Carpenter Ants Vs Termites

Unsure if it's carpenter ants or termites infesting your property? Learn how to differentiate between the two destructive pests and take action now!

Kristin M.

Published On:

October 16, 2023

Last Updated:

October 16, 2023

Are you finding piles of wood shavings around your deck or brown tube-shaped sediment in your basement? If so, you may have either a carpenter ant or termite infestation. While these two pests have similar appearances and behaviors, we are going to explore the difference between carpenter ants and termites. Trust the experts at Spidexx Pest Control for wood boring pest extermination and removal.

How to Tell the Difference Between a Carpenter Ant and a Termite?

While carpenter ants and termites do have many similarities, both in their appearance and behaviors, there are clear ways to distinguish between the two species. Swarmers are a type of both termites and ants that have wings and are used solely for reproduction. Both termites and carpenter ants are wood-boring insects that chew on the wood inside homes and businesses. They both cause lasting damages to wood structures.

You’re more likely to encounter a carpenter ant in or around your home. They are very common in the Midwest, whereas termites can definitely be found in the Midwest but aren’t as common. They prefer hot, humid climates. Even if they are within the structure of your home, you still are less likely to be aware of termites, as they don’t forage for food indoors as carpenters ants do.

Carpenter Ant Appearance

With an impressive length of around ⅜”-½”, the carpenter ant is one of the largest ant species found in North America. They are distinguished by their dull black (sometimes red) skin, whereas many other ant species have more of a shinier skin. Carpenter ants have a narrow waist, with 3 distinct body segments – head, abdomen, and thorax. Their antennae are bent at a 45° angle. Swarmers have 2 sets of wings, with the forewings being larger than the hind wings.

Termite Appearance

Most castes of termites do not look like regular carpenter ants, but both species have similar-looking swarmers. Termite swarmers are around ¼” to ½” long, with 2 distinct body segments – the head and thorax. Different swarmer species vary in color, including red, brown, tan, and yellow. They have straight antennae that are bead-like. They also have 2 sets of wings, but unlike carpenter ants, they are the same size.

How Do Carpenter Ants and Termites Behave?

It’s very unlikely you will see termites unless they are swarming in the spring or summer. Additionally, their behavior can vary between species, which makes their identification difficult, and requires professional extermination services. In nature, termites consume cellulose in trees and plants, therefore helping them to break down. You are more likely to find termites in warmer environments, making them less common in our service areas.

There are 5 different types of termite castes – worker, soldier, swarmer, queen, and king. Termites live in colonies and each caste of termites has a different role. For example, swarmers serve the purpose of reproducing with the king and queen, and the queen is the highest caste in the colony. Workers find the food and build the colony, whereas soldiers defend it.

Carpenter ants also live in colonies, but there are only 3 castes within them – worker, swarmer, and queen. The queen’s sole purpose is to reproduce with the swarmers, who will birth more workers and swarmers to grow and build the colony. Carpenter ants are attracted to sweets, which makes it more likely you will find them in your common living space when they are foraging. Carpenter ants are nocturnal and forage most at night, as well as more frequently during spring and summer.

What are the Signs of a Carpenter Ant Infestation?

  1. Large worker ants crawling around your home, foundation, or around old trees on the property searching for food
  2. Piles of wood shavings
  3. Swarmers, which are signs of an established nest
  4. Rotted and damaged wood, which indicates a severe infestation

What are the Signs of a Termite Infestation?

  1. Discolored paint
  2. Drooping drywall
  3. Buckling wood and laminate floorboards
  4. Hollow-sounding wood
  5. Wood colored pellets or tubes
  6. Discarded wings, from swarmers who shed their wings in the summer
  7. Stuck windows or doors
  8. Excessively creaking floorboards

Termite Control

Due to the variance in behaviors between termite species and the extensive damage they cause, their control is best left to a professional. While we don’t provide termite treatments, we’re always happy to refer out to a professional termite exterminator. Please contact our office for more information.

Carpenter Ant Control

Carpenter Ants are also an extremely damaging pest to your home and require treatment from a licensed professional. Their highly social nature makes them difficult to self-treat. We’re the experts at commercial and household carpenter ant control in Iowa, Nebraska, Wisonsin, and Minnesota. Our carpenter ant prevention program includes a 100% guarantee – which means we will come back at no extra costs if you still see any ants. Call (844) 922-7732 for a free quote for carpenter ant control.

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