How to tell termites from ants

When you spot little pests in your home, it’s easy to brush them off and say, oh, we’ve got ants. Or maybe you go the other direction and assume everything is a house-destroying termite. Either species is a pest, but as a homeowner it can be helpful to know the difference.

Two that are often confused are the winged termites and flying carpenter ants. When you find one of these pests in your home, start by looking at their anatomy.

Winged termites

  • Beige or tan
  • Two sets of wings, both the same size
  • White or translucent wings
  • Straight antennae
  • Thick waist

Flying carpenter ants

  • Dark red or black
  • Two sets of wings, front ones longer than the back
  • Bent antennae
  • Thin waist

When you find the wood that the pests have infested, look at their tunnels. Termites will chew through the healthy wood in your house. As they eat wood, they will leave behind ragged tunnels. Carpenter ants don’t eat the wood that they chew through, so you will likely find shavings left behind. Their tunnels will also be smoother than those of termites.

You can enlist the help of a termite inspection company to really determine where the problem lies. But be careful of termite scams and door-to-door methods of these companies.

As you investigate your new housemates, don’t leave them too long. Be sure to call an exterminator before they cause real damage. You should always exterminate the entire pest colony before making repairs to your home.

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