Pest Resources

Carpenter ants vs. termites


Carpenter ants and termites look similar to the untrained eye; they are both oblong shaped, identical in size, both have four wings, and swarm in summer to mate. The worry is Carpenter ants, and termites are well known for causing wood damage. These insects cause billions of dollars in damage to wooden structures in the United States every year.

If you have a termite infestation or a Carpenter ant infestation, you need to arrange pest control measures immediately to eliminate the infestation. If left, Carpenter ants and termites will damage wood in your home. The type of pest control used for Carpenter ants differs from the pest control methods required for Termites. Knowing which insect infestation you have is, therefore, very important.

So, we know termites and Carpenter ants like wood and cause structural damage and other significant damage. Did you know they also look similar? Next, we will discuss in this article the main differences between Termites and Carpenter ants.

Let’s get started!

Physical differences between Carpenter ants vs. Termites

Firstly, termites and Carpenter ants, at a glance, both have bulbous chitin shells and flying termites, and flying Carpenter ants have tiny wings. However, although they can look similar, they are not closely related.

So, it is understandable they are often mistaken by a homeowner. Looking at them more carefully, there are differences between termites and Carpenter ants.


The main difference between Termites and Carpenter ants is their body shape. Carpenter ants have a head, thorax, and abdomen; Termites have only a head and thorax.


Termite wings are much longer than a Carpenter ants wings, around double the length of a termite’s body. Ant wings are a little longer than an ant’s body; the front wings are longer than the hind wings.


  • If you have found a black-winged ant, it could be Subterranean termites; their swarmers are black.

  • Drywood termites have brown or red bodies.

  • Dampwood termites are yellow or tan colored.

  • Formosan termite swarmers are yellow with hairy wings.

  • All soldier termites are beige. They have large dark heads and mandibles.

  • All species of Termite workers are wingless, and their color ranges from light caramel to creamy white.

  • Most Carpenter ants are dark brown, and some can be red or yellow.

If you have a possible Carpenter ant or termite infestation and get a specimen, you can take it to a pest control expert for identification. All pest control experts recommend acting quickly to minimize damage and stop the infestation.


Ants have elbowed antennae; they use them as feelers for communication, smell, feel, and touch.

Termites have two straight antennae. Termites use their antennae the same way ants do and like ants to detect pheromone trials.

The differences between a Carpenter ant and a Termite

These insects create nests in window frames, window sills, crawl spaces, under the roof, etc. But both of these insects interact with wood in different ways.

Carpenter ants will chew into damp, damaged wood to build Carpenter ant nests; the rotting wood makes it easy for the Carpenter ant to chew through. Carpenter ants do not eat the wood. They push it through the openings of their galleries in their underground colonies.

If you notice moist rotting wood around your home, try to find out the reason for it because Carpenter ants can cause widespread damage. If you see frass or wood shavings, this indicates Carpenter ant damage and a Carpenter ant infestation.

Termite damage is caused when termites eat the wood they nest in. There is also a difference in the wood tunnels they build. Termite galleries are rough and filled with layers of mud. Carpenter ants, by comparison, build galleries that are finished smoothly.

Carpenter ant droppings vs. termite droppings

Carpenter ants and termite droppings (also known as frass) are very different. Termite droppings are small, rounded capsules that vary in color depending on the wood type eaten. Expect to find them near their nests.

The droppings of carpenter ants contain sawdust, soil, gravel, and other insects; Because of so many elements in the droppings, there is no regular shape, size, or color. Carpenter ant droppings will be found near the nests.

Termite infestation

If you notice a mud tube built between wood and soil or outside on walls, it is a sign of a termite infestation. The mud tubes are constructed to protect termites from the outside; they need to keep moist. The mud tubes also serve as tunnels to travel through to get to food sources.

When termites swarm in the summer months, they do so to mate and form new colonies. After the nuptial flight and mating, they discard their wings. If you notice piles of discarded wings, a mature termite colony may be nearby.

To deter moisture-loving termites, repair leaks from pipes, faucets, and gutters, and use a dehumidifier. Remove tree stumps from the yard and piles of leaves, and keep firewood away from the property to reduce the risk of termite nests.

Carpenter ant infestation

Carpenter ant damage can go undetected for years, unlike termites that quickly cause noticeable termite damage.

Listen for a faint rustling sound in the walls. Carpenter ants and termites damage the wood if you knock on wood, and it sounds hollow. This could be down to one of these insects.

Look for piles of wood shavings near baseboards, floor joists, and garden furniture.

Do Carpenter ants eat wood?

Unlike Termites who eat wood and digest wood, Carpenter ants tend to chew rotting wood and not eat it.

What do Carpenter ants eat?

Carpenter ants are omnivores and like to eat honeydew produced by aphids, insect eggs, dead insect parts, arthropod insects, and other pests. They will even eat pet food as a food source.

What do Termites eat?

Termites eat wood and digest it for the cellulose wood contains. It is only termite workers that eat wood and cause wood damage.

Cellulose is the most commonly found organic compound on earth and is in all plant matter. It is usually wood that attracts them to your home. However, they can obtain cellulose from paper, boxes, and drywall, to name a few.

Pest control

Are you still unsure if you have termites or carpenter ants? Contact a pest control professional for a thorough inspection.

A pest control professional can properly identify termites and Carpenter ants and rule out other insects; the pest control expert will develop a plan to eliminate the entire colony of destructive pests.

There are various products to purchase to eliminate Carpenter ant and termite infestations, from baits to insecticides; please do not leave it long before treating.

And finally,

We presented in our article, ‘Carpenter ants vs. Termites. We discussed the differences between these two insects, their nests, damaged wood, the difference between termite frass and Carpenter ant frass, pest control, and ways of preventing a further infestation of your home. We hope you have found it helpful.

Good luck!

Ronald has 25 years of pest control experience under his belt. He scrutinizes each control method, product and process to prevent infestations effectively. 

Read more here.

Most Popular Articles