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Ants vs. Termites

Dealing with an invasion of bugs is hard enough when you know your opponent. However, some bugs like to play tricks on us. Ants and termites share a few characteristics that can make it hard to tell them apart, especially in early spring when both of these insects swarm to start new colonies. Check out how to tell the difference between ants and termites so you know what you’re up against.

Ants vs. Termites infographic

Termite & Ant Colonies


Ant and termite colonies are well structured with three castes. The members of a colony have their respective duties, and they all work together to keep the colony functioning. The size of the colony varies between ants, termites, and their individual species.

Ant Colonies: Most ant colonies are large and include a queen, workers, and reproductive males.

Termite Colonies: Subterranean termite colonies are large, while drywood termite colonies tend to be smaller. Termite colonies include workers, soldiers, and reproductive members.

Why is it Hard to Tell Termites & Ants Apart?

One of the difficulties in separating these pests from one another is that they spring into action around the same time. In the spring, the reproductive ants and termites begin emerging in hopes of mating. Since reproductive members of both species have wings, this makes it harder to identify them correctly. This is why it is important to know how they differ in appearance. 

Do Ants and Termites Look Alike?

Sometimes spotting the difference between these bugs can be challenging. They are similar in size and shape. Some species can be the same color too. Thankfully, there are a few ways to tell who’s who.

What Do Termites Look Like?


Termites have straight antennae unlike ants’ antennae that are bent. Though their bodies look alike, upon closer inspection you can see the differences. Termite bodies are straight, and they range in color from white to light shades of brown. Swarmer termites have two pairs of translucent wings of the same length.

What Do Ants Look Like?

Ants don’t all look the same. Their appearance varies by species. Most ants tend to be brown, black, or reddish. They have an hourglass-shaped body. Before mating, swarmer ants have two pairs of wings. These are tinted brown, and their hindwings are smaller than their forewings.

What Do Ant Nests Look Like?

Ant nest

Like termites, ants also choose different locations to build their nests. Some ants like to construct their homes underground where they have easy access to water, food, and protection. Other ants, like carpenter ants, like to build nests in wood, especially if there is moisture. Ants tunnel into the wood and though they remove pieces of it, they choose not to eat it. Then there are the ants who like to wander from place to place. These opportunity nesters build their homes wherever they can find one. You can spot them in places like wall voids and under rocks.  

What Do Termite Nests Look Like?

Termites and ants each have several nest options. Termites are broken into three categories, and their names speak for themselves. Subterranean termites live underground and sneak into your home through wood that is near the ground. Dampwood termites will settle down in wood that has water damage. Drywood termites look for wooden materials that are on the drier side. If they find their way to your home, they will be more than happy to stay for a while.

Termite Diet vs. Ant Diet


Though ants and termites share several characteristics, their eating habits are very different. Termites need nutrients found in cellulose, which is an organic compound. Their stomach contains an enzyme that can break down the cellulose. This compound can be found in a variety of wood and plant materials. Though they are notorious for eating the wooden structures of your home, they will also eat plants, paper, and wood found in nature. While termites stick to a specific food group, ants have more menu options. They aren’t too picky and will eat a variety of foods including sweets, seeds, insects, and any crumbs you happen to leave behind. Thankfully, ants, including carpenter ants, won’t eat the wood found in your home.  

How to Get Rid of Ants

If your unwelcome guests are ants, then we want to help! Our No Spill Ant Kill not only takes care of the ants you see but also the entire colony. Ants eat the sweet bait and carry it back to their nest. Once there, other members of the colony will eat it. This will eliminate the problem at the source, providing effective, long-term results.

How to Get Rid of Termites

Termites are a serious problem and can cause severe damage to the structure of your house. If you find damaged wood, mud tubes, or discarded wings, you’ll want to contact a pest management professional. They will be able to help you treat the problem.

Though ants and termites like to challenge our observational skills, there are ways to tell them apart. This is especially important when dealing with infestations since they will require different treatment methods. If termites are giving you a fit, don’t hesitate to contact a pest management professional. If ants are the problem, check out our Maggie’s Farm Simply Effective™ Pest Control products.

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