Fruit flies, houseflies, and — heaven forbid — bees are bad enough when they invade your house. Now, though, you have to contend with flying ants. It might sound like a total nightmare, particularly when they swarm while mating, but luckily, these winged creatures aren't dangerous. Controlling the population, while frustrating, isn't as hard as seems.
Identifying Flying Ants
Flying ants are what's called "reproductives" of an ant colony. They take flight in order to mate, gathering in massive clusters. However, winged ants are often mistaken for termites, a significant problem if you don't treat them properly and wind up with termite damage. Identify the right insect by looking for key features:
- Termites: The wings are an equal length, the antennae are straight, as is the abdomen.
- Flying ants: The wings an unequal in length, the antennae are bent, and the abdomen is thin.
Controlling Flying Ants
Just because you find a few flying ants in your home, it doesn't mean that you're about to experience an ant invasion. Male flying ants die immediately after mating, and not all queen ants can start a new colony.
If a swarm of winged ants is spotted — especially during the winter months when they are most likely breeding — there is a strong likelihood that there is a carpenter ant nest within the structure. Here's what to do:
- Handle the immediate problem: You can get rid of easily spotted swarms with a vacuum, whether handheld or full-sized. Immediately replace the vacuum bag and get the original one out of the house, so the ants don't crawl their way back out.
- Fix or replace damaged wood: Carpenter ants are more likely to nest in rotting, wet, or otherwise damaged wood. Search for where they could be hiding out and, when you find it, replace or fix the wood in which they're nesting.
- Apply pest treatment: Choose between insecticidal dust, baits, and insecticide sprays to eliminate the ants. The dust can be injected into the area where the ants are living, while baits are a passive though slower option. The ants pick up the bait and take it back to the nest, where it kills the entire colony. Make sure that the bait you have purchased is specifically for carpenter ants. Insecticide spray is a good option for just a few flying ants, as it won't have a big impact on the colony as a whole.
- If you feel strongly about the safety of commercial pest treatment, try a natural version by mixing dish soap and peppermint oil. Fill a spray bottle with one part liquid soap, two parts water, and a few drops of oil, and then spray the ants and surrounding area. The soap dehydrates the insect, while the peppermint oil suffocates them.
- Call a professional: When all else fails, call a professional. Pest treatment companies can take further measures to eliminate flying ants and the colony that they came from that's located inside your home.
- Seal the cracks in the house. Even if you think the ant problem has been treated, there's always the potential for another swarm in the future. Seal any cracks around the windows and baseboards or in the walls to stop a possible second invasion.