Distinction Between Termites and Ants & Methods to Inform Them Aside


Image for article titled The Difference Between Termites and Ants and How To Tell Them Apart

Photo: Nahid Hasan Ropak (Shutterstock)

One day you’re sitting in front of the TV in your living room or reading a book and suddenly you see something out of the corner of your eye. It was tiny, dark in color, and fast, but you couldn’t see it well. You discover someone else and chase them around the room until you spot a whole colony of these insects living rent-free in your home.

Before you can start delving into them, you need to first find out what they are. You suspect either ants or termites, but aren’t sure which are which. Since these are two different creatures that deal different types of damage, it is a good idea to find out a little more about your new roommates. in the an article for BobVila.com, Melissa Graham breaks down the differences between ants and termites, even when it is time to get in touch with a professional.

How do I tell the difference between ants and termites?

Let’s start with their physical appearance. Here are some of the key differences between ants and termites: courtesy Graham:


You’ve probably seen ants at some point and you know they’re pretty dark in color – either deep red, brown, or black. Termites, on the other hand, are translucent and light or white.


Getting close enough to these insects to see their antennae also gives an indication of which insect you are dealing with. That’s because ants have angled or curved antennae while termites have straight antennae, explains Graham.

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Society has conditioned us to look at and then judge other people’s bodies, and now it is time to use that skill on bugs. A termite’s belly doesn’t have a defined waist, while ants have a well-defined waist and a more rectangular body, according to Graham.


To make things a little trickier, both of them have insect species that can fly, and each has four wings. Here is Graham with more details:

Termites have wings of equal length and are longer than their bodies, while the wings of flying ants are unequal in length. An ant’s rear hind wings are shorter than its front fore wings and they are fairly proportional to its body. Termites also have very fragile wings that can easily fall off, and if you see fallen wings around your home it can sometimes indicate an infestation.

Places to find ants or termites

Another clue as to what insect you’re dealing with is where to find it.

Outside in broad daylight

Termites tend to avoid light, explains Graham. So, unless you are on a mission to find them outdoors, you probably haven’t seen them outside yet. Ants, on the other hand, aren’t shy, and you’ve likely seen them crawling around outdoors and / or at picnics (both real life and cartoons).

Near food or wood

One of the main differences between ants and termites is their diet. Ants are not picky eaters: they feed on plants, animals, and any food waste or scraps. They are often seen on kitchen tables (especially when food is left out), crawling around garbage cans and around pet food bowls.

Termites, on the other hand, only consume things that are high in cellulose, like wood and paper, says Graham. So instead of finding them near human food sources, you’re more likely to find them in drywall, cardboard, insulation, wood, and other things with this tasty cellulose.

And if you discover wood damage – especially piles of sawdust or wood pellets – and suspect insects in your home, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with termites. Ants usually do not cause wood damage.

How to get rid of ants and termites

Normal house ants are for the most part something to take care of yourself. (That’s how it’s done.) But when you suspect you have to do it Fire or carpenter ants, Graham says you might want to consider using a professional to assess the situation. Also, because of the structural damage termites can cause (which are not always visible), if you think these house wrecks may have moved in with you, it’s best to consult a professional.