Both carpenter ants and termites are roughly the same size, similar in appearance, are known for causing damage to wood, and swarm when it’s time for mating; which can cause homeowners to confuse the two insects. However, you might be surprised to find that they have more differences than they do similarities.
Differences between Carpenter Ants and Termites
Carpenter ants do not eat wood; they burrow within it to make their nests. Carpenter ants rarely nest in dry wood, instead, they typically seek out wood that has been softened by moisture, decay, or other insects. Carpenter ants prefer to nest in structural lumber such as in wall voids, window sills, hollow-core doors, wood scraps, porch columns, roofs, and wood in contact with soil.
Termites do actually eat the cellulose inside of the wood. In fact, you will likely find termites eating 24/7 as they do not sleep. Different varieties of termites will eat different types of wood. The most common kind of termite, the subterranean, prefers softwoods but may invade most species of wood. Dampwood termites generally stay close to the ground but will choose moist, decaying wood anywhere it is found. Drywood termites can be found in attics and require little moisture in the wood they eat, oftentimes infesting walls and furniture.
Commonly, termites live in wooden structures, decayed trees, fallen timber, and soil. Habitats vary among species as some termites require different amounts of moisture. Subterranean termite homes are usually formed in soil. Within these nests, termites build elaborate tunnel systems through which they access above-ground food sources. Dampwood and Drywood termites live within the wood they consume
To distinguish a carpenter ant infestation from a subterranean termite infestation, it is important to examine the hollowed-out wood. Galleries hollowed out by carpenter ants are smooth and clean. You will usually see piles of fine sawdust and insect parts, which is known as "frass.” Carpenter ant galleries also have holes through which worker ants eject unwanted debris.
Wood galleries caused by termites contain large amounts of soil and mud and are accompanied by piles of small, hard, seed-like fecal pellets that do not resemble frass or contain wood shavings and insect parts. Subterranean termites use the wood that they consume, as well as their own fecal matter and saliva, to create what are known as mud tubes. These tubes will extend from the ground up to the wood that they are infesting and are commonly seen along concrete walls, along cracks or in flooring or baseboards, making them hard to detect. Hollow would can also be a sign of an infestation, so if you knock on wood and hear a hollow or crumbly paper sound, there is a high chance you have termites.
Termites go through a gradual metamorphosis which includes only the stages of egg, nymph, and adult, so the nymphs look very much like adult workers. Carpenter Ants go through a complete metamorphosis, changing from egg to larvae to pupa and finally to the adult.
- No "waist"--instead, its body is more rectangular, without any narrowing in the center
- Straight antennae
- Four wings that are of equal size and shape. Its wings are also longer than its body
- Transparent, light colored
- Avoid light
- Feed on many materials to get the cellulose they need: plants, plant byproducts, cotton fibers (clothing, for example), paper products and, of course, wood
- Well-defined narrow, constricted waist
- Bent or "elbowed” antennae
- Two large forewings and two small hind wings
- Reddish or dark-colored
- Seen out in the open foraging for food
- Feed on the normal things that ants do like food scraps, aphids, animal remains, and other bugs. They are attracted to sugars and proteins
If you suspect you have an infestation of either pest, it is important to act quickly as they both can do immense damage to your home. Contact Catseye Pest Control to schedule your cost-free inspection today!