Termites and Carpenter Ants: Figuring Out the Infestation


Pests are a tough and annoying thing to contend with, and it gets even more frustrating when you don’t know what exactly you are fighting against. Two common insect offenders that get interchanged are carpenter ants and termites. While they may share some similarities, it’s important to know the difference to enact the right course of action against them. Here are some things to check so that you can tell what’s what.


Both creatures are known for their destruction and attraction toward the wood. This material is the first place to check and likely the reason why you are seeking out the difference in the first place.

The first thing to note is their behavior towards the wood. Termites eat it, and this is a nutritional source for them. Carpenter ants, on the other hand, merely dig through it and create an enclosure of tunnels for shelter. If you see wood shavings in the areas where you can pinpoint their burrows, you’ve likely got the carpenters pushing out the wood.

Next is the appearance of the tunnels. Ant control experts in Salt Lake City note that the best visual indication between the two is to see whether the tunnels are messy and rough with dirt or smooth and clean. Termites create ragged tunnels, while carpenter ants have tunnels that almost look sanded in smoothness.


The confusion likely stems from the fact that both species have wings. However, a look into the details of their bodies will show stark differences. Termites have wings that are equal in length, while carpenter ants have unproportioned wings and a pinched waist.

On top of this, depending on the specific type of termite, you can tell the difference through their coloration. Termites are more often than not lighter in tone than carpenter ants. As for behavior based on their build, termites tend to shed their wings when they are about to enter their next phase of development. You can usually find these piles near areas with soil as that is where termites prefer to go for colony building.

Other Destruction

termite on the cement

It may help you to look around and see other things in disarray. For instance, subterranean termites create mud tubes in the soil as a pathway from their wood snacks to their nest in the moist ground. You can find these around your foundation and will usually be small but connecting from the soil to the wood source.

See cracks and crevices around your home to check if you see any carpenter ants emerge from them, as that indicates that they have built a nest somewhere within the foundation. Carpenter ants tend to be a bit harder to detect quickly because they don’t cause quite as much devastation as rapidly as termites.

Now that you have some key differences to tell them apart, you should prioritize identifying them as soon as possible if you feel like you might have a problem on your hands. After all, carpenter ants are the most damaging species of ants, and termites cause over $5 billion in damage every year.

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