It’s important to differentiate between two flying, wood-destroying pests – the carpenter ant and the termite. Many people will often confuse the two, as both pests are very similar in color, size, and shape. Knowing what pest you have will make getting rid of them faster, easier, and safer, saving you time and money in the long run.
According to the National Pest Management Association, termites cause an estimated $5 billion in property damage each year. Homeowners are generally aware of the devastation termites can leave in their wake, but carpenter ants can also prove to be destructive to the wood found both in and outside of the home. Unlike termites, carpenter ants don’t actually eat the wood they come in contact with but instead hollow out galleries inside the wood for nesting and living as they feeding on food left behind by people (especially meats and sweets). Carpenter ants are frequently mistaken for winged termites during mating season when the male and female ants leave the colony to find a suitable mate. If an infestation from either pest is left undetected for a prolonged period of time, they each can cause expensive damage. Treatments for either a carpenter ant or termite infestation should be handled by a pest control professional.
There are certain characteristics that can be used to differentiate swarms of carpenter ants as compared to termites, the most important being the appearance of elbowed antennae and small or pinched waist with wings that are longer in the back than the front pair.
|Bent antennae||Straight antennae|
|Hourglass waistline||No waistline; straight abdomen|
|Unequal wing length in the front and back||Equal wing length in both front and back|
|Wings are partially translucent||Wings are opaque or appear to be silver in color|
- Carpenter ants are normally 5/8 inch long.
- Carpenter ants have two small wings and two large wings (females only).
- They also have very narrow, hourglass-shaped waists that separate their abdomen from their thorax and head.
- Their antennae are elbowed.
- Carpenter ants have reddish-brown thoraxes and heads with black abdomens.
- They commonly nest around man-made structures and are the most common household pest in Florida.
- Carpenter ants do not feed on the wood they remove. Their feeding habits are similar to other ants, favoring sweets.
- Carpenter ants search for moist wood to build their nests, particularly in attics, ceilings, and floors.
- Carpenter ants are not a typically a year-round concern for homeowners. However, during spring swarm season, carpenter ants travel en masse to find new nesting locations.
- Their nests consist of an expansive network of tunnels and passages within the structure of your home. Over time, these nests can seriously weaken your home’s structural integrity.
- Termites are normally 1/4 inch long. Termite swarmers range from 3/8 to 1/2 inch long.
- Termites have four wings of equal length (reproductive only).
- They have thick waists which are similar in size than the rest of their bodies.
- Termites have two antennae that are straight.
- They are characterized by thin white skin and are commonly light to medium brown in color.
- Nests are either underground (subterranean) or in the wood of your home (drywood).
- Termites feed on wood and some species build nests in wood.
- Drywood termites, unlike subterranean termites, do not need contact with soil for their moisture needs. They get their moisture from the wood they eat.
- Termites can be a huge problem anywhere. Also problematic are the nesting habits of many termite species which can make them difficult to spot.
- Termites can cause serious structural damage to any home in a matter of months if left untreated.
The first step in controlling a pest problem is identifying the pest itself. If you are unsure which pest you’re dealing with or if you need help eliminating an infestation, Truly Nolen can help. Our Four Seasons Pest Control program will help prevent ant infestations in and around your home throughout the year, including carpenter ants. Our Total Termite Protection plan will eliminate termites and prevent future infestations. Most importantly, it’s backed by our Million Dollar Guarantee.