections or if it lumps the end of it
  5. If you can see visible and simple eyes on the head of the ant

Now like is stated above, flying ants and termites get confused pretty often. If you want to tell the difference between them, here is how you can tell:

Termites do not have bent antennas, they are straight. The wing length is longer in an ant than in a termite. Lastly, termites do not have that pinched area (the petiole) on them and they are boxier looking than an ant who is thinner.

If you’d like to learn more about how ants can damage your lawn and the problems they cause, take a look at our guide: 7 Ways Ants Can Ruin Your Lawn (And How To Stop Them)

What Is The Purpose Of Flying Ants?

many flying ants crawling and flying in meadow during breeding time

Flying ants are a lot like bees in the way they live in colonies. They even have pretty much the same social structure of queens, drones (fertile males), and workers (infertile females).  

Worker bees do a lot of jobs in an ant colony according to NC State. Worker ants are the only ants in a colony that can’t fly even though they are the highest in quantity.  

When worker ants are young, they get safer jobs like digging tunnels but as they get older, they are subjected to more dangerous jobs like going off to get food and protecting the colony because, at this point, they are not as important or valuable to the colony. While a colony needs all its members, it sure isn’t very sentimental about it.

Ants that can fly, males and queens, are often called “swarmers” (flying ants) and they are called this because they have been known to swarm when they are doing 1 of 2 things. They are either looking for a new colony or they are looking to mate.  

Although a queen is considered a swimmer because she can fly, if a queen lays eggs, she loses her wings and therefore is no longer a flying ant and is now a regular ant. Queens don’t live too long after having eggs though.

Like a beehive, ant colonies will die if their queen dies. The National Park Service explains that colonies usually like to live in soil or dead wood depending on the species of ant. Also, these colonies are intricate and are composed of tunnels and galleries. There is usually one main nest that houses the main colony, and smaller nests off of that nest. 

NC State suggests that when you are looking for a nest, you should look indoors at electrical outlets, baseboards, and around high moisture areas like sinks, pipes, etc. Flyinng and non-flying ants love sweet and sticky things, so recycling bins and garbage cans or dirty kitchen counters are a good place to notice them too.

If you are having issues with ants entering your home, you should read this article on Why Ants Are In Your Room (Even If There’s No Food).

When you’re looking outside, you can look in places like mulch and under things like rocks, woodpiles garden ornaments, etc. Also, all-around things like walkways and around your home’s foundation. Most ants create ant hills which are visible as they make a mound.

Where do Flying ants Originally Come From?

Ants at the kitchen. Black ant on a white background. Messor structor on the plate

Flying ants have been around a long time, 100 million years. Ants are mostly native to the tropics and enjoy the rainforest much more than they enjoy the environment of North America, however, this is where they ended up among many other places. 

Ants are known for being invasive species. All 13,000 different species of ants originated in the tropic region (from a wasp descendant if you can believe that!)  

In a few studies, it was revealed that almost all cases of ant invasions that were studied show that ants came from the tropics to new lands through human transportation. This can mean anything: planes, trains, automobiles, boats, boxes, cargo-you name it. They got here because of a little human help.

Most of this happened during times that had a lot of globalization or movement happening like world wars and recessions. It is documented that the greatest invasion of ants happened between 1850-1914.  

Fire ants (who can also be flying ants, which is a very scary thought) were tracked and they have now invaded over 75 locations all over the globe including America, and most of their investigation came from an increase in global trading and travel.

So, while ants aren’t native here, they sure are good at making themselves feel right at home now only in the soil and woods but in our homes as well. If ants are good at anything, it’s getting into places they aren’t supposed to be. Here’s how to get rid of them.

How To Repel Flying Ants

Just like any insect infestation, there is more than one way to fix your problem. There are non-chemical methods that are more holistic and safe to perform on your own and there are chemical methods that tend to be more dangerous.

If you want to perform a chemical treatment on your home, we strongly suggest that you call a professional and get help assistance from them.

Also, when trying to rid your home and property of flying ants, you must know what kind of ant you are dealing with so if needed, feel free to go back up in the article to see what to look for in identifying different types of ants. 

Also, knowing where ants travel is very important. If you put out a crumby or sticky food for ants and then wait a few days, you will then see a trail they leave showing you how they travel.

Borax Can Naturally Repel Ants

First, we have solutions that you can do at home that do not require harsh chemicals. This first one is a home remedy I used multiple times growing up. When we had ant issues, we should pour the borax powder onto the visible ant hills. Borax is toxic to ants and when they would take it to feed the colony with, it would exterminate them.

Borax is a common cleaning agent. It might turn your grass brown where you use it, but it’s a fair price to pay considering you’re getting rid of your ant problem. Borax is also a relatively cheap solution, coming in at about 11 dollars a box.

If you want to use borax to naturally repel ants, check out a product such as this 20 Mule Team Borax.

Vinegar and Water Solution

Composition with vinegar and lemon on table. Space for text

These next few solutions are coming at you from the University of Minnesota. 

