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Carpenter Ants vs Termites: How Can You Tell the Difference?

Every year insects like termites and carpenter ants cause an estimated $5 billion dollars in property damage in the United States. And once you realized you've been the victim of an infestation, it's time to take action.

But that's not so easy when you're unsure of what type of pest is damaging your home. In some cases, you won't see the insect themselves, but rather the destruction they leave behind. 

How can you tell if the infestation is caused by carpenter ants vs termites? We want to help educate you on the difference between carpenter ants and termites and to recognize the types of damage they cause. 

Keep reading to learn how to determine if termites vs ants are the problem. 

Carpenter Ants Vs Termites

Termites and carpenter ants do share some similarities but they're also quite different from each other. 

Antennae

Termites have straight antennae, though some may be curved slightly. Ants have elbowed antennae that have a sharp-elbowed bend that's easy to spot. 

Body

You'll see that ants have three distinct body segments thanks to their narrow waists. Termites instead have a broad waste that makes then look like they have a long body and head. 

Wings

Termites and carpenter ants both send out winged swarmers. But ants have front wings that are longer than their back wings. 

Termites, however, have wings of equal length. 

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Wood and Termites

Termites like materials containing cellulose. Because cellulose is an organic compound, termites can digest wood and paper products thanks to the types of bacteria growing in their abdomens. 

Protozoa in their guts help them break down wood in their digestive systems. But termites do prefer digesting wood with decent levels of moisture. Doing so helps hydrate them.

Wood Termites Prefer

As a result, the types of wood most likely to attract termites are:

  • Yellow pine
  • Birch
  • Red Oak
  • Spruce
  • Teak
  • Peruvian walnut

New lumber is less attractive to termites. They prefer wood that is rotting. 

Wood Termites Dislike

There are also some types of wood that are more resistant to termites.

Pressure Treated

Pressure-treated wood is resistant to rot and fungi.

Most places in the U.S. require construction sites to use pressure-treated wood. 

Naturally Resistant

Heartwood is the non-living, central wood of trees. It's denser, less permeable, and darker than the surrounding timber. 

Certain species like redwoods and cypress are naturally-resistant

Composite Materials

Manmade composite lumber products are made with materials that insects and other pests can't digest like plastic.

Composites don't warp like natural lumber and are therefore more durable as a building material. 

Wood and Carpenter Ants

It's a myth that carpenter ants eat wood. They actually prefer to eat sweets, meat, and pet food. 

Eating wood provides them with no nutritional value. Instead, they cause damage to wood by creating tunnels for nesting. 

Signs Of An Infestation

Unfortunately, termite infestations often go unnoticed until they cause damage. The colonies nest underground with the workers hidden inside the wood. 

Termite Infestations

Here are a few signs you have a termite infestation:

  • Flying termites which are called swarmers
  • Termite droppings (Frass)
  • Hollow sounding timber
  • Tunnels in wood

Headbanging is another sign and it's not as cool as you'd think. Soldier termites are known to bang their heads against the wood and/or shake their bodies when they sense the colony is in danger.

It sounds like a quiet clicking coming from behind your walls. 

Carpenter Ant Infestations

Carpenter ants love moist, damp areas. Especially if there's rotting wood involve so they can chew through to make their nests. 

Anywhere there's dampness, food and/or piles of debris, carpenter ants could be lurking. They like to establish a path between their nest and their food source. 

Carpenter Ant Infestation Signs

Signs you have a carpenter ant infestation are:

  • Sawdust-like frass
  • Piles of wood shavings (similar to sawdust) beneath wooden areas
  • Winged ants coming out from walls, ceilings or other crevices

You may also hear rustling noises between walls or hollow doors. 

 

What Termite Vs Carpenter Ants Damage Looks Like

Since the reasons why termites damage wood differs vastly from why carpenter ants destroy wood, it makes it a little easier for you to determine who the culprit is. 

Carpenter Ant Damage 

Remember that carpenter ants can't eat wood. Instead, they're excavating the softened wood as if it were a construction site. Their purpose is to build a nest and create traveling tunnels.

You may also notice entrance and exit holes as well as other tiny holes they use to push out unwanted debris so they can keep their home clean and tidy. Carpenter ant tunnels in the wood are smooth and polished.

Termite Damage

Meanwhile, termites love to eat wood. And they're not that concerned with cleanliness or tidiness. 

Termite tunnels contain mud and soil. They also plug up any holes with mud. 

Why You Need A Professional Exterminator

When a termite infestation goes undetected, widespread damage can result. They can consume a pound of wood every day from the inside out. 

It's costly to repair structural essentials such as subflooring joists and wood supports. 

Ants come inside to find food such as sweets to eat. Carpenter ants can contaminate your food, build nests in decaying wood, and are unsightly. 

Thorough Inspections Properly Identify Infestations

When you hire a pest control professional they do a thorough inspection of both the inside and outside of your home looking for infestations. They'll also look to see what the damage is caused by. 

Once the inspection is completed and the culprit(s) are identified, a pest control professional will create a customized pest removal plan for you. This will ensure that you get and stay free from unwanted pests in your home for a long time. 

Call Viking Pest for Pest Control

Whether your infestation is carpenter ants vs termites, it's best not to wait too long. 

That's why you should rely on the number one choice in New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania for pest control.  Contact Viking Pest today for a free and no-obligation estimate at 1-800-618-2847.

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Topics: Carpenter Ants, Termites, residential, WDIR Insects