3 Winged Bugs That Look Like Flying Termites

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall

If you notice winged bugs in your home, you might assume you are experiencing a flying termite infestation. This is worrisome as flying termites can inflict severe damage on your house’s structural integrity. However, you’ll commonly find 3 winged bugs that look like flying termites.

The most common winged insects resembling flying termites you will find in your home are mayflies, green lacewings, and flying ants. Each of these insects can inflict varying levels and types of damage on your house. An exterminator can help identify the insects and recommend a plan of action to rid your home of these pests.

It is essential to always consult with an expert if you find these pests in your home. However, it can be helpful to identify and differentiate types of winged insects that often find their way indoors.

What Do Flying Termites Look Like?

Flying termites are just one of the many winged insects that can make their way inside your home. If not found and exterminated in time, a flying termite infestation can cause severe structural damage to your home.

Flying termites resemble many other winged pests. However, there are visible differences that separate flying termites from other insects. By observing features such as size and color, you can narrow down which insect has gotten into your house.

Flying termites range from brown to black, depending on their exact type. There are two main types of flying termites: soldier termites and working termites. A good way to differentiate the two is by color. Worker flying termites are typically lighter brown than the dark brownish or black soldier flying termites.

These insects are on the small side; you can expect them to be about ¼ of an inch to ⅜ of an inch in length. All flying termites have four wings that are equal in size and are transparent to translucent in color. If you can get close enough to check, you will notice that flying termites always have two short antennae on their heads.

Best Way to Identify Flying Termites

Besides visible characteristics like size and color, other factors can help you determine if the pests in your home are flying termites. Flying termites behave in specific ways that different types of winged insects may not. For example, flying termites almost always move in swarms.

It is very rare to find only a single termite in your house. There is likely a larger colony somewhere nearby if you see just one. Termites reproduce quickly and will vacate their colony when it is full. When this occurs, you will likely find swarms of them invading the interior of your home in search of a new nest.

Another clue that you have a flying termite infestation is if you find wings scattered around your home. Flying termites lose their wings when they mate and are ready to start feeding on wood. Remember, flying termite’s wings are transparent or opaque in color.

What 3 Winged Bugs Look Like Flying Termites?

Flying termites are not the only winged insects that can infiltrate their home. In fact, several other flying pests are even more commonly found indoors than flying termites. The three types of bugs that are most likely to be confused with flying termites are green lacewings, mayflies, and flying ants.

While these insects all look alike, there are noticeable differences that will help you differentiate them from flying termites. It is important to note that these insects can also cause structural damage.

It is important to call an exterminator if you find swarms of any of them in your home. Here’s a closer look at the 3 winged bugs that look like flying termites.

Green Lacewings Can Resemble Flying Termites

Green lacewings are garden bugs sometimes mistaken for flying termites, especially if you find them indoors. If you have a garden, you may be familiar with these bugs. They are actually quite beneficial in gardens, as they protect plants from harmful pests.

However, it can be problematic when they swarm and enter your home. These insects are attracted to light and, therefore, may be drawn to your home. While they do not inflict structural damage like flying termites, they reproduce rapidly and can become a nuisance.

Green lacewings are relatively easy to distinguish from flying termites. They are green in color for most of the year. However, they turn brown during the winter. It is during this stage that you might confuse them for flying termites.

Like termites, they also have four wings and two antennae. Yet even in these similarities, green lacewings and flying termites have distinct differences. The wings of a green lacewing are completely transparent, unlike the slightly darker, opaque wings of a flying termite.

Their antennae are also very long and thin, in contrast to the short antennae of flying termites. Green lacewings are also slightly larger, measuring around ¾ of an inch at adulthood.

Mayflies Look Like Flying Termites

Mayflies resemble flying termites slightly more than green lacewings do. Fortunately, there are many ways to determine if these insects have invaded your home. Mayflies are most active during the warmer months, especially after it rains.

