Understanding The Difference Between Ants and Termites


April 11, 2017 - Brian Reynolds

Being a homeowner sometimes involves playing host to uninvited guests, including ants and termites! But unlike human guests, these insects come to cause damage. Ants can destroy gardens and termites are capable of chewing wood houses to the ground. In fact, every year property owners spend north of $2 billion dollars to repair termite damage alone.

Perhaps you are thinking this isn’t a hard task; that as long as you can afford pesticides, you can kill or stop them in their tracks. Sure, pesticides do work, but they may not be effective for both types of insects. You must, therefore, know which bug you’re dealing with in order to find an effective control measure. Yet, telling them apart is not that simple. Ants and termites share some physical similarities, and can both be found in damaged wood or insulation. In this post, we’re going to crawl deep into their nests and bring out the differences between them. Read on!

carpenter ant on a log

Differences Between Ants and Termites

PHYSICAL DIFFERENCES

From a (safe) distance, ants and termites look very similar. However, when you move closer, you will start to notice physical differences that give them away. The first feature to look out for is the antennae. While ants have elbowed antennas, termites have straight, beaded antennas protruding from either side of the head. Next, go for the eyes. If the insect has a pair of compound eyes, then it’s probably an ant. Most termites are completely blind, so they don’t have eyes.

Wondering how they get around? They use other senses to follow scent and moisture trails! If you’re still unable to tell them apart, look at the waist and wings. Ants have a pinched waist and the winged ones have wings of unequal sizes. In the other nest, termites have a straight, broad waist and wings of equal sizes. Ants also have an abdomen that is pointed at the end, while termites have abdomens that appear blunt. In general, ants are dark or reddish in color, and termites are typically creamy white.

FEEDING HABITS

From the onset, you must recognize that ants and termites invade homes in search of food. However, they don’t eat the same meals. Ants, particularly carpenter ants, love to feed on other insects. If they can’t find other insects, they will likely head for the kitchen and hunt for grease, beef and sweet items such as sugar. They also have an appetite for plant juices, so you can find them hanging out in your garden. Even though ants build their nests in dead wood, they don’t eat the wood. As such, they don’t pose any substantial structural harm to your property. On their part, termites can eat plants and paper, but wood is their primary dish. Also, termites eat in secrecy. This means it’s unlikely that you will catch them in an open space unless they’re in the process of sneaking into the building!

WATCH OUT FOR WOOD SHAVINGS

If you find wood shavings somewhere in your home, which insect will be your first suspect? The answer is simple: Ants! (surprising, right?) Here is why. Ants don’t eat wood, so they will push shavings through openings as they dig into the wood to create a nest. Since termites eat wood, they are unlikely to leave a trail of wood shavings.

ANTS BITE AND STING, TERMITES DON’T

Even though both insects are not dangerous to human beings, they react differently when provoked. If you accidently step on a swarm of ants, you may not be able to get away without a bite or a sting that feels like a pinch! Termites are completely harmless. If you disturb them in any way, they will likely scatter to all directions for safety (remember they don’t have eyes!) So, if you come across insects at home or in the workplace but you aren’t sure whether they’re ants or termites, try provoking them with a finger and see what happens! (or maybe just a stick)

Why It’s Important to Know the Differences Between Ants and Termites?

Determine the Best Control Approach

Although ants and termites invade homes in a similar manner, they respond differently to various control measures. For instance, while spraying ants with the appropriate pesticide may be enough to kill or repel them, the same technique may not work for termites. Therefore, knowing whether you are dealing with ants or termites will help you or your pest control specialist to design an effective treatment procedure.

ADOPT APPROPRIATE PREVENTION METHODS

After treating the insects, nothing stops them from making a comeback in the future. To ensure this doesn’t happen, you must use the right prevention methods for each type of bug. The best way to keep termites away from your home, for example, is to eliminate wood to soil contact. This is the main access point for termites. For ants, you must focus on sealing off all entry spaces. Keeping the kitchen spotlessly clean and storing food properly in sealed containers also helps.

ASSESS POTENTIAL DAMAGE

Knowing how to tell ants from termites will also help you determine whether there’s more to be worried about. If you’re dealing with termites, for example, then you could be in for a major problem. If they’ve been in your home for a while, you’ve to inspect the building‘s foundation and wooden parts for damage. But if you’re dealing with ants, then the only thing to worry about is plants in your garden or food in the kitchen.

In Summary

Ants and termites are useful insects, especially to crop farmers. But in our homes and workplaces, there’s no space for them. They must be treated and controlled upon detection. Mastering how to tell them apart is the first step toward effectively controlling and keeping them away from your living and working spaces. If you’re unable to correctly identify them, you can always call a pest management company for identification, treatment, and control.

Request Your Free Inspection

Complete the form below to schedule your FREE inspection today!

Get Started With Reynolds Pest Management, Inc. Today

(844) 326-3100

Are you in need of quality residential or commercial pest control? Reach out to Reynolds Pest Management!

Contact Us

where we service map of florida