Termites or Carpenter Ants? Learn the Key Differences

carpenter ants or termites

Are you concerned that some bugs you found might be munching on your home? 🏠 A few other culprits exist, but they’re likely termites or carpenter ants 🐜 (if you live in the United States). I just watched an incredibly helpful video by Guy, a seasoned pest control expert who is retired but still keen on sharing his wealth of knowledge. It’s not every day you come across someone so experienced and willing to divulge trade secrets for free!

Termites vs. Carpenter Ants

Guy kicks off his video by establishing his credibility: he’s been in the pest control game for years and was licensed in several states. Now, although he’s hung up his professional hat, his drive to help others hasn’t waned. His aim? To help us save a few bucks by taking the DIY route in pest control.

The highlight of his video is the focus on differentiating between carpenter ants and termites. Guy points out a common misconception: termites are often said to have just two body segments.

Not true, though!

Like all insects, termites have three body segments: the head, thorax, and abdomen.

termite head thorax and abdomen 1

The confusion arises because termites lack the pinched waist of ants, making it seem like they only have two parts. But as you can see above, termites indeed have a thorax (even if it’s petite compared to a carpenter ant’s thorax).

Guy emphasizes that carpenter ants are the Goliaths of the ant world in the U.S.—they can grow up to three-quarters of an inch! Catch one, and you’ve got yourself a clear indicator of whether you’re dealing with a termite or a carpenter ant.

image of man identifying differences between termites and carpenter ants by visual clues
Distinguishing between termites and carpenter ants is as simple as learning a few visual clues

Dealing with Termites

Guy emphasizes that different types of termites require different control strategies (this is because the two main types, subterranean and drywood termites, have quite different behaviors).

When it comes to subterranean termites, which nest underground but enter structures to feed, common treatment options include liquid soil termiticides, termite bait systems, and even beneficial nematodes.

Termiticides (insecticides for termites) work by creating a chemical barrier in the soil, typically killing subterranean termites that come into contact with it. Termite baits use non-toxic bait (usually a wood block) to attract termites to a central location where they ingest a slow-acting toxicant that spreads through their colony. Beneficial nematodes are an interesting termite control approach; they’re microscopic roundworms applied to soil that attack and kill subterranean termites.

Drywood termites don’t hang out in the soil. Instead, they nest inside seasoned wood. Because of this, fumigation, heat treatment, and borates are typical recommended approaches. Fumigation treatment involves tenting a structure and releasing a toxic gas (to the termites) to penetrate and kill infestations in wood.

Heat treatment is similar to fumigation but without the termiticides; simply place a tent around the house and crank up heaters so that the house gets to a temperature termites can’t withstand. Borates are relatively safe chemicals that act as a stomach poison when termites ingest treated wood.

You can see how understanding the type of termite you’re dealing with is key to selecting the right method of termite control. But don’t fret. Pest control professionals can tell the difference between subterranean, drywood, and dampwood termites (and can often identify the exact species).

Dealing with Carpenter Ants

When it comes to carpenter ants, though, the treatment is more straightforward. Have different kinds of carpenter ants in or around your home?

No problem.

They all get the same treatment, making carpenter ant extermination simpler than termite treatments. You can learn all about how to get rid of carpenter ants here, but basically, treating carpenter ants often involves localized treatments around their entry points and nests.

Good sanitation, like cleaning up food debris and fixing leaky plumbing, makes homes less attractive for carpenter ants. Directly applying insecticide sprays, dusts, or baits into carpenter ant trails and around doors or windows takes out foraging carpenter ant workers. Tracking ants back to their nest and injecting insecticidal dust or spray inside, then sealing those areas off, can eliminate colonies over time.

Thankfully, fumigating an entire structure is usually unnecessary for carpenter ant infestations. Identifying nest locations through careful inspection along with targeted applications of control products is usually sufficient.

Knowledge is Power

Guy’s practical advice and tips on distinguishing between termites and carpenter ants, along with an overview of each’s treatment methods, are invaluable for any DIY enthusiast looking to save money and protect their home. Remember, knowledge is power, especially when it comes to safeguarding our homes from these wood-gnawing intruders. Best of luck keeping your home safe and sound!

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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