How to tell the difference between carpenter ants and termites

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How to tell the difference between carpenter ants and termites


Termites and carpenter ants have a lot more in common than most people would imagine.

  • They are both destroyers of wood and can cause serious structural damage to your property.
  • They are both experts at hiding their presence inside of your home and will easily destroy the wood and the interior of your home if left untreated, which can cause expensive damage as well as threaten the stability of your home.

Both pests can only be eradicated by a professional pest control company. If you have found wood damage or seen the signs of either termite or carpenter ant damage please contact us at  Sydney’s Best Pest Control. Our specialists will identify the types of pests in your home and offer solutions to get rid of carpenter ants or termites and prevent these pests from coming back.

The similarities between termites and carpenter ants are not only their love of wood, but also their similarity in appearance. Carpenter ants with their bulbous chitin shells, and in some cases small wings, can easily be mistaken for termites.

There are however some basic differences between termites and carpenter ants.

Carpenter ant and termite bodies

One of the main differences between termites and carpenter ants is their body shape:

  • Termites have a head and a thorax; whereas ants have a head, thorax and abdomen
  • Termite wings are usually much longer than ant wings – about double the length of the termite body. Ant wings are only slightly longer than the ant body.

Although both termites and carpenter ants will eat the wood in your home, the difference is:

  • The termites rely on the wood as a source of nutrition.
  • The carpenter ants cannot digest wood and instead burrow into the wood to create their nests.

Termites are known as “silent destroyers” because of their ability to chew through wood, flooring, and even wallpaper undetected.

Similar to termites, carpenter ant infestations often go unnoticed until it’s too late.

But unlike termites, carpenter ants can take years to cause significant damage.

Both termites and ant colonies can and will live inside the wood in your home.

  • Carpenter ants build their nests in various wood sources, including tree stumps, fence posts, firewood or landscaping. They prefer to attack wood that has been wet or damaged. Indoors, this means they are often found in damaged window and door frames, crawl spaces under roofs, chimneys, sinks and bathtubs.
  • Subterranean termites live in underground colonies and can contain up to two million members. They build tunnels or “mud tubes” to reach food sources, like your home, and to protect themselves from open air.
  • Dampwood termites are usually found in logs, stumps, dead trees, fence posts and utility poles.
  • Drywood termites infest dry wood, like that found in attic framings.

Because both termites and ants both thrive in a moist environment and need access to water, the best way to ensure both of these pests stay away is to repair all leaks and moisture issues right away such as leaky faucets and poor drainage.

One of the biggest differences between carpenter ants and termites is the way they create tunnels and galleries:

  • Carpenter ants create tunnels and galleries that are very neat, smooth and have a finished appearance.
  • Termite galleries and tunnels will have a rough and even ragged feel and will be caked with mud. Oftentimes, you will see the mud tubes created by termites on the outer walls or foundation.

Whatever you do, DO NOT DISTURB them in any way

OR SPRAY them with any kind of product!!!

Trying to figure out if you have carpenter ants or termites can be difficult for a homeowner. Regardless of which pest you have, getting rid of the entire carpenter ant or termite infestation can be a challenge. Missing a few termites or carpenter ants can create a brand new infestation. Carpenter ants and termites can also create multiple nests in just one place or throughout a property.

Sydney’s Best Pest Control can properly identify which type of issue you are dealing with and develop a customized plan to protect your home and family from these damaging pests. Our experts will also make recommendations to help you prevent future pest problems.

Signs of Carpenter ants in your home:

  • Sawdust – Small piles of wood shavings mixed with insect parts or insulation can be a sign that carpenter ants are establishing nesting locations.
  • Noise – Crunching sounds could indicate carpenter ants tunneling through the wood in your home.
  • Damaged wood – Carpenter ants create smooth ‘galleries’ in the wood as they tunnel. Check high moisture areas of your house (basements or crawl spaces) using a moisture meter, as these are prime nesting areas.
  • Foraging trails – Carpenter ants like to use the same trail over and over again.

Signs of Termites in your home:

  • Discolored or drooping drywall
  • Peeling paint that resembles water damage
  • Wood that sounds hollow when tapped
  • Small, pinpoint holes in drywall
  • Buckling wooden or laminate floor boards
  • Tiles loosening from the added moisture termites can introduce to your floor
  • Excessively squeaky floorboards
  • Crumbling, damaged wood
  • Stuck windows or doors
  • Maze-like patterns in furniture, floor boards or walls
  • Mounds of drywood termite pellets, often resembling small piles of salt or pepper
  • Piles of wings left behind after swarms, often resembling fish scales
  • Mud tubes climbing the foundation of your home
  • Flying termite swarms anywhere on your property

The Australian Standard recommends that regular Termite Inspections are carried out on homes every 6 months if there is no termite barrier or termite prevention measures in place and every 12 months or Annual Termite Inspections where there is a Termite Management System in place.

Termites and carpenter ants can both cause many thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to your home. If caught early enough they can be treated affordably before any serious structural damage is done. If you suspect that your home is infested with termites or carpenter ants, do not hesitate to contact Sydney’s Best Pest Control for a professional visual or thermal imaging termite inspection.

Further Reading

Spring Allergies and Pests

Carbon Tax The Termites

Do You Think You Have Termites?

Pre-Construction Termite Treatments