Carpenter Ants vs. Termites | Differences and Similarities

Carpenter ants and termites have many similarities, one of which is that they are both known for inflicting wood damage in properties. Although carpenter ants and termites have a lot in common, there are certain physical characteristics that may help you distinguish them.

What’s the difference between carpenter ants and termites? Carpenter ants are hunting for food in the outdoors and are reddish or black in color. By contrast, termites are transparent or creamy white in appearance and avoid light. Carpenter ants chew through wood to make tunnels and nests, but they don’t consume the wood, unlike termites. Termites usually dwell underground and use mud tunnels to go from their nests to their food supply.

Do you suspect a carpenter ant or termite is eating away at your home’s wood frame? Both may cause damage to your property, but the key to applying the right solution is proper identification.

Are Carpenter Ants Termites?

Are Carpenter Ants Termites

Carpenter ants don’t consume wood. Carpenter ants primarily chew into the wood when they build tunnels for their nestsTherefore, they are not the same as termites.

Do Carpenter Ants and Termites Live Together?

Carpenter ants and termites are natural enemies so they cannot live together. Carpenter ants feed on termites but they also benefit from termites since they eliminate any competitors for ideal nesting spots.

Are Carpenter Ants a Sign of Termites?

Are Carpenter Ants a Sign of Termites

Carpenter ants are not a reliable indicator that your property is infested with termites. The carpenter ants may live in your property without termites since termites are not their primary food source.

What Is the Difference Between Carpenter Ants and Termites?

The following are the differences between carpenter ants and termites.

  • Color Carpenter ants are reddish or black, while termites are transparent or creamy white.
  • Body shape. Carpenter ants have narrow waists, while termites have more broad waists.
  • Antennae. Termite antennae look like tiny beads or balls and are straight, unlike carpenter ants that are curved and pointy.
  • Wings. Termites have four equal-sized and shaped wings. It also has wings that are bigger than its body. Carpenter ants have two big forewings and two tiny back wings
  • Food source. Termites destroy wooden buildings because they need the cellulose in the wood to grow. Carpenter ants, unlike termites, eat other insects like flies, food leftovers, aphids, animal bones, and other insects.  Sugars and proteins attract them.
  • Wood tunnels. Carpenter ants can construct smooth and polished tunnels. The termite, on the other hand, creates rough holes that are filled with mud and dirt. A mud tube made from wood and soil indicates a termite infestation.
  • Visibility. Mud tubes and wood damage are all signs of termite infestation, and they also avoid light. Meanwhile, carpenter ants may wander out to seek food so that you may discover them around your property.

What Are the Distinct Similarities Between Carpenter Ants and Termites?

What Are the Distinct Similarities Between Carpenter Ants and Termites

The following are some similarities between carpenter ants and termites.

  • Attractions – Ants and termites are attracted to moisture in your property. They’re also attracted to damaged timber and simple access points.
  • Nest – Chimneys, broken doors and window frames, sinks, crawl spaces beneath roofs, and bathtubs are common places for both insects to establish their nests.
  • Colony – Termites and carpenter ants have both queens who lay eggs and kings who fertilize them. Furthermore, each has a worker caste that accomplishes most of the activity and a military caste that protects the nest.
  • Damage – They are both proven to affect wood damage in properties. Like carpenter ants, also termites dig into the wood. 

Do Carpenter Ants Kill Termites?

Termites have a soft body and are blind so they are easy prey and they provide a good source of nutrients for carpenter ants. But take note, it’s a terrible mistake to use carpenter ants for the treatment of termites since you’re simply replacing one problem with another.

Are Carpenter Ants Worse Than Termites?

Are Carpenter Ants Worse Than Termites

Carpenter ants and termites can both pose a risk to your property, but although both can do major damage to wooden buildings, the termite will inflict greater damage and in a smaller duration of time than carpenter ants. Termites can attack wooden structures, and they will attack open wood or damaged wood.

Do Carpenter Ants Eat Wood Like Termites?

Termites are known for their ability to chew their way into damaged spots in the wood. They use the cellulose in wood to provide nutrition to their bodies. Carpenter ants cannot digest wood cellulose, so they create a tunnel into it to establish a nest. The carpenter ants burrow their way in instead of digesting wood.

How to Know if You Have Termites or Carpenter Ants?

How to Know if You Have Termites or Carpenter Ants

Here are the common signs of termites infestation.

  • Termites create mud tubes from their saliva, dirt, wood, and waste components to maintain moisture and shelter.
  • A termite-damaged wood makes a hollow sound when knocked or tapped. 
  • The presence of termite waste, which is called frass. It is a combination of chewed wood, feces, and saliva, usually the same color as the wood. 

Meanwhile, tiny cracks chewed into the wood with small heaps of sawdust outside are typically one of the symptoms of a carpenter ant infestation. Wood pieces, soil, and insect pieces make up this sawdust. Carpenter ants preferred damp or decaying wood and were more likely to discover these holes near moisture wood.

How to Treat Carpenter Ants and Termites?

The easiest technique to get rid of carpenter ants is to locate the nest and eliminate the queen. Here are some suggestions for discovering and eradicating carpenter ants:

  • Find the nest. Examine the suspicious wood for evidence of damage.  Carpenter ants are frequently found nesting around sinks, tubs, and other moist areas. Check also for visible moisture damage around firewood piles, tree stumps, and wood structures outside.

Related: Best Carpenter Ant Baits: Reviews & Guide | Indoor and Outdoor

On the other hand, termites may be treated in the following ways:

  • Baits for termites. Termite baits consist of cellulose such as wood and a pesticide that disrupts termites’ natural development cycle. The termites die when trying to mature within weeks after swallowing the bait. These baits are either buried or placed in crawl areas close to the soil.
  • Treatment of the soil. The ground is contaminated with termiticide. As a result, termites are killed as they crawl through the soil.
  • Wood treatments. Infested wood is targeted for treatment, and an active infestation should be treated. It also benefits the prevention of further infestations. This works as it penetrates the wood and prevents termites from consuming it. Prime and paint it when the termite spray, such as borate, has set. Borate spray deters termites. To do this, you will need 1 teaspoon borax powder to 8 oz of hot water, mix until thoroughly dissolved.

Here is a video about borate wood treatment:

Related: How Much Does Termite Treatment Cost? | A Detailed Guide

Does Termite Treatment Kill Carpenter Ants?

Termite treatment is different from carpenter ant treatment. Liquid pesticides should never be used to treat carpenter ants. Sprays will only kill the carpenter ants that have been exposed. The queens will be unaffected by spraying. Carpenter ant queens will produce more eggs since sprays would not destroy the queens. 

Summary

Carpenter ants and termites are known for inflicting wood damage in properties. Some physical characteristics may help you distinguish the two insects. Carpenter ants are reddish or black and are often observed hunting for food outdoors. Termites are transparent or creamy white in appearance and fear light. Although both can do significant damage to wooden buildings, the termite will inflict greater damage. The easiest technique to get rid of carpenter ants is to locate the nest and eliminate the queen. Meanwhile, termites treatment includes termite bait, soil, and wood treatment.

Related: Are White Ants and Termites the Same? | All You Need to Know!

List of Sources

Hahn, J. (2020). Carpenter Ants. University of Minnesota.

Potter, M. (1997). Carpenter Ants. University of Kentucky.

Termites & Carpenter Ants. University of Connecticut.

Fisette, P. (2002). Controlling Termites and Carpenter Ants. University of Massachusetts.