termites vs ants, how can you tell the difference?We hear this all the time. Unsuspecting homeowners schedule treatments to rid their property of what they think is a “harmless” infestation. Upon further inspection, their simple “ant problem” turns out to be a much bigger concern. No homeowner wants to see an ant crawling around their house, though the reality is it’s hard not to get ants from time to time. The bigger issue is if you see a winged ant in your house. Is it an ant? Or is it a termite? Carpenter ants and termites have some similar habits and at first glance, look alike. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to tell the difference between termites vs ants. And make no mistake, an infestation of either can absolutely wreck any wood in your home. Carpenter ants aren’t harmless. They can be just as destructive as termites.

Termites vs Ants, An Introduction

The simplest way to determine whether you have a destructive insect on your hands versus something that is going to eat away at your foundation is by determining whether it’s winged or a walker. If it doesn’t have wings, or it’s small (less than 1/4 inch) it’s definitely a less threatening species of ant. How big are termites? They will always be relatively large. Do all termites have wings? Yes.

Once you’ve determined this, there are a few different ways of figuring out if your pest problem is with winged termites vs flying ants. It’s often helpful to capture a specimen in a bowl, then examine it under a magnifying glass. Do termites or flying ants bite? While neither do, be careful anyway. There’s always a chance of an allergic reaction when in contact with insects.

Related: Listen to the Bug Jim Podcast Episode about Carpenter Ants

Termites vs Ants: The Physical Differences

There are two very clear visual differences between carpenter ants and termites. The first is that the ants have a very obvious “waist” where their thorax narrows considerably, giving their bodies an hourglass shape. Termites have a straight, rectangular thorax with no narrowing.

The antennae are another big giveaway. Termite antennae are fairly straight and bumpy, while ant antennae have distinct 90-degree bends midway through.

While harder to see, you can also distinguish them based on the shape of their wings. Termite wings are translucent white and rounded at the end. Ant wings are pointed at the end, and generally brown/red. This could be useful because both species’ wings are fragile and often fall off. So, sometimes your first warning that you have an infestation is finding one or more pairs of lost wings on your floor.

Termites vs Ants: The Behavior Differences

If you’re still in doubt, keep in mind that both kinds of insects have different goals. Carpenter ants like to make nests in wood, but they don’t eat it. They’re pretty much always going to nest somewhere that they have a nearby food source – most likely your kitchen. Occasionally, they might also set up camp near a bathroom, or a common area used to entertain that can be a source of food droppings and crumbs. So, if you see what appear to be flying ants in your bathroom, that’ll be carpenter ants, not termites.

Termites, on the other hand, do eat wood. Therefore, they’ll look for someplace out of the way with a lot of wood available. Attics and basements are popular if there’s plenty of exposed wood, or potentially within cabinets and similar installations. Termites are also less likely to explore than carpenter ants since they don’t need to look for food. They’ll usually stay close to their nests.

Related: Termite Treatment – What to Expect

Termites vs Ants: The Treatment Differences

While over the counter pesticides are effective at treating carpenter ants, the goal is to identify the nest and treat at the source. Typically, professional pest control companies will go to the root of the problem and minimize the reoccurrence.

Termites, on the other hand, are very difficult to exterminate without professional intervention. You’ll want to give us a call or contact us below. Expert Pest Control has been the number one trusted resource for homeowners and New England residents for over 25 years. Our local, skilled technicians can be at your property in a matter of hours and help you identify the type(s) of infestation you have and begin treatment immediately during our initial site visit.

We are New England’s leading partner for commercial and residential pest management, and we pride ourselves on helping eliminate termites and carpenter ants that can result in thousands of dollars in home repairs, as well as seasonal insects, stinging and biting bugs, rodents, and small wildlife in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.

request a quote