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Whats The Difference Between Carpenter Ants And Termites

What's The Difference Between Carpenter Ants And Termites?


Termites have two distinct body parts: a head and a thorax. They have a broad waist connecting their head to their thorax, and they have beaded, slightly curved antennae. Termite workers look kind of like white ants; they are a pale, almost translucent cream color. Reproductive termites (kings and queens) are darker in color, and have two pairs of wings. Both of these pairs of wings are the same size and rounded, paddle shape. Termites feed exclusively on cellulose, the primary structural component of wood. Because they eat cellulose, termites that are found in the home are literally eating the wood that they are infesting.

Here are some of the most commonly found signs of a termite infestation:

  • Discarded Wings From Flying Termites
  • Mud Tubes (Subterranean Termites)
  • Fecal Pellets (Drywood Termites)
  • Termite Workers, Which Look Like White Ants

Because termites actually feed on the wood, they can cause tremendous amounts of damage. Termite damage often costs thousands of dollars to repair.

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter Ants have three distinct body parts: a head, thorax, and abdomen. They have a pinched waist connecting their thorax to their abdomen, and they have jointed (elbowed), segmented antennae. Carpenter ants are often darker in color, and can be black, brown, or a reddish-black. Reproductive ants (kings and queens) have two pairs of wings. These two pairs of wings are different sizes, and are pointed in shape. Carpenter ants are omnivorous, and feed on a wide variety of materials. They can be found raiding food in the pantry, or outside foraging for food there. Contrary to popular belief, carpenter ants do not eat wood. Carpenter ants will excavate galleries inside of pieces of wood, for use as nurseries or storage chambers. Carpenter ants clean regularly, pushing debris out of their galleries through tiny pinholes. This debris will often form piles of frass, which typically consists of chewed up wood, fecal matter, and parts of dead insects.

How To Tell Carpenter Ants Apart From Termites

The easiest way to distinguish between carpenter ants and termites is their physical appearance. They can be identified fairly easily by looking at one of a few different physical characteristics:

Body Segments

Carpenter ants have three distinct body segments (head, thorax, and abdomen), while termites have just two (head and thorax).


Carpenter Ants have jointed, elbowed antennae with segments that become visible when under magnification. Termites have beaded antennae that are only slightly curved; termite antennae look almost like a bead necklace.


Winged ants and winged termites both have two pairs of wings. The way to tell them apart (you can even identify them by examining piles of discarded wings) is by determining if the wings are all the exact same size and shape, or if there are multiple sizes of wings. If the wings are all the exact same size and shape, then you are dealing with termites. If you find multiple different sizes of wings, then you are dealing with ants.

White Ants

There is no such thing as a white ant, though this is an often used term when describing termites. If you see small, white crawling insects in or around your home (they are commonly found in mulch), you may have a termite infestation that needs to be remediated.

How Do Carpenter Ants And Termites Get Inside Your Home?

Carpenter ants and termites get into homes differently, so determining how the insects found their way inside your home can help you figure out whether you're dealing with carpenter ants or termites.

Subterranean termites form colonies underground, and typically get inside homes at the ground level. They will enter unseen in places where wood contacts the ground, or they will enter through gaps and cracks in the exterior and/or the foundation. If subterranean termites enter the home through above ground cracks, then you will often find their protective mud shelter tubes leading up to and frequently into those cracks. If you notice a mud tube in a crawlspace, in the basement, or around the exterior of your home or business, you likely have an infestation of subterranean termites that you will need to eliminate.

Carpenter ants excavate colonies inside wood, which means they are not limited to nesting underground. Carpenter ants can enter a home through small gaps, cracks, and holes in a home, and will nest in a home's structural wood, wood siding, and wooden door and window frames. They can get inside through tiny openings around wires, plumbing, and electrical fixtures, and will often climb trees and shrubs before entering gaps around windows and gutters.

Carpenter Ant Droppings vs Termite Droppings

Droppings are another reliable way to identify a wood destroying insect infestation, whether it is carpenter ants or termites.

Ant droppings often looks like soft, fibrous pieces of wood and fecal matter, which may be loosely compacted together. Ant frass typically consists of wood particles, feces, tiny pieces of dirt, and sometimes, parts of dead ants and other insects. Ant droppings are usually found near nesting sites in slit-like openings within the wood. They will dispose of their fecal matter through wood crevices, treating them as a natural garbage chute.

If you notice significant wood damage and other tell-tale signs of a termite infestation, but don’t see any droppings, you are probably dealing with subterranean termites. Subterranean termites use their fecal matter as building material when creating their protective mud shelter tubes, so you’ll rarely see droppings.

Can I Have Both Ants And Termites At The Same Time?

Absolutely. It is true that ants can and will attack and eat termites, but ants generally will not attack the entire colony at once. Ants will typically only fight with individual termites, and only rarely are they able to wipe out an entire termite colony. Because termite nests are very difficult for ants to get inside, ants will often wait for something else like animals or people to break open holes in the termite colony before attempting an attack.

How To Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants And Termites

It is often tempting for home owners to want to pursue a DIY extermination for carpenter ants or termites. To permanently get rid of carpenter ants or a termite infestation requires eliminating the colony and the queen insect. Since carpenter ants and termites can both cause damage to what is often your largest investment (your home), if you are dealing with carpenter ants or termites, we recommend getting professional assistance. If you live in the greater Washington DC or Baltimore areas, reach out to our team of experts at Miche Pest Control for professional pest control services.

Carpenter Ant Control

If you have or suspect an issue with carpenter ants, click here to learn more about our pest control services. Carpenter ants are always included in our general pest control service. If you're ready to get started, you can sign up and book your first service online!

Termite Treatment & Control

Termites in particular are notorious for the amount of damage they can cause. That's why we incorporate the latest the termite control technology to stop termite damage in its tracks, and get rid of the termite colony, combining multiple effective termite treatment options for fast and lasting termite control. To request an estimate, fill out the form below, or call today!

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