The Difference Between Carpenter Ants And Termites

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Identifying Termites and Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants and termites share a lot in common. They both destroy homes by chewing on wood. They both produce male and female reproductives that fly. And they are both insects. That means they have six legs, two antennae, and three body parts. But, when it comes to protecting a home from these invasive pests, it is more helpful to know the differences.

  • When it comes to destroying a home, carpenter ants have nothing on termites. Termites cost property owners billions of dollars each year in the United States, while carpenter ant damage is in the millions.
  • Termites eat wood. Carpenter ants do not. If your home has carpenter ants in it, you are likely to see sawdust as an evidence of their existence. These sawdust deposits may be found in piles on your basement floor, stuck to a wall, on a rafter, or in some other secluded space.
  • Termites live entirely inside the soil in your yard or in the wood of your home. You're not going to see these insects crawling around on your walls, or near your foundation unless they are winged reproductives searching for a suitable site to create a new nest.
  • A termite and carpenter ant do not look the same. While both of these creatures are considered insects, the two have distinctly different body shapes. A carpenter ant has three distinct sections, with a pinch at its waist. A termite looks like it has only two body segments, with no pinch between its thorax and abdomen. Carpenter ants look like big black ants and are commonly black to reddish black in color. On the other hand, termites look like whitish colored ants; they are usually cream-colored.
  • The antennae on carpenter ants have an elbow bend in them. Termite antennae are somewhat straight and look as though they are made up of several tiny balls stacked on top of each other.
  • Termite workers look like tiny pieces of yellow rice with legs. Carpenter ant workers can be between 6 and 12 mm in length and have a hard black shell.
  • These two pests have different ways of invading your home. Subterranean termites tunnel through the soil in search of wood, sometimes as far as the length of a football field. Carpenter ants walk across the ground and crawl up vertical surfaces.
  • When a termite worker finds food, it consumes it and brings it back to the colony inside where it is shared through a process called trophallaxis. Carpenter ants carry food back to their colony.
  • Since termites eat wood, they do not require any other food source inside your home. Carpenter ants, on the other hand, may decide to scout your kitchen and pantry for potential food sources. This makes a carpenter ant infestation a little easier to detect.
  • Subterranean termites build tubes. Carpenter ants do not. Termites need moisture to live. For this reason, they will build mud tubes up the side of basement walls. These are sort of exterior tunnels that termites use to travel from the soil to their food source. Carpenter ants just crawl up your foundation walls. They have no need to protect themselves from dryness.
  • When ants find a food source, they will focus all of their efforts on attacking the one source. Each ant will lay down a pheromone scent as they return to the nest with food allowing other ants to locate that food source. Termite workers do not focus their efforts in this way. While they have trail pheromones like carpenter ants, subterranean termite workers do not drop everything they're doing and focus on one food source. Many workers will continue to forage in an area where food has been found. This constant foraging is a trait exploited by termite bait systems like the Sentricon® Termite Colony Elimination System.

If you live in our Pennsylvania service area, let Witt Pest Management protect your home from insects and wildlife that chew away at it. We're Pittsburgh's oldest and most advanced pest control company. You can trust our team of experts to keep your home, and your equity, safe.

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