Mayflies lay their eggs in water, so you are especially susceptible to mayfly swarms if you have a pool, pond, or fountain in your yard. You may also find frequent mayfly swarms if you live near marshlands or swamps. Fortunately, mayflies are harmless; however, they can be an annoyance.

Mayflies are larger than green lacewings and flying termites, measuring one inch in length. They are generally light in color, ranging in hues from yellow, gray, white, and light brown. They have four translucent wings that are very different in shape from flying termites’ wings.

When stationary, you can clearly observe how the mayfly’s two front wings are larger and wider than their back wings. Mayflies have very short antennae that may not be visible unless one is looking closely.

Also very different from flying termites, mayflies have long tails trailing behind their abdomens, typically two or three. This feature is the most markedly observable difference between mayflies and other winged pests.

Flying Ants Look Like Flying Termites

Flying ants are the most identical-looking insects to flying termites and the most likely to cause damage. Different types of flying ants may make their way inside your home.

Carpenter ants are the most likely type of ants to infest homes. Like flying termites, these pests build their nests inside wooden structures. While carpenter ants do not eat wood as flying termites do, they drill into wood to lay their eggs.

This can be equally dangerous to the structural integrity of your house, as the wood will start to hollow and break down over time. If you have a flying ant infestation, you may see some of their larvae. Flying ant larvae look similar to maggots–they are white and have no legs.

A tell-tale sign that you have a flying ant infestation is the presence of sawdust-like material in your home. Flying ants chew through wood, yet they do not eat it like flying termites.

Therefore, they leave a sawdust-like residue behind as they hollow out wood to make their nests. If you have a colony of flying ants in your home, you will find this residue near the nest.

How to Distinguish a Termite from an Ant

There are several ways to distinguish flying ants from flying termites. Flying ants and carpenter ants are slightly larger than flying termites, averaging 0.7 inches in length. Flying ants are either very dark brown or black.

This feature is important to remember, as flying ants never appear in lighter shades as flying termites sometimes do. Flying ants and termites both have four wings, although ant wings have different sized front and back wings, unlike termites.

A termite’s wings are also much longer than an ant’s. Flying termites’ wings are close to twice their body length. Conversely, flying ants’ wings are short and do not exceed the length of their body.

Another subtle yet important difference is that flying ants have long L-shaped antennae. In contrast, flying termites have straight, shorter antennae.

Furthermore, flying ants have a wide body pinched at the waist. Flying termites have a thinner body that does not appear pinched or separated.

Both flying ants and flying termites move in swarms and are attracted to light. In some ways, however, flying ants behave in different patterns than flying termites do. Termites will never bite humans, while flying ants may (although it is very rare).

How to Prevent Flying Termites and Similar Insects from Getting Into Your Home

Flying termites and other winged insects can enter your home through cracks and small holes. Getting a termite inspection can help you identify potential problems.

Have your home treated by an exterminator to assess any areas that may lead to an insect infestation. This treatment may include sealing cracks around your home’s foundation or repairing roof or plumbing leaks.

All three types of winged insects are attracted to light. Light sources found in your doorway, yard, or garden are frequent gateways that attract insects into your home.

To prevent this, you can use certain types of outdoor lighting designed to emit light without attracting pests. Yellow bug lights and sodium vapor lights are great at not drawing bugs to your house.

Moisture problems may lead to a winged insect infestation in your home. Moist basements, especially, are common areas that attract bugs such as termites. Check your basement and surrounding areas for any signs of excess water.

To prevent flying insects and flying termites, cut away any tree branches near your house. Carpenter ants can nest in piles of firewood. If you store firewood in your yard, place it far away from your house, and elevate it if possible.

How Are Flying Termites Different from Wingless Termites?

Not all termites fly, depending on the stage in their life cycle. Flying termites are one of many termites that make their nests inside houses. Flying termites are known as “alates,” meaning they are a type of termite that reproduce. This quality creates an even more severe infestation in your home.

