How to Tell Termites from Carpenter Ants

When checking for termites, you might see mud tubes (called “leads”) inside walls or along chimneys, which termites use to reach their food source. You might even see actual termite nests outdoors. However, signs like droppings, discarded wings, and damaged wood won’t be definitive proof of termites. Those signs could be the work of carpenter ants.

The Differences

The appearance of the pests differ when you observe them up close. They both have wings, but all sets of termite’s wings are the same length, while in carpenter ants, the lengths are uneven. Termites have straight bodies (usually brownish) and straight antennae, while ants have pinched waists (their bodies are usually black, red, or brown) and bent antennae. Termites use the cellulose in wood as their food source, while ants merely use the wood as their home, and forage for food elsewhere.

The Dilemmas

Obviously, people with untrained eyes will find it difficult to spot those differences. The inspection can also be hazardous, because if you end up disturbing the nest of carpenter ants, you can be bitten (and the critter’s bite can certainly be painful).

Likewise, aside from termites and carpenter ants, there are several other wood-destroying insects that could be invading your home, and destroying it inch by inch. You could have carpenter bees or powderpost beetles. These pests, like the various kinds of termites and ants, would require different precautions during inspection, and different pest control strategies. Leave those tasks to the experts.

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