Termites vs. Carpenter Ants – Can You Tell The Difference?


Picture of Termites on DirtPicture of Winged Carpenter Ant

Difference Between Termites & Carpenter Ants

Spring is here! Beside bringing pleasant warm temperatures and longer days, spring also means the awakening, the awakening of bugs that is. Both the carpenter ant and termite will swarm in the spring and early summer, lose their wings after swarming and are easily confused. It is important to be able to see the differences between the two pests.

Carpenter Ants:

  • Carpenter ants nesting outdoors have not died off. They had become dormant in a hibernation-like state. Warmth ends the hibernation and the ants are looking to feed, mate and nest, completing the nature driven life cycle.
  • Carpenter ants can more easily (and less expensively) be controlled while termites require more effort. Ant swarms are significantly smaller than termite swarms involving individual ants in the hundreds.


  • Termites have not died off or gone into hibernation. Termites survive the winter below the frost line in the ground or living against foundation walls or under slabs of our centrally heated homes and structures. Termite swarms are something unique to see, the insects numbering in the thousands.
  • Termite swarmers do not feed or do damage. Swarmer presence indicates the creamy white/yellowish workers are somewhere in the vicinity below ground. It’s the workers that feed on wood.

Illustration of Carpenter Ant & Termite Differences

The following characteristics can be used to differentiate ant swarms from termite swarms:

Carpenter Ants Termites
Ant wings are partially translucent and differ in size and dimension.  Termite swarmer wings are identical in shape and size and opaque or silvery looking.
Ants have a tight constriction, or waist in the middle of the body.  Termites have no waist and the width of the body is about the same the entire length.
Ant antennae have an easily noticeable bend, or crook. Termite antennae are straight or wavy in shape and not bent.

Free Services:

  • Specimen Identification: If you think you have one or the other insects and are not sure what you have it is important to save specimens for identification. Specimens can be dropped off at any one of our local service centers or mailed in for a no charge identification.
  • Residential Checklist: We also offer by mail a residential checklist of things to do around the home to discourage the presence of insects. Call, write or e-mail for a complimentary copy.

Waltham licensed and trained service personnel can offer different control options that are environmentally friendly and will make recommendations on steps you can take to make your home less attractive to ants and termites.

We wish our loyal readers and customers a wonderful spring and summer.  After this past winter, we all deserve it.

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