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Termites vs Ants what’s the difference

Termites vs Ants what’s the difference

Examine the distinctions between termites and ants, particularly carpenter ants.

When it comes to mating, both ants and termites swarm, and both are known to cause wood damage. In fact, many species of ants swarm and may be mistaken for termite swarmers. They do, however, have more differences than similarities. Continue reading to find out more about termites vs. ants.

While many ant species swarm and have wings, we'll focus on carpenter ants because they're often confused with termites due to their wood-damaging abilities.

What Is the Difference Between Termites and Ants?

Body Type

The shape of their bodies is one of the primary distinctions between termites and ants. Carpenter ants, like other ants, have small "waists." Termites, on the other hand, have wider "waistlines."


Termite antennae differ from ant antennae in that they are straight and shaped like small beads or balls. Ant antennae are clearly elbowed.


Only reproductive carpenter ants and termites have wings and swarm away from the colony. There are a few ways to tell them apart, though these distinguishing features may be difficult to see.

Each insect has two pairs of wings. Termites have uniformly sized wings, whereas ants have two large forewings and two smaller hind wings. Sometimes all you can find are wings. And if they're all the same size, they're most likely termite wings. If the wings are different sizes, they are most likely ant wings.


Termites are known to consume wooden structures because they require the cellulose found in wood to survive. Do carpenter ants consume wood? No. They prefer to live in the wood, excavating the shavings as they burrow deeper into structures. Carpenter ants, unlike termites, feed on other insects.


The habitat of a termite is determined by the termite species. Unless you see a swarm, you're more likely to see termite signs than actual insects. For subterranean termites, key signs include discarded wings, mud tubes, and wood damage. Termite pellets, also known as "droppings," are a sign of drywood termites. Carpenter ants, on the other hand, will forage for food and may be found in your home.


Ants and termites are both attracted to moisture in your home. Naturally, they are drawn to wood and seek out easy entry points. However, this is where the list of what attracts carpenter ants and termites diverges.

Another distinction between termites and ants is that carpenter ants, as previously stated, do not eat wood, so they will be drawn to other sources of food and may be seen wandering on window sills and baseboards.

Termites vs. Flying Ants

Carpenter ants swarm during mating season. This means you might see something that looks like a flying ant. And that's exactly what it could be. Carpenter ants that are swarming have wings and resemble flying termites. Flying ants and flying termites, on the other hand, have distinct body shapes, antennae, and wings (see image above).

Is it possible to confuse termites with ants?

Yes, termites can be confused with ants (and vice versa), especially when flying in a swarm. We've already discussed some of the key differences in their appearances, such as body shape, antennae, and wings. However, identifying these distinctions can be difficult. A trained pest control professional can assist you in this situation.

If you need a termites inspection locally here in the Chicago area call us at 773-365-9962.

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