Don’t Get Confused: Know the Difference Between Termites and Ants

How do you know if it’s termites or carpenter ants destroying your home? Both are notorious for causing wood damage. If you notice wood damage and suspect termites or carpenter ants, a solution to the problem starts with correct identification.

Two Damaging Insects

Termites and carpenter ants share more similarities than just being wood-destroying insects. Termites are roughly the same size as many species of large ants that fall into the carpenter ant group. Also like termites, carpenter ants burrow into wood, and because both carpenter ants and termites swarm in the springtime to mate, homeowners often confuse them for each other when spotting the swarms.

Not Exact Look-A-Likes

Although both insects will look very similar on the outside to the naked eye, a closer inspection will show many differences. To see these differences, you can use a magnifying glass or bright light.

  • Body shape: Pay close attention to the abdomen of the insect. Termites have no “waist.” The body shape is more rectangular and doesn’t narrow in the center. Carpenter ants have a well-defined “waist.”
  • Antennae: A carpenter ant has bent, “elbowed” feelers whereas a termite has straight, beaded feelers.
  • Wings: Both insects are winged creatures and each has four wings. Although this seems not helpful, this characteristic is actually one of the better differentiating characteristics. A termite has wings that are equal in size and shape to each other, and its wings are much longer than its body. A carpenter ant’s back, hind wings are shorter than its front forewings, and the wings do not look unusually long or disproportionate to its body. Also, termites’ wings are not as durable or as strong as carpenter ants. The wings of the termite fall off easily. The loose wings can often be seen near the opening of a termite nest and can be used to identify a termite infestation.
  • Color: Worker ants are typically red in color and can be seen in the open foraging for food. In contrast, termites are transparent, light, or creamy in color and are rarely seen in the open. They tend to avoid the light.

How They Behave Differently

The way termites and carpenter ants interact with wood is different though. Termites will eat wood where they nest. Carpenter ants will just dig into wood to make their nests; they don’t eat the wood. So, if you see small piles of wood shavings or frass (insect waste) below the holes, it helps to identify an infestation of carpenter ants. If you notice mud tubes, it is a definite sign of the presence or previous presence of termites. These are tubes built on the outside of walls or between the soil and wood and serve as the passageways for the termites.

The obvious difference in the two insect tunnels is the way the wood tunnels look. For carpenter ants, the tunnels will be very smooth and finished; termite mud tubes are rough and ragged.

Controlling Carpenter Ants and Termites

Since the two insects are so different, the way they are eliminated and controlled also differ.

Carpenter ants love damp, dead wood to tunnel and nest in. Eliminating the conditions in which they thrive will help control them. Old South Exterminators pest control technicians are trained to seek out and identify the source causing the problem: a poorly sealed window, water leak, etc. Once we’ve identified the problem source and a fix has been made, we will do a granular application to rid of the ants. To prevent a future infestations and damage, keep old stumps or firewood at least 100 yards away from your home and fix any water problems immediately.

Eliminating and controlling a termite infestation will also need to be professionally handled. Old South Exterminators inspectors and technicians are trained to spot termite activity and damage. Once the problem area has been identified, our termite technicians will scrape away any mud tubes. Then, once the damaged wood has been replaced, our technicians will complete a full exterior trench and treat with Termidor®, the best liquid termiticide on the market.

Call Old South Exterminators to handle any wood-destroying organism issue you may have in your home. We have been proudly serving the Lowcountry for more than 20 years and are a trusted source for pest and termite control.

Right now, call our office to get $100 off a residential termite treatment. This offer is for new residential termite customers only and cannot be combined with any other offers. Offer expires May 31, 2019.

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