Difference between Termites & Carpenter Ants

carpenter ant with wings

In the spring, termites and carpenter ants become active again and both will begin to swarm. During the swarming period, it can be difficult to determine whether you are dealing with termites or carpenter ants. At one level, it doesn’t matter much, as they are both wood destroying insects and can cause damage to your home (or other building). However, each of these pests requires very different treatment methods. Here is a short break down of how to differentiate.

 Carpenter AntsTermites
Antennae:Elbowed antennaeStraight antennae
Body:Three distinct body segments with a pinched waistTwo body segments with broad waist
Size:Ants vary in size but can be between 1/2 inch to 1 inch longTermites are much smarller, about 1/4 inch long
Wings:Two sets of unequal size wings that remain on their bodies during the swarming cycleTwo sets of equal size wings that fall off at some point in the swarming cylce

Identifying Termites

If you notice small black winged insects (1/4 inch long) swarming in large numbers then you may have a termite issue. Termites only have wings for a short window of time, so if they are here today gone tomorrow, but leave discarded wings around the exterior of your home/building. If you’re noticing a consistent presence of swarming flyers, you might be dealing with carpenter ants.  

Winged Termites
Termite Swarmers (w/ Wings)
Termites w/o Wings

During (and especially after) swarming events be sure to look around your foundation for signs of mud tunnels or damage. Mud tunnels can be on the exterior or interior of building foundations; these tunnels are made from soil  and are fairly thin and have an organic, branching structure (imagine the root or branch of a plant). Termites attack wood from the inside out so it maybe difficult to notice the extent of termite activity once they are in the wooden frame of a home/building. To learn more about professional options for preventing and eliminating termites, visit our termite control & colony elimination page.

Identifying Carpenter Ants

While termites will eat wood, carpenters ants rely on other sources for food and only use wood to make their nests. Because of this, a carpenter ant infestation can often be given away by the presence of frass (sawdust-like material).   If you notice frass in or around your home then that means a nest could be in the area. Carpenter Ants nesting inside your home may be an indication of a moisture issue as well.

carpenter ant with wings
carpenter ants

To learn more about carpenter ants, visit their pest page. To request help identifying and dealing with carpenter ants, feel free to call, email, or submit a contact form.

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