When you first spot a few winged insects flying through your home, you may think nothing of it – until you notice damage in your basement or bathroom. You are shocked and immediately may think you have a termite infestation. You’ve heard these pests can have a detrimental impact on a home’s future value. However, do not assume the small winged insects you see are termites. In fact, you could be dealing with carpenter ants. Neither pest infestation is ideal, but carpenter ants do not consume wood. They tunnel through it to build nests and the damage they create is far more gradual. Whichever it is, you’ll want these pests promptly exterminated from your home. How can you tell the difference between termites and carpenter ants before our pest control team arrives? And when is it time for professional termite or carpenter ant treatment?
Visual Factors Indicate a Termite Infestation vs Carpenter Ant Infestation
If you can get a closer look, you’ll see carpenter ants and termites have significant visual differences:
- Color: Carpenter ants with wings are called swarmers and are black or brown in color with reddish-brown wings. Termites usually have brown bodies with milky or smoky wings.
- Length: A carpenter ant swarmer generally measures a half-inch to 5/8 of an inch in length. A termite is smaller, usually no more than 3/8 of an inch long.
- Body: Ant waists are narrow and clearly defined, while termite waists are broader and wider.
- Antennae: Ants’ are bent at a 45-degree angle and have a segmented design; termites’ resemble beads or balls.
- Wings: Perhaps the clearest cue, termites often have wings that are longer than the body itself, overlapped and uniform in size. On the other hand, ant wings vary in length. The hind wings are typically smaller than the larger forewings.
Termite Damage vs Carpenter Ant Damage
Seasonal conditions trigger both of these insect groups to seek out wood, particularly for its warmth and moisture. While both species cause damage, the type and degree are not the same.
In general, because wood has no nutritional value for carpenter ants, they make nests out of it and create tunnels in the process. On the flip side, termites consume the cellulose. It may be time for termite or carpenter ant control if you notice any of the following:
- Carpenter ant tunnels often look clean, polished and smooth, and will have holes for removing unwanted debris. Outside, you’ll notice piles of shavings called frass, plus dead insects. Also, the surface of the wood may show no signs of damage or may look sanded down.
- Termite tunnels are less precise and often contain soil and mud. You’ll also notice their activity from the wood’s surface.
- Termite damage varies across species. Drywood termites also create frass and similar debris, but you’ll find fecal pellets too, usually uniform in size and shape. Subterranean termites go after softer spring wood and their damage often creates a layered effect.
- Carpenter ant damage is based on colonies and tends to be gradual, taking years to affect your home. Generally, once a colony grows, it expands through the wood or a second colony pops up.
Termite Nests vs Carpenter Ant Nests
Around your home, these pests target different areas:
- Carpenter ants first look for decayed, damp wood. They will then branch out into newer wood, as well as insulation and hollowed-out areas.
- Termites enter your home through windows, doorways, siding, sills, porches and other places directly in contact with the soil and may construct mud tubes.
- Termites colonies may have anywhere from 60,000 to over a million workers, and they may consume as much as five grams of wood per day. As such, termites consume more wood in less time than carpenter ants.
Carpenter ants are hard to identify, if you’re unsure whether you’re dealing with these ants, take a look at our ant exterminator page for more information. Work with Eliminate ‘Em for termite and carpenter ant extermination. To make an appointment, contact us today.