The difference between a termite and an ant

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The difference between a termite and an ant

What’s the Difference Between Ants & Termites?


Characteristics – Ants lay down a scent that will attract other ants and will lead them to food sources. Ants travel a wide range in search of food. Some ants have a sweet tooth and anything sweet with sugar or honey will attract them.

What do Ants look like?

  • Darker in color.
  • Elbowed antennae.
  • Their eyes are on the side of the head.
  • Large forewings and small hind wings
  • 3 sections – Head, Thorax, and (Gaster) Abdomen.
  • Ants have a thin waist where the thorax meets the (gaster) abdomen.

Ants like to feed on:

  • Sugars and proteins
  • Attracted to moisture, wood, and sweets

Ant nests:

Within the ant nest there are different castes of ants that differ in appearance and roles, there is the queen ant, worker ants, soldier ants and of course the winged, flying ant.

The ant tunnels and galleries are very smooth, and they do tend to make holes in wood for nesting as well.

Worker Ants are all Female

They are smaller than the other ants with color’s ranging from black, brown, and reddish.

Worker ants’ main purpose is to look after the queen, take care for the young, hunt for food and maintain and grow the nest.

Soldier Ants are all Female

The soldiers are the only ant species of varying sizes, larger than the worker ants and have strong jaws.

These ants protect the colony but also use their large jaws to help cut and carry large objects

Flying Ants are all Females

Liked termites with wings they get referred to as Alate (Winged insects). They have two sets of wings, different in size.

In the summertime, they start new colonies by building new nests and they disable their wings and use them to feed their families, as the wings are a source of protein.

Winged Drone Ants are the only Male Ants in the Colony

Their job is reproduction, and they normally fly off with the females to reproduce and start a new colony in summer times.

Once mated the male ant die.


Termites are often called white ants. They are different than ants in terms of how they look and act.

Characteristics – Termites live off cellulose which is an organic food source found in wood, plants, and paper. Depending on the species, termites live off cellulose even when building their nests.

What do termites look like?

  • Termites are light in color, usually a white/cream color
  • Straight antennae.
  • Termites have thick / broad waist’s
  • 2 Sets of wings that is the same in size but much longer than the body length

Termites like to feed on:

  • Wood and moisture and can cause damage to your property.
  • Cellulose found in wood, plants, and paper.

Termite nests:

Subterranean termites build their nests underground as they don’t like sunlight. The only time they are visible is when they are swarming.

They use tunnels made from mud and their odor to navigate an area for food.

Galleries are ragged and filled with soil and mud and rarely notice unless the nest is disturbed

Soldier Termites Both Male & Female:

They often give their lives to the colonies protecting them, they are the first line of defense.

Help protect the colony with their enlarged head with big jaws, but can’t use the big jaws to feed themselves, they rely on the workers to help them.

Worker Termites Both Male & Female

Workers are transparent light or creamy light in color. Swarmers are dark brown and black

Worker termites have a range of duties – From being the main colony builders to being the miners and even the midwives. With all these duties they also contain the highest numbers within a colony and are also responsible for the most damage onto a property.

Winged Termites:

They start a new colony when they leave the nest in the spring and summer months to mate.

Their wings drop off as soon as they mate, then they land and find a new nest.

Both their sets of wings are equal in length, unlike ant’s wings.

Carpenter ants (Flying Ants) vs Termites

  • Carpenter ants swarm when it’s mating time and bear a resemblance to a flying ant.
  • When a Carpenter ant swarms it can look like flying termites. Flying ants and flying termites have different wings, body shapes, and antennae. It can be difficult to spot these differences.
  • Both the Carpenter ants and termites act similarly in terms of the damage that they can cause to a property.
  • Carpenter ants don’t eat wood, but termites do. Termites feed on the fungal decay link to rotting wood and they build their nest with wood fragments.
  • The excess wood in a carpenter’s ant nests gets discarded through the entrance of the nest.
  • There are always wood shavings when identifying termites or carpenter ants.