Therefore, winged termites are an early sign of a termite infestation and subsequent damage. While most termites with wings only mate, drywood termites are winged and will soon start eating wood. They will likely end up feasting on wood located inside your home.

Winged termites are produced when a termite colony reaches a certain age and needs to expand. This typically happens when the colony is approximately three to four years old. The termites will leave the nest to seek mates to reproduce and form new colonies.

Most winged termites are known to fly during the day, although some fly at night using lights that attract other termites. After mating, the winged termites head toward the ground, break off their wings, and attempt to form a new colony. Shedding their wings makes it easier for them to re-enter the ground and tunnel holes in wood.

Are There Other Insects That I Might Mistake for Flying Termites?

Flying ants, green lacewings, and mayflies are the 3 winged bugs that look like flying termites the most. However, other insects make their way into homes and are mistaken for termites.

As with lacewings, ants, and mayflies, these pests are capable of inflicting varying levels and types of damage. They are also drawn to your house in similar ways: light, moisture, and cracks in the roof or foundation.

Some other insects that you might mistake for flying termites are powderpost beetles and carpenter bees. The swarms of these types of insects are typically smaller than those of flying termites. However, they are capable of causing structural wood damage, so a sighting of any in your house warrants an expert assessment.

Powderpost Beetles

Signs of wood damage in your home may indicate a powderpost beetle infestation. Like flying termites, powderpost beetles are capable of creating visible wood damage. While these bugs create the same damage as flying termites, they do so on a much faster scale.

The tell-tale signs of powderpost beetle damage are a dust-like residue left from where they bite into the wood. You may also notice small, round holes near the surface of the wood. These are known as “shot holes” and are where beetles exit the wood after completing their development.

These beetles are most active at night; therefore, it is more likely that you will see signs of wood damage than the beetles themselves. They are most likely to be attracted to dry, seasoned wood.

Powderpost beetles are small, narrow insects and are approximately 1/16 to ¼ of an inch in length. They range from reddish-brown to black. Their larvae are white or beige and are easily recognizable by their C shape.

Adult powderpost beetles can fly but have very different wings from flying termites. They have protected wings covered by a hard and rigid material covering their back.

Carpenter Bees

Like flying termites and powderpost beetles, carpenter bees also pose a potential danger to your home. Carpenter bees drill holes into wood to build their nests and can severely damage said wood over time.

Once their eggs hatch, they are unlikely to leave and will create an even larger colony. The damage that carpenter bees create in your wood makes it easier for other pests, including rodents, to enter your home.

Carpenter bees drill tunnels approximately 1 inch deep–noticeable by the sawdust-like residue they leave behind. You may also notice excrement stains on the wood below their holes. Carpenter bees are most likely to build their nests in “soft” wood–namely on your deck, shed, and home.

Carpenter bees are large, black bees resembling bumblebees. However, carpenter bees have bare, shiny backs that are very different from bumblebees’ fuzzy backs. They also lack the yellow markings, a hallmark feature of bumblebees.

Carpenter bees are approximately 1 inch in length. They have six legs and two sets of opaque wings. The front set of wings is larger than the rear set.

Male carpenter bees do not have stingers. The females are capable of stinging, but they rarely will unless extremely agitated.

A Final Look at Winged Insects That Look Like Flying Termites

Finding a winged bug in your home may cause you some alarm, as many homeowners first suspect a flying termite infestation. While this may be the case–and a serious situation for an expert to deal with–it is important to note other likely options.

Flying termites are one of the many types of winged insects that take up residency indoors. There are namely 3 winged bugs that look like flying termites.

They are especially likely to be confused with flying ants. Flying ants present a danger to your home as they cause damage by drilling into wood to lay their eggs.

There are also winged insects that resemble termites which do not cause structural damage but are still a nuisance. These include insects such as green lacewings and mayflies, which are attracted to light and moisture.

If you notice a swarm of any winged insect in your home, it is important to call an exterminator. They will be able to determine the type of infestation, as well as assess and repair any damages.

Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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