Learn the Difference Between Termites and Ants


With spring right around the corner, people across the country are dreading one of the most irritating and potentially costly times of the year- the resurgence of all manner of bugs, particularly the ones that want to inhabit your living and work spaces. There are many different kinds of household pests, from spiders in the rafters to roaches under the floorboards.

However, no species come so numerous or wreak havoc quite as ants and termites. Oftentimes ants and termites are so small and appear in such great numbers they can hardly be told apart from one another. But there are some main differences to look out for, and these differences can help you determine just how damaging an infestation can be.

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What are the Differences Between What Ants and Termites Look Like?

One of the main problem people have is identifying which of the two insects they saw, and for good reason; ants and termites and tiny creatures, usually only a centimeter at most, and, especially while flying, move quite fast for their size. But there are a few major differences that are easy to spot.

The first physical difference is the body shape. Ants have three clearly defined body segments: the head, thorax, and abdomen. These segments appear pinched at the place they connect, and the end of the abdomen is pointed. Termites on the other hand have only two body segments: the head and abdomen. The abdomen is elongated and rounded, and the end of the abdomen is rounded.

The second difference is the antennae. Ants have antennae that are elbowed, making them noticeably bent. Termites however have straight antennae.

The third major difference is the wings on either species. Both ants are termites have two sets of wings. But the similarities end there. Ants have larger upper wings than lower wings, and when not flying ants’ wings rest at a slight angle. In contrast termites’ upper and lower wings are equal in size and rest parallel to the body when not flying.

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What are the Differences Between Where Termites and Ants Live?

If you’re having trouble telling apart both ants and termites by their appearances, another way to discern which is which is by where they are coming from. One drawback for have an ant problem is that they can live anywhere, and crawl in through any crevice. This means they can live in dirt, between brick walls, and even in wood. However, they will often travel out foraging, which makes identifying particularly large hives easier. Trying to set traps will likely only kill the scavengers, so deep cleaning methods are advised.

Termites on the other hand live in two types of places.

  • Subterranean termiteslive in the soil beneath the ground and build mud channels as they comes above ground to find sources of food. This becomes an easy method of finding out if you have a termite infestation, as these tubes will appear on exterior walls or any wood connected to the soil.
  • Drywood termiteshowever live within the very wood that is their food source. This means they can live the the foundations of a building, furniture, or even books. The most common way to determine if you have a drywood termite infestation is by knocking on wood and listening for a hollow sound.

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What is the Difference Between Carpenter Ants And Termites?

Certain ants inhabit wood like termites. In particular, carpenter ants make their colonies inside wood. However, no species of ants can consume wood, so there are distinct differences in how the hives will appear, as well as the extent of damage they cause.

The difference between wood affected by carpenter ants and termites predominantly depends on which type of termite is eating the wood. Since subterranean termites burrow up from the dirt in mud channels, the inside of the wood will be filled with dirt, in contrast to the carpenter ant, which keeps its nest clean and smooth.

Carpenter ants also produce debris (or frass), which they push outside of the nest. Carpenter ant debris is typically irregular, composed of different sizes. By comparison, drywood termites produce uniform debris.

Carpenter ants produce less damage than termites but can affect wood integrity over time. The first and most important step in warding off carpenter ants and termites is eliminating damp wood areas that attract them.

Categorized as Termites

By David Jackson

I enjoy learning about new pest control strategies and sharing what I learn at NeverPest.com. I aim to create a reliable resource for people dealing with all sorts of pest issues.

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