When using this solution, if you don’t mind the smell of vinegar, it is alright to use primarily vinegar. You will take this and wipe or spray any ant trails that you see because it will throw off their scent and make it hard for them to find their way back and it will avert them because they are not fond of the smell or acidity.

You can also spray around your home or any high-traffic areas for ants with the mixture. Spraying it on anthills may work as well, but do not flood the anthill with vinegar. It will not exterminate the ants but it might cause them to relocate. 

One great natural vinegar option is this AVO 1 Gallon Pure Distilled White Vinegar!

Keep Away Ants With Sticky Barriers

Sticky insecticidal tape for protection against crawling and flying insects, suspended under the canvas next to lamp.

For this one, you can get a little bit creative. To create a sticky barrier, you can use a multitude of things to lure in ants, such as sweet water, peanut butter, fruit, sugar, etc. Check out our guide, 9 Types of Smells That Attract Ants, for more information on what to use.

Once you decide what you want to use to lure your ants in, then you can use something sticky like a fly tape or even just vaseline and smear it next to your sweet treat tease. Then, when the ants go to get the sweet lure, they will become stuck.

One great sticky trap that is marketed towards ants is this Catchmaster 36 Ct Pest Trap.

Repel Ants With Water Traps

Much like the sticky barriers, you can use water traps the same way. You can take a shallow container fill it with some soap and water and put your sweet treat in the middle. Ants are not known for being great swimmers.

Once the ants fall into the soapy water, they won’t be able to get out due to the slickness of the soap as well as their inability to swim.

Using Pesticides To Repel Ants Indoors

Again, when using a pesticide solution we highly suggest that you consult a professional exterminator to help you so that you are being safe and protecting yourself and your families, pets, and property.

When trying to get rid of ants inside, it is recommended to use ant bait. Ants will take this (it has an appealing smell to them) and bring it back to the colony for dinner. Once ingested, the ants will no longer be much of a problem to you.

Put this in an area you know gets high ant traffic, so perhaps a window sill or next to the door, on a counter, by the recycling, etc.

Using Pesticides To Repel Ants Outdoors

For outdoor use, you are supposed to use either a spray or a granule/dust insecticide. It is never recommended to use the spray in the home.  

A granular or dust insecticide is the most commonly used and you sprinkle it must like the borax I was discussing earlier but you can also put it around high traffic areas or around the base of your house to help deter ants from further going into your home.

If you are using a spray insecticide outside, you need to know that you need to saturate any anthill you spray because if it rains, the spray will just wash away. You can spray the anthill and again around your home. Ensure to read the instructions for each product.

Again, we do recommend consulting a professional before use.

Common Flying Ant Myths

While many think it is common practice to use water or gasoline to “drown out” ant hills, it will not exterminate ants and in many cases using water to flush them out will only make the colony move to the next driest spot in your lawn. All you did was make the ants angry!

Secondly, gasoline flushing ants will severely damage your soil! Please don’t pour gasoline in an anthill, use the methods above instead.

Preventing Flying Ants In The First Place

Lastly, if you want to keep ants out of your home and away from your property, the best thing you can do is prevent it from happening in the first place. The University of Minnesota has some great steps you can take:

  • Clean up your food storage and your pets food storage
  • Clean up sticky messes (like kitchen counters)
  • Rinse off your recycling if it’s in an open container and make sure to have a secure garbage can
  • Take care of your outside, clean up trees and debris that is decaying and get it away from your house.

You can also use preventative measure, like using specific scents that ants dislike and stay away from. You can learn more in our article: 12 Scents That Ants Hate (and How to Use Them)

Final Thoughts On Ants

While researching, I came across some really interesting fun facts from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and thought they’d be fun to share:

  1. Ants don’t have lungs! They just have openings on the sides of their body to breathe in and out from.
  2. Ants can carry 50x their body weights, like a 35-pound toddler carrying 1750 pounds. That’s insane.
  3. They are super clean, they clean themselves regularly and their larvae.
  4. Along with being super clean, they produce their germicide to protect the colony from illness
  5. They can walk upside down

If you are interested in more natural ant repellents, you should check out this article on 8 Indoor Plants And Houseplants That Repel Ants!

All in all, ants are not fun to have around, whether they can fly or not. Knowing what to look for and how to help yourself can make all the difference. 

References

Ascunce, M. (2011). Global Invasion History of The Fire Ant. Science. 1066-1068. doi:10.1126/science.1198734

Bertelsmeier, C., Ollier, S., Liebhold, A. et al. Recent human history governs global ant. invasion dynamics. Nat Ecol Evol 1, 0184 (2017).

Buczkowski, G. Extreme life history plasticity and the evolution of invasive characteristics in a native ant. Biol Invasions 12, 3343–3349 (2010).

Hart, L.M., Tschinkel, W.R. A seasonal natural history of the ant, Odontomachus brunneus. Insect. Soc. 59, 45–54 (2012).

Pricer, J. The Life History of a Carpenter Ant. Science. 178-184.

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