What is the Difference Between a Carpenter Ant and a Termite?

Carpenter Ants
Carpenter ants and termites are two types of insects that can be extremely dangerous to homes because of their ability to damage wooden structures quickly. However, they infest houses for different reasons, don’t look the same, and behave differently, making it possible to tell them apart if you know what to look for.

What is a Termite?

Termites are flying insects that resemble ants but are slightly larger. Termites feast on the cellulose in wood, meaning that they can literally eat holes through your home’s structure. There are a few types of termites, distinguished mostly by the wood they prefer to eat.

What is a Carpenter Ant?

A carpenter ant is a type of ant that’s much larger than the ants you’ll see crawling through your yard. These ants can enter your home through window frames, electrical wires touching your house, soffits, and just about any other way they can find to squeeze in. Carpenter ants will then work their way through wood to carve out their nests, which can quickly damage your structure.

Carpenter Ant vs Termite: How to Tell Them Apart

There are several similarities between carpenter ants and termites. There’s no denying that both pests can do considerable damage to your home, so it’s crucial to figure out what type of infestation you might have to get it taken care of as soon as possible. Here are a few ways you’ll be able to tell them apart:

Body Structure

Carpenter ants are usually larger than termites. Termites more closely resemble smaller ants that graze along sidewalks, while carpenter ants are generally around a ½-inch but can get up to one inch long. These ants are black in color but may also have some very dark red or brown parts. The antennae of carpenter ants have an elbow-like bend. Termites range from light brown to yellow to almost white in color, but those that reproduce might have more of a dark brown hue. Termite antennae are straight.

Wing Structure

Some carpenter ants have wings. They’re known as swarmers because they’re the ones that reproduce for the colony. Swarmers have two sets of wings, with the front pair quite a bit longer than the rear pair. However, their wing sets both look proportional to the ant’s body. Both sets are located right above the ant’s waist. Termite swarmers also have wings so that they can freely move around their colonies to mate. They also have two pairs of wings, but both pairs are the same length. Termite wings are significantly longer than their bodies. Unlike carpenter ants, termites shed their wings. If you have a termite problem, you might see their wings lying around your house.


Termites invade homes because the cellulose in wood is their perfect meal. These critters eat through wood for the sole purpose of feeding themselves, leaving behind termite tubes that look like small tunnels in pieces of wood. Carpenter ants don’t eat wood; instead, they tunnel through it to make new nests for their colonies. Large nests will eventually spread to create sub-nests to house their growing population, which makes them incredibly dangerous for your home’s structure. Both insects travel in swarms, so if you spot a few of them in your house, it’s likely that their family isn’t far behind.

Where You’ll Find Them

Neither insect is usually easy to spot in the home, as they’ll happily stay inside your walls continuing to carry out their duties. However, you can sometimes see ants crawling through damp spaces in your house, like the kitchen sink or bathtub. You might also spot frass from either insect. Frass is a mixture of droppings, wood, and other materials. The frass from termites resembles dark sawdust, but the frass left behind from carpenter ants often contains discarded ant body parts along with wood shavings. Carpenter ants and termites are a genuine threat to almost any home. The problem with these insects is that they don’t discriminate between old and new homes or the condition your house is in. If they find wood and a way to get in, they’ll take over quickly. The experts at Budget Pest Control are only a call, text, or email away to take care of your termite or carpenter ant infestation. Don’t hesitate to contact us, have us inspect your home, and get a free quote.

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