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Termites vs. carpenter ants

Carpenter ants and termites have a lot more in common than most people would think – especially when it comes to pest control. Termites and carpenter ants are, in fact, responsible for a large chunk of residential pest control house calls each year. This is because both are wood destroyers, and can cause serious structural damage to property.

Indeed, 90 percent of homes in the United States are built with wood framing. As any local pest control company will tell you, termites and carpenter ants will destroy the wood and interior of your home if left unchecked, causing expensive-to-fix damage that threatens the stability of your home. Both pests cause billions of dollars each year in wood damage and can only be eliminated via expert pest control – carpenter ants and termites are both skilled at hiding their presence within a home.

Not only do these pests both love wood, but they are also similar in appearance, with bulbous chitin shells and, in some cases, small wings, many a homeowner has mistaken carpenter ants for termites. Despite their similarities, however, there are basic differences between termites and carpenter ants. By knowing these differences, you will have a better idea of what to look out for when it comes to residential pest control.

If you have found wood damage or seen the signs of either carpenter ant damage or termite damage, contact your local Western Exterminator office. Our specialists will identify the types of pests in your home and offer solutions to get rid of carpenter ants or termites and prevent these pests from coming back.

carpenter ant vs. termite

Carpenter ant and termite bodies

For starters, one main difference between termites and carpenter ants is the body shape. Termites have a head and a thorax; whereas ants have a head, thorax and abdomen (see the difference in the images above). Termite wings are usually much longer than ant wings – about double the length of the termite body. Ant wings are only slightly longer than the ant body.

Homeowners who suspect an infestation but aren’t sure which pest is the culprit can bring a specimen to a local pest control company for identification. In either case, residential pest control experts advise prompt action to minimize damage and curb the infestation as quickly as possible.

What do carpenter ants and termites eat?

Both termites and carpenter ants will munch on the wood in your home. The difference is that wood is a source of nutrition for termites. Carpenter ants, however, cannot digest wood cellulose; instead, they burrow into wood to create a shelter where they can nest.

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to pest control: Termites and ants both need access to water and will thrive in a moist environment. Indeed, carpenter ants cannot eat solid foods – they depend on moisture to make small bits of food edible. One way to deter both of these pests is to repair all leaks and moisture issues right away such as leaky faucets and poor drainage.

Carpenter ant nests vs. termite nests

As for the colonies themselves, both termites and ants can and will live inside the wood in your home. Carpenter ants build their nests in various wood sources, including tree stumps, fence posts, firewood or landscaping. They prefer to attack wood that has been wet or damaged. Indoors, this means they are often found in damaged window and door frames, crawl spaces under roofs, chimneys, sinks and bathtubs. However, different types of termites will get into your home in different ways. Subterranean termites live in underground colonies and can contain up to two million members. They build tunnels or “mud tubes” to reach food sources, like your home, and to protect themselves from open air. Dampwood termites are usually found in logs, stumps, dead trees, fence posts and utility poles. Drywood termites infest dry wood, like that found in attic framings.

If you suspect you have termites or carpenter ants, call Western Exterminator right away to schedule a full inspection.

Termite wood damage

Carpenter ant damage vs. termite damage

One of the biggest differences between carpenter ants and termites is the way they create tunnels and galleries. Carpenter ants create tunnels and galleries that are very neat, smooth and have a finished appearance. Termite galleries and tunnels will have a rough and even ragged feel and will be caked with mud. Oftentimes, you will see the mud tubes created by termites on the outer walls or foundation.

Termites are known as “silent destroyers” because of their ability to chew through wood, flooring, and even wallpaper undetected. Similar to termites, carpenter ant infestations often go unnoticed until it’s too late. But unlike termites, carpenter ants can take years to cause significant damage. Termites cause an estimated $500 billion in damage each year.

Habits of termites and carpenter ants

Although they both destroy wood, termites and carpenter ants cause different damage.

  1. Carpenter Ants
    1. Establish nests in wood that is already in decay, and later expand into sound wood, insulation, or wall voids.

    2. The galleries they excavate appear to have been sanded.

    3. For the most part, carpenter ants do not create the extensive damage termites do.

  2. Termites

    1. Find their way into a structure around basement windows, doorways, under siding, porches, or any structure in contact with the soil.

    2. Established colonies can range from 60,000 to over a million workers and can consume nearly 5 grams of wood per day.

    3. Termites are significantly more dangerous than the carpenter ant, as they can cause much more damage in a short period of time.

What do termite swarmers and flying ants look like?

As swarmers, it’s easy to mix these two up. However, termite swarmers are slightly smaller than carpenter ants and have longer wings! Some of the main things to remember about their appearance include:

  1. Carpenter ant swarmers are black in color or occasionally red. Carpenter ants measure 1/2″–5/8″ with antenna bent at a 45-degree angle. Their wings are translucent with a reddish brown hue, laying over the posterior of the ant. Carpenter ant swarmers are bigger than termite swarmers!

  2. Termite swarmers are black to brown in color and measure 3/8″ long including the wings. Their wings are a translucent to slightly milky or smoky color. Their wings may overlap, and are typically as long as or slightly longer than the body; this is the best way to differentiate them from carpenter ants.

Contact Western Exterminator for carpenter ants and termites

Trying to figure out if you have carpenter ants or termites can be difficult for a homeowner. Regardless of which pest you have, getting rid of the entire carpenter ant or termite infestation can be a challenge. Missing a few termites or carpenter ants can create a brand new infestation. Carpenter ants and termites can also create multiple nests in just one place or throughout a property.

Western Exterminator specialists can properly identify which type of issue you are dealing with and develop a customized plan to protect your home and family from these damaging pests. Our experts will also make recommendations to help you prevent future pest problems.

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