Carpenter Ants vs Termites: How to Tell The Difference

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Hundreds of thousands of US homes fall victim to wood-destroying insects every year. Two of the most common culprits are carpenter ants and termites. While both are destructive, they have some important differences! Learning the differences between carpenter ants vs termites helps you determine what action to take next.

Carpenter Ant Damage vs Termite Damage

Termites and carpenter ants are similar in some ways, one of which is they can both cause extensive wood damage in your home. Termites will eat through the wood, and carpenter ants will just tear the wood apart to make their home. Both will also send out reproductive swarmers in the springtime of the year. But that is where the similarities stop.

A Difference in Wood Damage

Carpenter ants and termite infestations serve two totally different purposes. A termite will get nutrition out of the wood to survive with the help of microscopic protozoa in their stomachs. Carpenter ants are a little different and do not eat any of the wood. Carpenter ants just tear the wood apart to make their home. Because of this, the signs of carpenter ants vs termites are different. Damaged wood created by carpenter ants looks clean and almost “polished” on the inside, whereas termite wood damage is rough with layers of mud and soil and contains debris such as shavings, dead insects, and pellets. Another way to distinguish a termite infestation is the presence of tubes that are built outside walls or between soil and wood that serve as passageways for them to travel.

Physical Differences

Beyond just the signs of carpenter ants vs termites, there are physical differences as well! Here are a few differences to look out for:

  • The ant has a definitive narrow waist. A termite is more rectangular in shape with no narrowing in the middle.
  • The termite has straight antennae with beaded ends whereas the carpenter ant has antennae that are bent.
  • Carpenter ant “workers” are dark or reddish in color and are often seen in the open whereas termite “workers” are light in color or transparent. They avoid light so termites are typically not seen unless their nest has become disturbed.
  • Although they both have four wings, termites are equally sized and are proportionally longer than its body.

The wings are probably the easiest way to tell carpenter ants from termites. The termite’s wings fall off easily and their wings are often seen at the opening of a nest. This is an important sign of carpenter ants vs termites. The carpenter ant’s back wings are shorter than the front ones and are not like those of a termite.

Getting Rid of Carpenter Ants vs Termites

Termites and carpenter ants are very different, and controlling them requires two very different methods. For the most part, carpenter ants can be controlled by eliminating the attractant that drew them in the first place and doing a treatment around the exterior of the home. Termite infestations will require a more professional intervention which will include either a chemical spray or a bait system to take care of the problem. One thing that these two do have in common is that they should never be handled with DIY methods, leave it to the professionals!

Call an Expert for Help

There are many common myths about ants and termites, so consulting an expert is most likely your best bet. If you see an indication of either carpenter ants or termites, it’s best to get the advice of a professional. Call the Pittsburgh pest control experts at Spectrum Pest Control to get treatment for your pest infestation.