How to Tell the Difference Between Carpenter Ants and Termites

Close up of carpenter ants | Advantage Termite and Pest Control

Discovering possible termite activity is every homeowner’s worst nightmare, as they panic over the extent of the damage that may be hidden within the walls and beneath the floorboards. But did you know that carpenter ants are commonly mistaken for termites?

Knowing exactly what wood-damaging pest you’re dealing with can help you determine how to eliminate them effectively and how quickly you need to take action. Before you call a termite company, here’s how to assess whether you have a termite infestation — or are dealing with an ant problem instead.


Carpenter Ants vs. Termites

One reason many homeowners mistake carpenter ants for termites is that both pests cause damage to the wood in and around the home. They are also similar in size and appearance, though some distinct differences make these wood-loving home invaders easy to distinguish. While it’s best to call a professional team like Advantage to determine your problematic pest, here are a few ways to tell if you’re dealing with carpenter ants vs. termites. 


  1. Appearance

One of the easiest ways to identify termites based on their appearance is by looking at their wings. Termites swarmers have four wings that are uniform in size and much longer than their body. Carpenter ant wings aren’t as long, and the back wings are smaller than the front pair. Worker termites are also a near-transparent, creamy white color, while carpenter ants are a dark red-brown.

Carpenter ants look similar to common ants, with a sectioned body, narrow waist, and bent antennae. Termites, by contrast, have straight antennae and a rectangular body with no waist definition.

It’s unlikely to find a termite crawling around your home, since they prefer to avoid light. So it’s important to know what other signs to look for if you suspect termite or carpenter ant activity.


  1. Habitat and Behavior

If you see pests crawling around your home, they’re more likely to be carpenter ants. Termites prefer to stay safe within their mud tubes and the tunnels they burrow in your walls, and you usually won’t see one crawling around your house unless their nest has been disturbed. Carpenter ants like to hang out in moist areas but don’t mind roaming out and about in plain view. You’re especially likely to find worker ants foraging for food in or near your kitchen.

When looking for signs of a termite infestation, begin by searching for mud tubes. These are a sure sign of termite activity at some point, and even if the termites are gone, they may have left significant damage behind.


  1. Damage to Wood

Assessing damage that termites or carpenter ants have caused to your home is never fun for homeowners. Still, it’s necessary to identify which pest you need to eradicate. Although both pests will burrow into your walls, floors, or wherever they find exposed wood, they each have a distinct method to their madness. 

Termites actually consume the wood they chew through and don’t mind munching on healthy, sturdy wood. Termite-built tunnels in wood are very rough and contain layers of soil and mud.

Carpenter ants, by contrast, don’t eat wood. That’s why you can find them foraging elsewhere in your home for food. Their purpose for burrowing into wood is to create a nest, not to feed. When they burrow into your home, you’ll find piles of wood shavings and frass below their holes as they gnaw through the wood and push it out behind them. Ants also prefer the path of least resistance, so they’ll create neat and tidy tunnels in moist, damaged wood.


Are Carpenter Ants as Damaging as Termites?

While both carpenter ants and termites can cause significant damage to your home, the real difference is the speed by which they do so. Termites work much faster, meaning once they’ve settled into your home they can cause extensive damage very quickly. You don’t want to delay calling a termite company if you suspect these pests are in your home — and the same goes for carpenter ants. 

Just because you’ve never noticed signs of ants or termites before doesn’t mean they haven’t been running their wood-destroying operation for much longer, so you should always call professional help.


Don’t Wait to Eliminate!

Wood-eating pests are never a good sign, even if they’re a less harmful variety. Calling a reputable pest control company like Advantage Termite and Pest Control right away is the best way to ensure the structure of your home is safe and secure. 

Here at Advantage Termite and Pest Control, we are a professional termite company that uses non-invasive termite control methods that are eco-friendly. Our bait is designed for longevity, continuing to protect your home from future invasions long after we’ve finished our extermination. If you aren’t sure still whether it’s termites or ants, we have professionals ready to assess your pest control needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

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