How can you tell the difference between a termite and a carpenter ant? It can be tricky. Both termites and carpenter ants are drawn to damp, vulnerable wood, and both species have the potential to cause extensive damage as they tunnel through the material. While they have many similarities, there are clear indicators that can help you properly identify the pest that's munching on the wood at your home or business.
The Damage Done
Discovering damage to wood in your building can be distressing, but it also offers clear evidence about the culprits. Termites consume wood as the burrow through it ravenously, and they often leave bits of mud or soil in their wake. Carpenter ants do not eat wood. They tunnel through it to create shelters. The galleries that they construct tend to be polished, clean and smooth, and the damage that they cause is generally less extensive.
The Debris Left Behind
When animals eat, they produce waste, and termites are no exception. After eating wood, they leave behind fecal matter in the form of uniform pellets. Carpenter ants tend to leave a different sort of debris. When building their galleries through wood, they construct windows that they use to push out trash. This trash generally consists of wood shavings in assorted shapes and sizes and the remains of dead insects.
The Insect's Behavior
Because of their stealthy habits, termites are called silent invaders. Since they eat the wood that they are living in, it's rare to see a termite unless you happen to observe them when they are swarming. Carpenter ants are different. While you may spot a swarm of them, there's also a good chance that you might see them at other times as well. They do not eat wood. Instead, they need to seek out proteins and sugars. As a result, you may notice these insects moving about as they forage for food or water.
The Insect's Appearance
Termites and carpenter ants look similar at first glance, but the differences are in the details. Termites have boxy, rectangular bodies, straight antennae, and when they have wings, their wings are all the same size. Carpenter ants have narrow waists and bent antennae. In addition, winged ants have front wings that are noticeably larger than their hind wings.
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