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Carpenter Ants Vs. Termites: Everything You Need to Know


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.


Swarming termites and carpenter ants look similar at a glance including both having a head, thorax, abdomen, and six legs and live in large colonies. But there are easily spotted differences if you can stomach getting a little closer.

Here are a few of the differences between termites and carpenter ants:


  • 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. They won’t perfectly fold over one another and the ends will be more pointed.

Body Structure

  • 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.


  • Termites have small antennae that are small and straight.
  • Carpenter ants have longer antennae that are angled.


  • Termites are brownish in color.
  • Carpenter ants are a variety of colors including black, red, or brown.

Are There Differences in Swarming?

Both 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. Carpenter ants and termites are similar when it comes to swarming.

What Does It Mean?  

If you’ve seen a swarm of either one, it means that the colony is already well established to the point that newer insects are going off to start colonies of their own. That’s what these fliers will do – hence their wings. You should contact a professional immediately and let them know what you have discovered. A technician will come out, verify your claims, and then let you know what can be done.

Termite Damage vs. Carpenter Ant Damage

Both insects damage wood and can be a potentially expensive problem for your home’s structure. Termites consume wood, however, whereas 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, but can be harder to spot since there aren’t shavings left behind like a carpenter ants’. Hollow sounding wood is a giveaway of termite damage.

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants & Termites

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.

Even if you are sure you have identified the insects near your home as flying carpenter ants, it is still best to call a professional to take a look. Your home may depend on it. Termites can cause extensive damage, even before it becomes obvious that a home is infested. Don’t take the chance, call a professional today to positively ID the pests and create the best treatment plan for your home and family. Your home is your most important investment; let Ransford Pest Control help you to protect it.



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