Difference between winged termites and flying ants

Difference between winged termites and flying ants

Insects are a group of animals that, when found alone or in small numbers, can go unnoticed by us. However, some species, when they gather in the thousands or even millions, make their presence quite noticeable. A peculiarity of these invertebrates is that they have conquered a large number of habitats thanks to their various biological strategies.


In this Better-Pets.net article, we want to introduce you to the differences between winged termites and flying ants, two types of social insects that can live in extremely numerous colonies. We invite you to continue reading and learning about these particular bugs.

What are winged termites and flying ants?

Both the winged termites and the flying ants are the fertile females and males who founded a colony and generate the offspring that will form part of it, that is, they are the reproductive individuals of the group.

In this sense, when we are in the presence of a termite or a winged ant, we find one of the royalties of these social insects, although in the case of ants the male is not usually referred to asking.

Taxonomic classification of termites and ants

One of the first differences that we can mention between these insects is their taxonomic classification, which differs in the level of application to which each of these groups belongs. Let’s know how they are classified:

Taxonomic classification of termites

  • animal kingdom
  • Phylum: Arthropod
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Blattodea (formerly Isoptera, but now a suborder)

Taxonomic classification of ants

  • animal kingdom
  • Phylum: Arthropod
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Hymenoptera

Characteristics of winged termites

Termites are generally classified from the social point of view into castes, which are constituted by: primary reproducers, supplementary reproducers, also known as neotenous, soldiers and workers.

When referring to winged termites, he is referring to the female and male of these insects, which have the specific function of founding a new nest and generating their offspring, so that they are individuals characterized by their fertility.

The first distinguishing feature of winged termites is the presence of two pairs of wings of equal size. Hence the designation of copper (iso: equal, pteron: wing), which are designated as king and queen. The wings are membranous and their dimensions are characterized by going beyond the animal’s body, which is why they are called macroptera. The body, as is common in insects, is sclerotized and divided into three regions or tags: head, chest and abdomen. The size of flying termites varies between 6 and 18 millimetres.

The head can be rounded, oval in shape and eventually flattened, with straight antennas that have 10 to 32 rounded rings. The buccal apparatus of winged termites is of the chewing type and, based on their differences, taxonomic characters were established to designate the various genera. Some chest differences can also be used for the various classifications. In this last structure are located the wings, which as mentioned are large and of equal size. They are membranous and, when at rest, cross the back of the body.

At the base of the wings, there is a fracture line, along which this structure will detach itself, as soon as the nuptial flight and reproduction occur. After losing its wings, the termite will maintain a triangular scale.

The abdomen is different between males and females, there may also be differences between different species. In this one, the genitalia is located internally, except in the species Mastotermes darwiniensis.

Characteristics of flying ants

Ants are also highly social insects, which have individuals with different roles within their group that are differentiated into castes. In this sense, depending on the role they play, they are classified into: queens and males, both winged and with reproductive capacity. It is common to have more than one queen because if the main one decreases its reproductive capacity, it can be supplanted. There are also soldiers and workers, who in some cases can be monomorphic and, in others, differ morphologically depending on the function they perform.

Flying ants, both female and male, are the fertile individuals in the colony. However, in some species, workers can lay eggs that produce fertile males.

Unlike termites that have straight antennae, flying ants have a curvature, so they are known as angled antennae, but they are also segmented. Another aspect in which these insects differ is in the wings, since these structures in ants are transparent and different in size, the forelegs are longer than the hindquarters. Ants, on the other hand, have structures or hooks on their hind wings called hamuli, which are typical of the order Hymenoptera. In addition, winged ants have a narrowing between their chest and abdomen that flying termites do not have.

Where do winged termites and flying ants live?

In the case of termites, three groups are distinguished: dry wood, moist wood and underground. Termites build their complex nests in some of these spaces mentioned, which are known as termite mounds. The first and third groups are commonly found in urban areas, while the second is mainly located in natural areas. The winged termites can find their nests underground, build termite mounds in the form of large mounds, which can reach meters in height and are characteristic of some areas or above the trees. In most cases, their presence is not noticed until they have caused serious damage by the amount they reach.

In turn, flying ants also install their nests underground, rocks, trunks, trees, but there are even some nomadic species, which move regularly. The construction of underground nests is also extremely complex, formed by chambers, with special ones for the protection of the queen.

Although it is sometimes common to confuse winged termites with flying ants due to their apparent physical similarity, we already know that by looking at their antennae, wings and abdomen, we can tell them apart. Furthermore, from a phylogenetic point of view, they are not related, as the former actually has a close relationship with cockroaches, while the latter with bees and wasps, among others.

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