As a homeowner, you are probably always on the lookout for termites and any signs of infestation. When you notice winged insects, then, you may automatically assume that you have a termite problem and schedule a termite inspection. Not so fast! While you may spot winged reproductive termites in the spring, what you could be seeing is carpenter ants. This is still a good reason to call for professional assistance, but it is nowhere near as serious as having a termite infestation. How can you tell the difference between ants and termites? We can help with this look at carpenter ants vs. termites.
Why is it so easy to confuse these two insects? First, carpenter ants and reproductive termites look similar. They have bulbous exoskeletons, antennae, and wings. However, if you look closely, you will see that they are very different in appearance.
- Color: Carpenter ants are typically black, or sometimes red. Termites, on the other hand, range from white or creamy tan to dark brown. Additionally, some termites can be translucent, while carpenter ants are opaque.
- Size: At ½ inch to ⅝ inch long, carpenter ants are larger than termite swarmers, who average ⅜ of an inch long.
- Body Shape: Termites and ants are shaped very differently. While ants have narrow waists, with very defined segmentation of the abdomen, termites have broader waists and less definite segmentation. What’s more, ants have three segments- a head, thorax, and abdomen- while termites only have a head and thorax.
- Wings: Both termites and ants have two sets of wings. However, termites’ wings are uniform in size, and ants have two large wings and two small wings. Often, the only evidence you will find of an infestation is wings; if they are the same size and shape, they are probably termite wings, while wings of different shapes and sizes likely indicate ants. Ant wings are translucent and reddish brown, but termite wings are translucent or have a milky or smoky color. And while termite wings are double the length of the insect’s body, ant wings are only slightly longer than the ant’s body. Both carpenter ants and termites shed their wings on window sills and near doors and vents.
- Antennae: Termite antennae look as if they are made up of little balls, and they are straight. Ant antennae, on the other hand, are distinctly bent.
Interestingly, you are unlikely to see termites unless they’re swarming. Carpenter ants, on the other hand, leave their nests to look for food, so you might see them in your home. While carpenter ants will burrow into wood to make a nest, they don’t eat wood. They eat other insects, which is why they need to leave the safety of their nests to do that. Termites either nest in the wood they’re consuming, or they build nests underground and use mud tubes to travel between their nests and your home. Both types of insects require access to water, so repairing leaks and resolving moisture issues quickly is an important part of keeping termites and carpenter ants out of your home.
What are the signs of carpenter ants vs. termites? Aside from seeing the ants themselves, if you have carpenter ants in your home, you might hear the ants scratching in your walls. You might also see wood shavings or sawdust under wooden areas like windows, door jambs, and baseboards. Both carpenter ants and termites leave behind droppings, called frass, but carpenter ant frass typically contains wood and parts of dead insects. If you have Subterranean termites, you’re also likely to see mud tubes on the outside of your house, but ants do not travel by mud tubes.
Because 90 percent of houses in the United States are built with wood frames, any insect that destroys wood is a problem. But another difference between termites and carpenter ants is the type of wood they infest. Because carpenter ants just tunnel into wood to build their nests, they prefer soft, wet, or rotting wood to do that. Once they’ve established their nests, they sometimes tunnel into sound wood, pushing out wood through the holes they use to enter. Termites don’t need the wood to be soft, though they do eat rotten, weakened wood sometimes. They can also eat wood that is healthy and sound.
Some species of termites live in the wood inside your home, while other species live underground. Carpenter ants also build nests in other wood sources as well, including tree stumps, firewood, landscaping, and fence posts. They are often found in damaged wood in houses, including damaged window and door frames, crawl spaces, chimneys, sinks, and bathtubs. Dampwood termites will also live in logs, stumps, dead trees, utility poles, and dead trees. Drywood termites only infest drywood, like wood framings in your home.
Ultimately, while neither carpenter ants nor termites are creatures you want living in your home, and both types of insects are destructive, termites do far more damage than carpenter ants. By the time you see termites or the signs they leave behind, they are likely to have already established a colony on your property and done significant damage. If you see either type of insect, whether or not you’re sure which kind it is, call for an inspection so that a treatment plan can be established.
At MightyMite Termite Services, we’ve earned a reputation as experts in California termite control. We perform termite inspections to ensure that your home is free of termites and work hard to help you keep it that way, using treatments that are naturally derived and have a low impact on the environment. We diagnose and treat infestations with the most effective methods and unmatched warranties, solving your termite problems the first time, with an industry best “no call-back rate.” That, combined with our experience, technology, and highly trained professional staff, makes us the leading extermination company in the Bay Area. We understand that your home is your most important investment, so we work hard to provide excellent service, utilizing best practices to solve our customers’ termite problems. For more information, email Info@mightymitetermite.com, call us today at 408.335.7053, or contact us through our website.