Americans spend billions of money fixing damages caused by termites and ants. While these insects could be responsible for wood damage every summer, termites are more destructive than ants. Learning how carpenter ants vs. termites compare in terms of looks, diet, and damage caused can help you take quick action in protecting your property. Here, we look at the main differences between carpenter ants and termites.

Carpenter Ants vs. Termites Body: Shapes and Wings

Worker termites and ants leave the nest daily to attend to look for food. You may not tell which one has infested your home by merely looking at their size. However, having a keen eye will help you spot the differences in body shape and color of ants vs. termites.

For instance, termites have a thick waist and straight antennae that appear to be beaded. Their bodies are typically light-colored, with flying termites having a translucent abdomen. In addition, most termites are blind and rely on senses to interact with their environment, apart from the queen, king, and swarmers whose weak eyes are not as easily detectable as ants’.

On the other hand, ants have three clearly defined body sections comprising the head, thorax, and gaster. Their thin waist joins the thorax to their dark-colored abdomen, with big eyes on the sides of the head. Unlike termites, carpenter ants have elbowed antennae that appear segmented.

Ants vs. Termites: Wings


Only the reproductive termite and ant members have wings. Termite reproductives make their mating flight during spring or summer but shed their wings as soon as they land. This enables them to move around looking for food and the ideal location for nesting, which the male termite leads. You will find the equal-sized termite wings around light fixtures or on the ground. If the alates are swarming in, you will notice that their two sets of wings stretch past their bodies.

Even though swarming ants shed their wings immediately after mating, the new queen eats her wings for nourishment. The males, called drones, die instantly after mating. If you are lucky to meet a winged ant, dead or alive, you will notice that its front wings are

longer than the rear. This is because their set of wings are almost proportionate to their bodies in length when stretched.

Carpenter Ant vs. Termite: Food

Termites and carpenter ants chew wood for different reasons. While termites eat wood for nourishment, ants chew it for nesting purposes.

The main food source for termites is cellulose, the organic compound found in wood, paper, plants, and wooden surfaces. Some species of termites, such as the subterranean termites, eat wood but nest underground, while dry wood termites eat and live inside the wood. They remain hidden for the best part of their infestation because they are prone to dehydration.

Carpenter ants, on the other hand, do not feed on wood. However, they chew damp and rotting wood to create nests, leaving behind wood shavings. Their food includes seeds,

food crumbs, nectar, sugar, honey, fruits, fat, plants, and other pests. You will find these pests in the kitchen, food store, and outside the house foraging. Sometimes, they will even invade the termite nests around for food, but do not be deceived; they cannot clear the entire colony for you. Only a pest control professional can help you treat carpenter ant infestation.

Termite vs. Ant Castes

Termites and carpenter ants are social insects that live in colonies. Each colony has a queen, several males, and female members that take different roles. While termite nests may have secondary and tertiary reproductives that help the queen to expand the colony, there is only one queen in the ant colony. She may hatch new queens that swarm out to start new colonies elsewhere.


Termites soldiers are the colony’s first line of defense and can either be male or female. These soldiers are usually sexually underdeveloped, but they have big heads and elongated mandibles. Workers feed them.

Worker termites are the majority in any termite colony. They comprise both male and female members that take care of foraging and building. In addition, they are responsible for the construction of the mud tubes around your home and the chewing of wooden structures to feed the rest of the colony.

Finally, winged termites pair up in summer in preparation for the mating flight. Then, they swarm out to start new colonies elsewhere, often around the food source.

Carpenter ants, however, are organized differently. Once a queen and a male leave a colony, they mate in the air, and the male dies. The queen stores the sperm in her abdomen to fertilize eggs. Fertilized eggs produce infertile female workers, while unfertilized eggs hatch into reproductive males. The males do not do any work other than reproduction. Meanwhile, female ants take care of defense and other duties in the colony, including foraging. You can tell the difference between worker ants and soldier ants by looking at their body size. Workers are smaller than soldiers. Sometimes, soldiers use their large jaws to help carry large objects.

Damage and Signs of infestation

To know whether you have an infestation of termites or carpenter ants in your home, look at the amount of damage they cause. While carpenter ants chew wood for nesting purposes, termite damage is tied to their insatiable appetite for cellulose. However, each type of pest leaves behind extraordinary evidence as they nest and feed.

Subterranean termites build mud tunnels between their nest and food sources for protection against predators, air, and sun. As they eat the wood, they leave traces of soil behind. Species that live in wood, such as the dry wood termites, drill small holes to kick out frass from their nest. You will find the small pellets that look like sawdust on the infested structure. Sometimes, it is not easy to notice the frass or mud tubes until the structure is collapsing. This is why it is important to look out for early signs of termite infestation before things get out of hand. Since termites love moisture, contact a pest control professional for inspection immediately after water damage.

On the other hand, Carpenter ant infestation only occurs if you have rotting wood and food crumbs in the house. Carpenter ant damage on structures happens when they start eating the fungal decay on the rotting wood. You will find the wood shavings around the entry of their nests and clean galleries on the damaged wood. Whether carpenter ants or termites cause wood damage on your property, call a pest control expert for treatment services before the insects create irreversible damage.

Do You Have Carpenter Ants and Termites Infestations? Call Our Experts For Comprehensive Pest Control Services

An experienced pest control company can help with the identification and remediation of termite and carpenter ant damage. Biotherm pest control professionals will search every crevice on the walls to the rubble outside until we find whether carpenter ants and termites are breeding in your home or destroying your property silently. Afterward, we shall use our eco-friendly carpenter ants termites treatment to get rid of those pests for good. Call (800) 280-5698 for assistance.