How to Tell the Difference Between Carpenter Ants and Termites

If asked to name a destructive insect with a fondness for chewing through wood, what would you say? Did you think of carpenter ants? Are termites the terror that popped into your mind? Either of these answers would be correct. With their ability to cause extensive property damage, both of these pests are bad news, but they do have their differences. How can you tell if carpenter ants or termites are bugging you?

Antennae, Waists and Wings

There’s a fairly strong resemblance between carpenter ants and termites, but there are physical traits that can help you differentiate between them. To start from the top, carpenter ants have bent antennae that appear segmented; termites have straight antennae that look beaded. Their waists are also quite different. Carpenter ants have tiny, nipped-in waists, and termites have a more rectangular shape. Finally, when carpenter ants have wings, the front pair is bigger. When termites have wings, they are uniform in size.

A Question of Visibility

Although both carpenter ants and termites can be spotted when they swarm, they generally have far different levels of visibility. Carpenter ants can’t live on wood alone, so they must venture out into their surroundings to locate food. Their efforts mean that you might see them moving around, especially in spaces like kitchens and pantries. In contrast, termites actually eat wood, so they tend to spend more time hidden away in spaces where they are unlikely to encounter people.

When Neatness Matters

When you’re trying to decide if your unwelcome guests are carpenter ants or termites, neatness matters. Carpenter ants chew through wood to build galleries that serve as their homes, and they keep their rooms tidy. When you find damage done by carpenter ants, the wood will appear smooth and polished. Termites are more concerned with feeding their massive appetites, so they don’t mind making a mess. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see dirt or mud that they’ve tracked in during their tunneling efforts.

Talking Trash

Archeologists are delighted to find ancient trash piles because they can reveal a lot about those who made them. Oddly enough, looking at the debris left by insects can help you determine if you’re looking at a carpenter ant infestation or a termite one. Carpenter ants tend to pitch out wood shavings in various sizes. Termites eat the wood, but they leave behind droppings called frass.

Whether you’re dealing with carpenter ants or termites, your best strategy for getting rid of these damaging creatures requires promptly placing a call to a reputable pest control professional. At Worldwide Pest Control, we’ve been providing expert pest control services to residential, commercial, industrial and government facilities for more than 30 years. If pests are causing problems at your property, contact us today to request our assistance.