Carpenter Ants vs Termites: Important Distinctions

You have a swarm of insects on your property or in your home. They have wings and a lot of legs. Before you run away, you need to get a good look at that pest. You need to know if you have carpenter ants or termites. It’s an important distinction.

termites or ants 1Both carpenter ants and termites swarm in the spring season. When the temperature gets warmer and the air grows more humid, these insects are somehow activated to swarm. The reproductively mature adults will fly up into the air to look for potential mates and a place to build a new colony. Both insects damage wood and can be a potentially expensive problem for your home’s structure.

This is where the similarities end. Termites consume wood. Carpenter ants burrow through it to build nesting areas. Carpenter ant damage is usually less extensive in scope and does less to compromise the structural integrity of a home. It’s usually limited to the nesting site. Termite damage can utterly destroy your home if left unchecked.

Swarming termites and carpenter ants look similar at a glance but there are easily spotted differences if you can stomach getting a little closer. Here are a few of the distinctions:

  • Termites lose their wings quickly after taking flight. Look for shed wings along window sills.
  • Carpenter ants keep their wings. Look for dead and live insects on window screens.
  • Flying termites have two pairs of wings, front and back, that are equal in length.
  • Carpenter ants have two sets of wings as well but the front set it much longer.
  • Flying termite bodies are mainly straight from head to end.
  • Flying carpenter ants look like, well, ants. They have the narrow “waist” and pinched-in body you would normally associate with an ant.

No matter which insect you have, a call to your pest control agent should be made right away. If he cannot make an emergency service call right away, scoop a few insects into a container or baggie so he can make the official diagnosis of your pest problem. He’ll need to see at least a few so break out the whisk broom and dust pan.

Treatments for these two species are also very different. You can often successfully use baits and eradicate a carpenter ant colony but a termite infestation might require the tenting and fumigation of your entire house.

Don’t delay if you see a swarm of either insect, especially if it’s actually inside your home. Call your pest control company immediately.




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