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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 the early spring when both of these insects swarm to start new colonies. Check out how to tell the difference between the two so you know who 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. While most ant and subterranean termite colonies are large, drywood termite colonies tend to be smaller. Termite colonies include workers, soldiers, and reproductive members. Ants are similarly divided with a queen, workers, and reproductive males. 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. 



Sometimes spotting the difference between these bugs can be challenging. They are similar in size, shape, and can even be the same color. Thankfully, there are a few ways to tell who’s who. 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, while an ant has an hourglass-shaped body. Ants tend to be brown, black or reddish, while termites can range from white to light shades of brown. Another way to separate them is by their wings. Before mating, swarmer ants and termites have wings. Termites have two pairs of translucent wings of the same length. Ants also have two pairs of brown-tinted wings, but their hindwings are smaller than their forewings.

Termite Nests vs. Ant Nests

Ant Nest

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 homes, they will be more than happy to stay for a while. Like termites, ants also choose different locations to build their nests. Some ants like to build 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 find them in places like wall voids and under rocks.  

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 our home, they also will 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 we happen to leave behind. Thankfully, ants, including carpenter ants, won’t eat the wood found in our homes.  


One of the biggest differences between termites and ants is how to best deal with an invading army. Termites and ants are usually on the lookout for food, moisture, and shelter, which is why they will slip into your home. When they decide your house is welcoming, both have a habit of not wanting to leave. 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. If your unwelcome guests are ants, then we want to help. Maggie’s Farm Simply Effective 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 and provide effective, long-term results.     

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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