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Carpenter Ants vs. Termites: Understanding the Key Differences

thumbnail with ants and termites

Carpenter ants and termites are two common pests that can wreak havoc on homes and structures. While both can cause significant damage, it is important to understand their differences to address the infestation appropriately. In this blog post, we will explore the characteristics, behaviors, and signs of infestation for both carpenter ants and termites.

I. Carpenter Ants: Wood-Damaging Intruders

carpenter ants on wood

Carpenter ants are infamous for their ability to cause structural damage. They do not eat wood but they excavate it to build nests inside wood consisting of galleries. Here are some key characteristics of carpenter ants:

- Appearance

Carpenter ants can measure anywhere from 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch in length. They have a segmented body with a constricted waist and elbowed antennae. Their color varies, but most species are black or black with a reddish or brownish tint.

- Behavior

Unlike termites, carpenter ants primarily feed on sweets, proteins, and other insects instead of wood. However, they are attracted to damp and dead wood, which they use to create nests and tunnels. They typically establish their colonies in moist environments, such as areas with water leaks.

- Signs of Infestation

Signs of a carpenter ant infestation may include the presence of large winged ants, piles of sawdust or wood shavings near baseboards, door jambs, or window sills, or rustling sounds from within walls or wooden areas.

II. Termites: Silent Destroyers

termites on wood

Picture Termites are often referred to as "silent destroyers" due to their ability to cause extensive damage without being detected. Here are some key characteristics of termites:

- Appearance

Termites' colors range from white to light brown. They measure approximately 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch in length and have straight antennae. The different termite castes include workers, soldiers, and reproductives, with distinct roles within their colony.

- Behavior

Termites feed on wood and plant fibers. Termites build intricate tunnel systems known as mud tubes to provide moisture and protect them from predators as they travel between their colony and food sources.

- Signs of Infestation

Common signs of a termite infestation include discolored or drooping drywall, small pinpoint holes in drywall, sagging or damaged wooden structures, and the sighting of mud tubes.

III. How to Tell the Difference:

Differentiating between carpenter ants and termites can be challenging, especially for an untrained eye. However, here are a few key distinctions can help you tell them apart:

- Appearance

One notable distinguishing feature between carpenter ants and termites is the size of their waists. Carpenter ants possess a slender and pinched waist, creating a distinct division between the upper and lower sections of their bodies. In contrast, termites have a broader waist, resulting in a more uniform appearance throughout their bodies.

- Signs of Infestation

One distinguishing sign of termite infestations is the presence of mud tubes.Their purpose is to protect the termites and keep the moisture in as they move back and forth between their underground colonies and your home.

A sign of carpenter ants are little piles of frass that resemble sawdust. This is a byproduct of the wood particles they discard around their nests through small kick-out holes. Since carpenter ants don’t eat wood, this is a sign they are carpenter ants rather than termites.


Understanding the differences between carpenter ants and termites is crucial for effective pest control. While both can cause structural damage, carpenter ants excavate wood for nesting, while termites consume wood for nutrition.

Ready to protect your home from carpenter ants and termites? Contact Ohio Pest Control today and let our experienced team of professionals deliver the most effective pest control solutions. Contact us now and take the first step towards protecting your home from these wood-destroying pests!


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