Termites vs Ants: What's the Difference?

Take a look at the differences between termites and ants, specifically carpenter ants.

differences between ants and termites

Both carpenter ants and termites swarm when it’s time for mating, and both are known for causing damage to wood. In fact, there are many species of ants that swarm and may be confused with termite swarmers. However, they have more differences than they do similarities. Learn more below about termites vs. ants.

termites vs ants

Body Shape

One of the key differences between termites and ants is the shape of their bodies. Carpenter ants, along with other ants, have narrow waists. Termites, on the other hand, have more broad waists.


Termite antennae are unique from those of ants because they look like little beads or balls. Ant antennae will look segmented and are distinctly elbowed.


Remember that carpenter ants and termites only have wings when they’re swarming. However, if you do spot them with wings, there are a couple of ways to tell them apart, though these identifiers may be difficult to see. Both insects have two sets of wings. Termites’ wings are pretty much uniform in size while ants have two large forewings and two smaller hind wings.


Termites are known for eating wooden structures because they need the cellulose within the wood to survive. Do carpenter ants eat wood? No. Rather they make their homes in the wood, excavating the shavings as they burrow further into structures. Unlike termites, carpenter ants’ diets consist of sugars and proteins.


A termite’s habitat depends on the termite species. Unless you spot a swarm, you’re more likely to spot signs of termites rather than the actual insect. Key signs that you have termites include discarded wings, mud shelter tubes, or wood damage. Carpenter ants, however, will venture out to forage for food, so you may actually see them in your home.


Both termites and carpenter ants are attracted to moisture in your home. Naturally, they’re also both attracted to wood and easy points of entry. However, that’s where the list of what attracts carpenter ants and termites begins to deviate. Another of the differences between termites and ants is that the carpenter ants don’t eat wood, so they’ll be attracted to other sources of food. They can have a bit of a sweet tooth, so keep syrups, honey and sugar stored properly. In addition, they need protein sources, so don’t leave out items like pet food or meats.

If you think you have either pest in your house or building, contact Terminix®. A trained pest control professional can evaluate your problem and work with you to customize a control and prevention plan.



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