Termites vs. ants

Spring rains bring about the birth of new colonies. This phenomenon is known as swarming, and in this process, ants and termites move in for courtship and copulation. This usually occurs at night in places illuminated by artificial light.

This is just a sample of how annoying termites and ants can be, as both are damaging pests at any time of the year. These insects deteriorate anything made of wood, causing damage at different levels.

It may not be clear to you whether it is ants or termites that are affecting your belongings. However, it is important to know which pest is invading your spaces, so that any pest control expert can apply the most suitable extermination measures.

If you don’t know how to distinguish between these insects, in this article we compare termites and ants, which, although different insects, have many similarities.

Two potentially harmful insects

Carpenter ants and termites have many things in common. They are both known for damaging wood in many places. The wings of termites are similar in size to those of large carpenter ants.

In the same way as carpenter ants, termites bind themselves to wood and are the enemy of wood structures.

Because carpenter ants and termites congregate in the spring to mate, homeowners often cannot tell the difference when they notice swarms invading their homes.

Appearance of termites and flying ants


Termites are insects that have wings of equal length. They are transparent and have a rounded abdomen with no waist. Their antennae are straight and creamy to brown. They have 6 legs, head, thorax, and abdomen.

Termite wings droop easily and can be seen near the openings of their colonies, which helps to identify nests easily. These insects avoid light, so they are rarely seen unless any factor disturbs their homes.

As for breeding, each nest has queens who lay eggs and kings that mate with them. They have a race of workers who do much of the work.

Termites belong to the infraorder Isoptera. Although these insects are like ants, they are related to cockroaches (order Blattodea).


Ants are characterised by the variety of their appearance. They differ from termites in that their wings are not the same length, and their waists are much narrower than those of termites. The wings of ants are more durable than those of termites.

Regardless of caste or species, ants have angled antennae. They also live in colonies and relates to reproduction they are very similar to termites, with an egg-laying queen and drones that fertilise her in most cases.

Ants have a caste of workers who carry food to the others, and soldiers who defend the nest. They are usually reddish and are often seen outdoors foraging for food.

These insects belong to the order Hymenoptera, to which wasps and bees also belong. This explains why all these insects behave collectively and not individually (hive behaviour).

Termites vs ants

Behavioural differences

Although carpenter ants and termites are related to wood, their interactions around wood are entirely unique. Termites eat the wood in which they nest, while ants drill into the wood to build their nests.

Ants do not feed on the wood they dig but push it through the openings of their colony. If you notice small piles of shavings or droppings under the holes, you probably have an infestation of carpenter ants.

Carpenter ants generally like damp, rotting wood for burrowing, while termites prefer healthy wood. Ant galleries and tunnels have a clean finish, in contrast to termite galleries and tunnels, which are uneven because they are filled with mud and dirt.

Have you noticed mud tubes near your house? These tubes are conclusive proof that you have a termite infestation. They are tubes built on the outside of facades between the ground and the wood, which function as corridors for termites to move through.

If you suspect you have a termite or carpenter ant infestation, it is important to know the feeding habits of both, and the tracks left by each insect. Knowing this can be very useful when it comes to taking the necessary measures to exterminate these two pests.

How to apply the correct ant and termite control?

Now that we know that ants and termites are so different, the pest control applied is radically different for each. In the case of carpenter ants, carpenter ants can be kept at bay by eliminating the conditions that caused them to arrive.

However, termite infestations require professional pest control. If you have insects that resemble ants or termites in your space, it is best to collect a sample to identify them.

The sample you choose can be used for comparison with photos and online graphics, or you can take it to an entomologist or pest control expert, especially for the latter to find the right treatment to eliminate the infestation.

In any case, be it ants or termites, control should include the application of different measures and products to kill existing insects, to prevent more severe infestations. It is essential to remove and replace wood that has been damaged by insects.

If you do not take these measures in time, there is little or nothing you can recover after these pests invade your home. Rebuilding generates large expenses that many homeowners cannot afford, so you must act in time at the slightest sign of infestation.

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