The majority of ants are wingless. However, at certain times of the year, swarms of winged ants become a common sight. These winged ants often are called alates, swarmers or reproductives. Winged ants have elbowed antennae, thin waists constricted at the thorax and hind wings smaller than their front wings. This helps distinguish them from another insect that produces winged individuals, termites. Winged termites have straight antennae, broad waists and wings that are equal in length.
All ant species include three castes—queens, males and workers. Female winged ants are larger than male winged ants. Worker ants, or infertile female ants, are commonly seen crawling and foraging for food. Some species of ants have winged worker ants, while other species do not. There can be thousands of winged ants in one established colony.
All ant species live in colonies established by fertile females, or queens. Winged female ants and males typically swarm after a day of heavy rain in a particular season. Queens begin as winged ants and usually shed their wings after mating. Reproductive males die soon afterward.
When winged ants are found within a home, it is likely that a colony has already been established or entered through an opening like an open window. A pest control professional should be contacted to treat any ant infestation.