Every year, termites cause billions of dollars in structural damage for homeowners. While carpenter ants are not quite as destructive, they can be quite invasive and burrow deep inside the woodwork of your home.
If you’ve noticed some signs of an infestation in your home, it might be time to invest in a pest control expert. But first, read on to learn how to determine whether the critters you’ve noticed are ants and termites, and what that means for your home.
If you’ve noticed some six-legged creepy crawlers in your home, you might be wondering if you’re facing termites or winged ants. Termites and ants are completely separate species with distinct diets, behaviors, and characteristics. Read on to learn the key differences between these insects.
Ants and termites may look similar to the untrained eye, but they have defining features if you know what to look for. Read on to learn about the hallmark differences in these critters’ appearances.
Ants’ appearance varies based on ant species, but most ants have a three-sectioned body with six legs and antennae. Ants range in color from dark red to black. Flying ants have shorter wings than termites, and have two sets of wings–their front wings or “forewings” are longer than their hind wings. Ants have bent antennae and a narrow waist.
Termites also have six legs, and technically have a three-sectioned body as well, although their waists are not distinguishable. They also have antennae, but unlike those of ants, termites’ antennae are straight.
They’re lighter in color than ants and appear translucent white or light brown. Termites have front and hind wings that are equal in length, and twice the length of the rest of their bodies.
It can be difficult to keep track of the behavior of sneaky pests, but keeping tabs on your bugs’ personalities can be crucial in determining which type of bug has invaded your home. Read on to learn the difference between ants’ and termites’ behavior.
Certain species of ants, like carpenter ants, will build their nests inside of wood in or around your home. However, unlike termites, these ants will not eat the wood–only burrow through it. This means that ants are less likely to cause serious structural damage, but may leave behind smooth tunnels.
Ants are attracted to human food debris, whereas termites are only interested in the cellulose found in wood and paper. Ants only live for a few months, whereas termites can survive for a couple of years.
Termites feed on wood and paper, which means they can cause serious wood damage in your home and may leave behind rough, ragged tunnel systems. They won’t be attracted to leftover food crumbs in your home–only wood and paper (including cardboard, drywall, and insulation).
In general, termites are more likely to cause damage to your home. Termites feast on wood and can live for years, causing serious damage to wooden structures. Meanwhile, not all ants take up residence in wood. While some species, like carpenter ants, might damage wood in your home, they’re much neater in burrowing their tunnels and won’t consume the wood itself, meaning they pose less of a threat.
While certain signs of an infestation are universal, knowing which are telltale of ants versus termites can help make your pest control process more efficient. Read on to learn what to look for.
If you have a carpenter ant infestation, you might:
If you have a termite infestation, you might notice:
If you have an ant or termite problem, your best course of action is likely to seek help from a professional exterminator service. However, there are also steps you can take on your own to begin to curb the problem.
For instance, for termite control, you can install a physical barrier like sandpaper or steel mesh, or use natural remedies like nematodes or fungi (EPA). You can also use EPA-approved at-home chemical treatments like termiticides and termite baits.
To control a carpenter ant problem, you can set ant bait or use other home remedies like boric acid, diatomaceous earth, or a pyrethrum-based spray. Avoid using essential oils and other natural ant “repellents” once an infestation has advanced, as the ants will likely just relocate to a more difficult to treat location within your home.
Be sure to seal any leaks in your home immediately and keep vents unblocked, while also ensuring that trees and shrubs that may act as wood “bridges” to your home are far enough away from the structure. Don’t store firewood or other wood debris close to your home, and invest in regular inspections.
Replace any rotting wood in your home, and even any wood that’s become wet or begun to decay. Seal any cracks in your home with caulk and keep your home dry. Avoid leaving standing water around your home—even in likely places like gutters or bird baths.
Below are answers to more frequently asked questions about ants and termites.
No—ants and termites are completely separate species. While termites and carpenter ants look relatively similar and both nest in wood, only termites feed on the wood and cause serious structural damage to your home.
Yes—ants are able to fight, kill, and eat termites. They are termites’ primary predator—these species are natural enemies. Ants commonly raid termite colonies, and may even attack termites mid-flight before they’re able to create a safe nest.
Yes—termites do look somewhat similar to ants, despite the aforementioned differences to look for (wing length, bent vs. straight antennae). If you’re looking to identify a bug in your home, remember that termites are slightly smaller and lighter in color than ants—they’re often described as looking like cream-colored carpenter ants.