Termites vs. Carpenter Ants: 6 Ways They’re Different!

By Bridget Ambrose

Of the many pests that may infest your home, termites and carpenter ants are some of the most destructive bugs you’ll encounter indoors. Both wood-destroying insects can cost you thousands in damages and ruin your home’s structural integrity.

But how can you discern between both insects when their damage looks similar?

Look at our blog, where we’ll uncover all the similarities and differences between termites vs. carpenter ants.

Termites You May Find Indoors

Termites are social insects that live in large colonies and feed primarily on wood and other materials that contain cellulose. There are over 2,000 species of termites, and they are found on every continent except Antarctica. 

While destructive indoors, termites play an important role in breaking down dead wood and other plant material in many ecosystems, recycling nutrients, and helping to maintain healthy soil. 

However, they can also cause significant damage to buildings and other structures made of wood, making regular termite care and control essential for any homeowner in a termite-rich location.

Throughout proof.’s service areas, you may find a few termite species indoors, depending on your region. Across the United States, subterranean termites are the most common and destructive species. 

Subterranean termites live in large, elaborate underground colonies and require a moist outdoor environment to survive. They often enter homes through the foundation or wood in contact with the soil.

Despite primarily living outdoors, subterranean termites cause extensive damage to your home’s infrastructure, often going undetected for extended periods. Formosan termites, a particularly destructive subterranean species, can quickly gut a house in no time!

Drywood termites, on the other hand, do not require a connection to the soil and live inside the wood they are eating, which can include the structural timbers of homes. They have much smaller colonies, usually limited to a single piece of wood, so the damage is usually more isolated. 

Dampwood termites are a species of termite that, as the name suggests, live in moist or damp wood. They live in areas with high humidity, dead or decaying trees, stumps, logs, and water-damaged lumber in homes.

These are a less common but significant type of termite that primarily infest moist wood. Effective control requires eliminating the moisture source and treating the infested wood.

Termites vs. Carpenter Ants: Understanding Their Damage

Termites can cause significant damage, no matter the type in your home. Some species can cause more disrepair, but any infestation can spiral out of control without proper management.

Because of their similar movements through your home, termite and carpenter ant damage may look similar. 

Termites feed on cellulose, the main component of wood, and cause extensive damage to homes as they consume the wood from the inside out. The deterioration often manifests as a series of small, paper-thin tubes along the surface of the wood.

Carpenter ants do not consume wood and prefer to nest in water-damaged materials. These pests create smooth, clean galleries and nesting cavities in the wood as they excavate it.

Because they work 24/7, termites can quickly damage your home and are often undetected until the wear and tear are extensive. Carpenter ants work slower, but their galleries and nesting cavities can weaken the structure of the building over time.

What Physically Sets These Pests Apart?

Besides the harm they cause, the physical differences between termites vs. carpenter ants can help you understand the type of infestation in your home. 

  • Body Shape: Termites have a wide, uniform body shape with a straight waist, while carpenter ants have a narrow waist and distinctive elbow-shaped antennae.
  • Size: Termites are usually smaller than carpenter ants, ranging from 1/8 to 1/2 an inch long. Carpenter ants range in size from 1/4 to 1 inch long.
  • Wings: Swarmers, or the reproductive individuals, of both termites and carpenter ants, have two pairs of wings of equal size. However, termite swarmers have straight antennae and wings that are longer than their bodies, while carpenter ant swarmers have elbowed antennae and wings that are shorter than their bodies.
  • Color: Worker termites are tan or cream-colored, while carpenter ants are typically black or dark brown. Swarmers of both species are usually darker in color.

Remember that not all species will have these exact characteristics, and other factors, such as behavior and habitat, should be considered when making a positive identification.

Pest Control Methods for Termites and Carpenter Ants

Another key difference between termites vs. carpenter ants is their pest control options. 

Termites are typically controlled with soil and wood treatments. Soil treatments involve the application of insecticides around the perimeter of the structure that prevents termites from entering; wood insecticide treatments are applied directly to the infested wood to kill the termites. 

Preventing termites requires creating a barrier around the structure to prevent them from entering and eliminating any sources of moisture that may attract them. 

Pest technicians can control carpenter ants by removing and eliminating the moisture source that is attracting them and exterminating the colony using insecticides. To prevent carpenter ants, you’ll need to remove any sources of moisture and decaying wood

Follow-up inspections and treatments are essential for both termite and carpenter ant control to prevent re-infestation. To keep your home safe, we recommend regular monitoring and inspections.

Thankfully, proof. Pest Control can help with termite and carpenter ant problems. Our trained technicians can handle any wood-destroying insect that invades your home. Contact us today to schedule an inspection

Call proof. pest control at 888-291-5333, or send us a message online.

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