What’s The Difference Between Carpenter Ants And Termites

Published On: May 11, 20210 Comments on What’s The Difference Between Carpenter Ants And TermitesTags: Last Updated: February 7, 20242.8 min read

As homeowners deal with pests, they often end up mistaking one for another. The biggest confusion relates to differentiating between carpenter ants and termites. Both are swarmers that shed wings as they mature, and both do it at the same time of the year. You can expect to see these wings around as spring arrives and offers favorable conditions like the warmth of the sun and moisture.

What’s The Difference Between Carpenter Ants And Termites

It is vital to understand the difference between the two because they have to be handled differently. If you fail to get the right treatment, an infestation is impending, and it can damage your home. Let us explain the differences between these two pests.


The body shape of these insects differs, and you can easily identify them if you understand the characteristics. Carpenters ants have a head, thorax, and abdomen, while termites have only a head and a thorax. Ant wings are much smaller in size as compared to termite wings. If you suspect an infestation but cannot identify the culprit, seeking professional help is your best bet. Let an expert see a specimen and see what they are dealing with.

Feeding habits

Both these pests target wood, and it is another reason why it is hard to differentiate between them. While termites get nutrition from wood, carpenter ants cannot digest wood cellulose. They only burrow into wood to get shelter. Both pests thrive in moist conditions, so they look for places that offer access to water. Carpenter ants use moisture to make bits of food edible. You can deter these pests by repairing leaks and moisture issues so that they do not get the right conditions to thrive.

What’s The Difference Between Carpenter Ants And Termites - wood

Nesting areas

Another common attribute of these pests is that both live inside the wood. Carpenter ants find shelter and build nests outdoors, in tree stumps, landscaping, fence posts, and firewood because they get ample moisture in these areas. They can even thrive indoors and look for damaged wood such as on the window and door frames, chimneys, crawl spaces under roofs, and sinks and bathtubs. Since they are capable of nesting at multiple places, you must have ant pest control experts to eliminate them. Subterranean termites thrive in huge numbers in underground colonies. They build tunnels to get to food sources in your home. Conversely, damp wood termites live in stumps, logs, dead trees, utility poles, and fence posts. Another variant is dry wood termites, which infest dry wood, such as in attic framings.


The most distinctive difference between the two is the damage they cause by creating tunnels and galleries. The ones created by carpenter ants are smooth, neat, and have a finished appearance. Conversely, termite galleries and tunnels look rough and rugged and are caked with mud. Mud tubes on the outer walls or foundation are a warning sign that you have a termite infestation. Termites act as silent destroyers as they can quickly chew through wood, wallpaper, and flooring undetected. Carpenter ants are also hard to detect, but they cause significant damage only over the years.

Since the differences between these two intruders are subtle, it is best to call expert exterminators to identify and deal with the one thriving in your home. They will also have the right treatment to eliminate the pest for good.

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