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June 27, 2023 4 min read

Did you know that, out of the approximately 12,000 identified species of ants across the globe, almost every species has members that are capable of flight?

There's more to the world of ants than the busy and industrious workers than you might see walking across your kitchen floor.

These fascinating creatures display a hidden feature that tends to elude the casual observer: wings. But many people still find themselves asking the question "Do ants have wings?". 

To clear up any confusion, we have put together a guide. Keep reading if you want to find out more. 

Why Ants Have Wings

Imagine owning an ant farm, watching the industrious little creatures, and suddenly seeing a winged ant appear.

It might leave you scratching your head in surprise. After all, why do ants, primarily ground-dwelling insects, need wings?

Winged ants, often known as alates, are ants within a colony that are destined to become reproductive members.

Unlike the common worker ants, who are responsible for collecting food, maintaining the nest, and protecting their community, these alates have a special mission.

They are equipped with wings because they need to fly away from their home colony to start new colonies elsewhere. This event is usually part of a significant phase in the ant life cycle known as the nuptial flight. 

Which Types of Ants Have Wings

In the world of ant farms and anthills, not every ant you see has wings. So, which ants do? The answer lies within the social structure of the ant colony itself.

There are typically three types of ants in a colony: the queen, the male ants, and the worker ants.

The queen ant, also known as a female alate before she starts a new colony, has wings. Male ants are also born with wings.

These winged ants are responsible for reproduction. They participate in the nuptial flight, where they mate in the air. After mating, the males die, and the now-queen ant loses her wings and goes off to start a new colony.

Worker ants, on the other hand, are females that do not reproduce and are generally wingless. They are the ones you often see foraging for food or tirelessly building and maintaining the colony.

If you see wingless ants, they're most likely the workers.

What Determines Whether or Not an Ant Has Wings

In an ant colony, whether an ant has wings or not is determined by their role and gender. The queen and male ants are winged, while worker ants are wingless.

This is determined at the larval stage, based on the nutrition they receive. Larvae destined to become queens or males are fed more food and specific types of food compared to worker larvae.

This nutrition allows them to develop into larger, winged ants.

Do All Species of Ants Have Wings

When asking "What ants have wings?", it's important to remember that not all ants species follow the same rules. Nearly all ant species have winged members. But some exceptions exist.

For instance, a few species of ants, like army ants and driver ants, don't follow the typical rules of ant reproduction. These species don't have a distinct nuptial flight.

Instead, new queens and males leave the nest on foot, mate, and then establish new colonies. In such cases, ants do not develop wings.

As you might understand by now, ants are far more diverse and complex than many people initially think. Their social structure, mating rituals, and even their wings make them unique among insects. 

Identifying the Different Types of Ants With Wings

Understanding the world of ants and their wings requires a closer look at the different types of ants and how to identify them. Many factors contribute to ant identification, including color, size, and even the presence of wings.

The Carpenter ant is one of the common species that display winged ants. The winged Carpenter ants are usually larger than their wingless counterparts and have a reddish-brown to black color.

These winged ants are often seen in the spring and early summer when they set off for their nuptial flight.

Fire ants, another widely recognized species, also have winged members.

The winged fire ants are similar in size to the workers but you can identify them by their dark-colored wings. These wings contrast with their reddish-brown bodies.

They typically take their nuptial flights in late spring or early summer after a rainstorm.

Harvester ants, commonly found in arid regions, also have winged members.

These winged ants have a more elongated body compared to other species and are often dark red to black. Their flights are usually triggered by rain and occur from late summer to fall.

The ability to identify these different types of ants and their winged members requires careful observation and a bit of knowledge about their characteristics.

If you want to become more adept at identifying ants, it is a good idea to start an ant farm. But keep in mind that you will need to choose the best types of ant food if you want to properly care for your ants. 

Do Ants Have Wings?

If you've been asking the question "Do ants have wings?", you are not alone. 

Contrary to what many people think, most ant species have wings. In fact, for most ant species it is only the worker ants, that do not have wings. 

Lastly, keep in mind that one of the most popular types of winged ants are carpenter ants. 

Do you want to continue exploring the fascinating world of ants? If so, you should start an ant farm. Not only is it easy to do this, but you will also learn a lot. 

If you are ready to start an ant farm, Everything Ants can help you. We sell ant farm kits, ant food, and ant gear. Don't hesitate to get started by reaching out to us today!