Termites vs. Carpenter Ants: What’s the Difference?

Termites vs. Carpenter Ants

Are there insects infesting the wood in your home? If there are, it would help greatly if you knew exactly which insect is the one responsible for the damage. There are two main culprits: termites and carpenter ants. Both can inflict major destruction on your home’s wood frame, since they burrow into wood and destroy it from the inside. Aside from getting ant and termite inspections, here are some ways you can identify the differences between ants and termites.

Physical Differences

There are significant physical differences between termites and carpenter ants that make it easy to identify one from the other. Take a close look at the insects infesting your home with a magnifying glass or just shine a bright light on them and view them with the naked eye.

  • Antennae – An insect’s antennae can say a lot about them. Carpenter ants have bent or elbowed antennae, while termites have straight, beaded antennae.
  • Body Shape – Take a good look at the insect’s abdomen. Termites have rectangular bodies and have no waist. In contrast, carpenter ants have narrow waists.
  • Color – Carpenter ant workers are dark-colored and reddish. They are often seen in the open, looking for food. Meanwhile, termites hate the light and are either transparent or light in color.
  • Wings – Both carpenter ants and termites have four wings. A carpenter ant’s hind wings are shorter than its front wings. The wings do not look disproportionate to the ant’s body. Termite’s wings are of equal size and shape. Their wings are also much longer than their body and not that durable; they often fall off easily. In fact, loose wings can be used to spot a termite infestation.

Other Differences

These two insects interact with wood differently. Termites eat the wood where they nest. This is because wood is their primary source of cellulose, which they need to survive. They will chew right into healthy wood. Meanwhile, carpenter ants only dig into the wood in order to create their nests; they do not eat the wood. Instead, they push out the wood through openings in their colonies’ galleries. They seek out moist and damaged wood.

Additionally, take a look at the appearance of the wood tunnels. If they’re very smooth and finished, they’re the work of carpenter ants. If the wood tunnels are rough and ragged, then they were made by termites. They fill the tunnels with layers of mud and soil.

Lastly, termites make mud tubes that they build on the outside of walls or in between soil and wood. These mud tubes function as passageways where the termites travel. In contrast, carpenter ants don’t make mud tubes.

Knowing the differences between carpenter ants and termites will greatly help when you’re looking for ways to eliminate them before they cause much damage to your home. Termites, in particular, can cause not only your home’s structure to collapse but also thousands in property damage. That is why, according to some estimates, more than $2 billion is spent annually in controlling and preventing termite infestations.

Once you know the difference between these two insects, you can perform effective control measures to eliminate them. Carpenter ants can be controlled through eliminating whatever is attracting them, such as sweets. Meanwhile, a termite infestation will most likely require professional control.




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