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The Difference Between Carpenter Ants and Termites

The Difference Between Carpenter Ants and Termites

Nobody wants to discover they have carpenter ants or termites in their house. Any unwanted pest or rodent invading your space can make you feel violated and totally frustrated. But, the damage carpenter ants and termites present to your home isn’t equal. Termites are far more destructive to your home and leave behind a wake of costly repairs. With that said, carpenter ants can still do their fair share of damage. 

Knowing how to effectively treat your infestation will largely depend on determining which pest you are dealing with. Let’s learn more about the signs and similarities of carpenter ants and termites so you can not only prevent an infestation but stop them permanently in their tracks.

Carpenter Ants and Termites: Physical Differences 

Termites and carpenter ants have a few distinct physical differences. Take a close look at the pesky perpetrator in your home and you will likely be able to determine which insect you are dealing with. 

  1. Wings 

Both insects have four wings. But, a termite has wings that are of equal size and shape and that are far longer than its body. Termite wings fall off easily which can often be seen near the opening of a termite nest and be useful when identifying an infestation. A carpenter ant’s back hind wings are shorter than its front wings and they don’t appear as long. 

  1. Color 

Termite workers are transparent, creamy white, and tend to avoid light. They are far less noticeable than ants and are rarely seen. Ant workers are dark-colored or sometimes reddish. They are easier to spot out in the open when they are foraging for a food or water source. 

  1. Antennae 

Carpenter ants have bent-shaped antennae while a termite’s antennae are straight. 

  1. Body Shape 

A termite has a rectangular-shaped abdomen with essentially no waist. The carpenter ant has a well-defined waist.

Signs of carpenter ants vs. termites 

  • Carpenter ants are often easier to detect than termites. They are forced to send out workers to search for a food source, since they don’t eat wood, and can be more easily spotted. Even though these ants are easily disposed of, don’t ignore what their presence means for your home. They are alerting you to the fact that your home is under attack. 

Termites never have to come out of their dwellings to find food so they can go long amounts of time without being noticed. This is why termites can go years without being detected. 

  • Termites eat wood and carpenter ants do not. They create tunnels through your wood and establish galleries. So, carpenter ants have to find a way to get rid of the sawdust they create. They will create holes to push out their frass or droppings. While termites also create frass, it is actually excrement, not sawdust. 
  • Termite galleries and tunnels will often have a rough or rugged feel and can be caked with dirt and mud. Check the outer walls of your foundation for the mud tubes they create. 

The tunnels left behind by carpenter ants are very different in that they are smooth, neat, and have a finished appearance to them. 

Carpenter ants frass vs. termite frass 

The droppings of carpenter ants and termites are called frass. Being able to determine which kind of droppings you have in your home is very important in alerting you that your home could be being destroyed by these pests. Termite droppings can be described as hard, small pellets usually dark brown or tan in color. Since termites eat wood, the excrement they kick out of their galleries consists only of oval-shaped fecal pellets. 

When carpenter ants dig into their choice of moist or rotting wood, they create small slits to lead to the surface. The ants then push their frass through these tunnels out to the surface creating piles of debris. This debris looks like wood shavings and forms piles in the shape of cones. Ant frass can include a variety of materials consisting of ant droppings, soil particles, wood fragments, and even insect body parts or carcasses. 

How to prevent carpenter ants vs. termites 

There are several things a homeowner can do to prevent carpenter ants and termites from invading. 

For termites, start by reducing the soil to wood contact around your structure. Also, create at least a 4-inch barrier between your home and any mulch surrounding it. Be sure to remove any wood, wood plants, cardboard, or mulch from around your foundation. Routinely check for any areas of moisture. Underneath sinks, attics, and basements can become the perfect area for termite nesting. Turn off outdoor lights at night as light attracts the swarmers. It is also a good idea to direct storm drains to empty at least a few feet away from your house. This prevents moisture around your foundation. 

A carpenter ant infestation can be easily controlled by changing and eliminating the conditions that attract them. Be sure to seal cracks and openings around your home’s foundation, especially in spots where wires and pipes come in from the outside. Carpenter ants love to make their nest in firewood, so elevate all woodpiles and position them at a good distance from your home. Tree limbs can act as a bridge for insects to perpetrate your home. Cut back any limbs or branches that are long enough to facilitate an infestation. 

Carpenter ant damage vs. termite damage 

Termites have a reputation for being silent destroyers. They have the uncanny ability to chew through wood and flooring without being noticed for months or even years. Termite damage sometimes looks similar to water damage. Keep an eye out for swollen flooring, bulging ceilings, or wood that is buckling. An infestation can even start to give off an odor that resembles mildew. 

Carpenter ants are the most destructive of all the ant species. They can damage any wood in which they nest These ants prefer to feed on wood that is rotting but that won’t stop them from moving into sound wood. When

they do, they are known to weaken support beams which in turn causes warping and is extremely structurally damaging. If left untreated, their numbers will multiply rapidly and satellite nests can form. 

Carpenter ant and termite control 

If you see the signs and are worried you may have an infestation of either insect, you need to contact a pest control company immediately. The professionals at Vinx Pest Control know exactly how to stop an infestation as well as prevent future ones from returning. We have years of experience under our belts and with our satisfaction guarantee, you can feel safe and secure in your own home once again. If you live in Dallas, TX, Charleston, SC or Greenville, SC, we can handle all your carpenter ant and termite problems. See pricing here.