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Termites vs. Ants

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Termites vs. Ants

Termites vs. Ants

Ants and termites are swarmers — the members of their reproductive castes grow wings and swarm during mating season. While most ant species behave differently than termites, some, like carpenter ants, cause similar damage to termites. Thus, knowing the differences between termites and ants will prepare you if an infestation knocks at your door. Continue reading to learn the differences between termites and ants!

Physical Differences

Flying ants and termites may appear indistinguishable, especially from a distance or when they fly straight at you. However, after swatting or looking at one under a magnifying glass, several differences in their wings, shape and size appear.

For instance, termite swarmers have:

  • Black or dark brown bodies.
  • Straight antennae.
  • Four transparent, equally sized wings.
  • A straight waist that is uniform with the rest of their body.

In contrast, flying ants have:

  • Black, brown or reddish bodies.
  • Kinked antennae.
  • Two large front wings and two small hind wings, all brown-tinted.
  • A pinched waist and three distinct body regions.

Diet Differences

The dietary differences between termites and ants are as stark as day and night. Ants are omnivores — meaning they eat anything from meat, eggs and dead insects to tree sap, grains and nectar. Ants particularly enjoy sweet foods, though some prefer meat over sweets.

In contrast, termites have a particular palate consisting of cellulose.

Several food sources contain cellulose, so termites eat more than one thing! Still, anything that lacks cellulose isn’t worth their energy to munch through. Common cellulose sources include wood, paper, cotton and hemp.

Various grains and vegetables contain cellulose, like sweet corn, Brussels sprouts, sugarcane and raw wheat bran. Yet, whereas cellulose makes up 24% of wheat bran, it comprises 70% of wood and up to 97% of cotton. Termites prefer food sources that are more densely packed with cellulose. As termites can acquire wood easier than wheat bran, they focus their energies on the former but wouldn’t say no to the latter!

Life Cycle Differences

Ants go through complete metamorphosis, while termites go through incomplete metamorphosis. Complete metamorphosis involves four development stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Ant eggs are soft, oval and tiny, while the larva is like a small worm. Ant pupa starts resembling adult ants with immature legs and antennae. Once they develop into adults, they become workers, male drones or female queens.

Incomplete metamorphosis involves three development stages: egg, nymph or larvae and adult. Termite eggs are white and oval like tiny jelly beans. They hatch from eggs as nymphs or larvae and molt until they reach their adult form as worker, soldier or reproductive ants. Nymphs and larvae resemble their adult form immediately after hatching.

Termites also live longer than ants. Termite kings and queens can live for multiple decades, while workers and soldiers can live for three or more years. In contrast, ant queens may live up to 15 years, while workers typically live for a few months.

Ants and termites have similar reproductive activity. Winged reproductives fly from their colonies in spring and summer to start their own. Still, some reproductive differences between ants and termites are that male ants die shortly after mating with queens. Comparatively, male termite reproductives live on as kings of their colonies.

Habitat Differences

Most ants build nests underground or in soil mounds, but carpenter ants prefer living in rotting timber. Termites live near food and moisture sources, such as damp or dry wood. Unlike carpenter ants, which only use rotting timber for shelter, termites use healthy or rotting wood for food and shelter. Subterranean termites often build their nests in or near soil as they need moisture to survive.

Nests Differences

Termites build their nests from “carton” — a mixture of termite frass, or fecal matter, soil and chewed-up wood. You can find these nests in the soil, trees or wooden structures. Termites create shelter tubes of mud between their nests and food sources to pass to and fro safely.

Comparatively, ants dig tunnels underground, in soil mounds or rotting wood to create nests. Ant nests have winding tunnels, chambers and rooms — enough space to store pounds of food and provide shelter for every ant in the colony.

Damage Differences

Carpenter ants are one of the only ant species that cause structural damage since they build nests in wood. They can cause extensive damage. Other ant species may spoil food sources, damage your lawn or garden and pose hygienic issues. Still, your home structure is mostly safe from these ant species.

The same cannot be said for termites. Termites mostly leave food alone in infestations, but that’s because they’re filling themselves up on wooden beams and columns supporting your house!

Signs of a Termite or Ant Infestation

Signs of a Termite or Ant Infestation

Knowing the differences between ants and termites is helpful if you think you have a termite or ant infestation. Thus, knowing the signs to look for with termite and ant infestations is beneficial. To start, here are some ways to identify termite infestation:

  • Shelter tubes: If you notice mud tubes along your foundation or in cracks in the wall, these may be shelter tubes that termites use to avoid predators.
  • Discarded wings: After two swarming termites settle down and start a colony, they discard their wings and take their place as their colony’s king and queen. Discarded wings indicate a new colony has begun nearby.
  • Hollow-sounding wood: Termites create tunnels in beams and columns as they consume the wood and make nests.
  • Warped wood: As termites tunnel through wood, they cause warping. If they infest door frames or window sills, you may have tight-fitting doors or hard-to-open windows. You may also notice rippled paint or wallpaper.
  • Soft rustling sounds inside the wall: When soldier termites sense danger, they bang their heads against the wall to alert worker termites.

Identifying carpenter ants might look like noticing:

  • Food crumbs or debris in a line.
  • Wood shavings in random areas.
  • Damp or rotting wood.
  • Soft rustling sounds inside the wall.
  • Hollow-sounding wood.
  • Small dirt or sand piles around your home.

How to Deal With a Termite or Ant Problem

The best approach to termite or ant problems is to call pest control professionals for an inspection. At Pestech, we offer various baiting, spraying and fumigation services depending on what method will most effectively control your pest problem in the least encroaching manner.

For ants and termites, baits and sprays are the primary control methods. We use baits for termites and monomorphic ants — ant colonies with workers of uniform size. For carpenter and polymorphic ants — colonies with worker ants of varying sizes — we use sprays. We prioritize green pest solutions that pose minimal health risks, keeping everyone in your household safe and responsibly eliminating your ant or termite problem.

Contact Pestech Today to Deal with Your Termite or Ant Problem

Contact Pestech Today to Deal with Your Termite or Ant Problem

For over 30 years, Pestech’s pest control professionals have provided safe and effective pest solutions to residents throughout New York state with exceptional customer service. If you have a termite or ant problem, Pestech will take care of the situation to secure your home or property from uninvited pests. Contact us today for an inspection!