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Insects that look like termites



Have you found what looks like termite kick-out holes in a wall and some shredded wood debris piles nearby? Have you been worrying if it’s the most common species in the U.S.- Subterranean termites or other wood-boring insects?

You should immediately identify termites and verify them or any other common bugs that look like or resemble termites and behave like them, and act quickly with the appropriate removal methods.

Knowing the difference between Termites and similar-looking insects could help save you thousands of dollars in pest control and structural damage repairs.

A lack of awareness results in Termite infestations that grow quickly in your property. In this article, with the help of pictures, you will be able to identify Termites, flying Termites, Carpenter ants, flying ants, Carpenter bees, and Powderpost beetles. We will also discuss what the damage looks like that these insects cause and what to do if you have a Termite infestation.

Let’s get started!

What Do Termites Look Like?

The most common species of Termites in the U.S. are the Eastern Subterranean termites; other types of Termites found here in the States are Dampwood Termites, Formosan Termites, and Drywood Termites.

Termite colonies consist of three castes, each type having a job role of either workers, soldiers, or reproductive, including the queen.

Before we discuss other bugs that look like Termites, you should know what Termites and Termite damage looks like.

Subterranean termites

In general, most species of Termites are around 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch long. The middle section of their body (the thorax) is wide; the entire body is the same width. They vary in color but are usually light brown to white or black. All Termite species have two straight antennae.

The Behavior of Subterranean Termites

This species lives underground and not inside the wood like a Carpenter bee. Because they are underground mainly, they are rarely seen like Powderpost beetles. Unlike Carpenter ants, they must have contact with damp soil in order to survive.

These termites will build mud tubes that are the width of a pencil, made from saliva, dirt, and wood. The termites use the mud tubes to keep moist when they travel from the soil to the water-damaged wood they eat.

Drywood Termites

Drywood Termites are light brown to yellowish-tan colored. They are usually found between California and Florida. They prefer dry wood habitats and tend to build nests in trees close to gaps in walls and foundations.

Dampwood Termites

Dampwood Termites are larger than Subterraneans and light to brown in color.

This species prefers to infest decaying damp wood. The most likely place you will find them in the home is down in the basement or garage.

Flying termites (swarmers)

Winged Termites have two sets of wings and straight antennae. The front and rear wings are of equal size. When the wings of flying Termites are folded up, they are twice as long as the Termite’s body.

What does termite damage look like?

Signs of damage will vary depending on the species of termite. 

The most noticeable signs of termite infestation are:

  • Mud tubes reaching upwards on your foundation, walls, or other wood structure (only with an infestation of a Subterranean termite)

  • Small kick-out holes in wood with piles of small brown fecal pellets nearby are a sign of a Drywood termite infestation.

  • White, brown, or black bugs swarming in the evening or nighttime during hotter months

  • Piles of discarded wings

  • A Hollow sound when you tap on the walls or wooden structures 

Bugs that look like Termites

You now know what Termites look like and the signs they produce; we shall compare the information with some other common bugs that look like Termites.

How to identify Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ant workers are wingless and around 3/4- inch long, and dark brown to black in color. They have bent antennae. Carpenter ants, unlike termites, have a defined, pinched in waist.

Carpenter ants and Black Carpenter ants inhabit the Eastern U.S. Termites are found in every state except in Alaska.

Flying ants

Mature reproductive ants have two sets of wings. Carpenter ants, unlike termites, have larger front wings and two smaller rear wings at the back.

Carpenter ants, like Termites, swarm when they are going to reproduce.

The behavior of Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants, unlike termites, do not eat wood. Instead, they make wood tunnels which are smoother than Termite holes, and make their nests within the wood. Termite holes look rough and have a chewed look.

Carpenter ants are still able to damage wood structures with the tunneling they do. They prefer damp wood, so you might discover a Carpenter ant infestation in the bathroom or kitchen. Carpenter ants will enter the home via cracks and crevices in doors, windows, flooring, and siding.

Flying ants, particularly Carpenter ants, are often mistaken for Termites because this ant species damages wood, and they are similar in size and shape to Termites. Both winged Carpenter ants and winged Termite reproducers have wings. Both can be brown or black and up to half an inch long.

How to identify Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees have very obvious physical differences from Termites. Carpenter bees look very similar to bumblebees but lack yellow stripes. Carpenter bees have black shiny bodies and yellow fur on the thorax. Carpenter bees are quite chubby looking. Carpenter bees have three body segments, but their bodies are stouter compared to termites and they are around an inch long.

Carpenter bee damage

Unlike termites, Carpenter bees do not live with other Carpenter bees in colonies. The only similarity between a Carpenter bee and a Termite is that they both make holes in wood.

Generally, the damage Carpenter bees cause is mainly cosmetic and can often be repaired. They usually cause wood damage to unfinished wood and unpainted wood structures.

Carpenter bees produce piles of yellow sawdust material outside the wooden structures, which can leave a dark yellow stain. Female Carpenter bees push out chewed wood material as they tunnel.

You might notice sticky yellow waste and piles of sawdust near holes in the wood. A female carpenter bee will excavate tunnels in the wood when they need to lay eggs.

The holes created by Carpenter bees are perfectly round shape and as wide as a finger.

Carpenter bees live in wood alone in their own private nest, so they don’t cause nearly as much damage as Termites and Carpenter ants.

How to identify Powderpost Beetles

Powderpost beetles are reddish-brown to dark brown, mainly with the classic beetle shape, and similar in size to Termites. Their head is small and round; they have a small thorax and a long abdomen.

Swarming beetles like Termites have two pairs of wings. However, the beetles’ front wings are rigid; it is the rear wings that are used for flying. Unlike flying Termites, they do not swarm to mate. They are active at night and rarely seen; signs of damaged wood give them away.

Powderpost beetle infestation damage

Powderpost beetles rival Termites when it comes to damage to wooden structures. The Powderpost beetle, thankfully, does not cause nearly as much wood damage as Termites do.

Powderpost beetles tunnel through the wood structures as they feed, causing a breakdown of the wood structures. Powderpost beetles create tiny holes in wood piles and the wooden surfaces in your home.

Powderpost beetles only feed and live in the wood when they are young. They lay eggs in holes and cracked surfaces in wood. The larvae feed and grow into adults and then drill escape holes in the wood to get out; these are the holes you can see.

The holes are pinhead size, and the amount can vary depending on the size of the infestation; there could be one hole or several in the wood. The holes will have a fine sawdust around them.

These beetles do not infest finished wood as it does not have any crevices or holes to lay the eggs in. They tend to prefer hardwoods like Hickory, Walnut, and Bamboo. Older wood does not provide enough nutrients for larvae to survive.

The habitat of a Powderpost beetle

Powderpost beetles cause wood damage, especially to weathered wood and moist wood, usually to hardwood flooring, sub-flooring, plates, sills, joists, and interior trim.

Powderpost beetles infest mainly in the Southeastern and coastal states of the U.S. This is due to high temperatures and high humidity that Powderpost beetles thrive.

It is essential that you get a pest control professional to get rid of Powderpost beetles.

How to identify Acrobat ants

Acrobat ants are tiny. Their abdomen is heart-shaped with a stinger and a narrow pinched in thorax. Acrobat ants, like other ants, have two bent antennae and two pairs of wings. The front pair is longer than the rear wings.

The amazing thing about Acrobat ants is how they react when they are disturbed. Not only do they release a foul smell, but they will stand on their head and lift their abdomen and legs up in the air…… Like an acrobat does!

Acrobat ants damage

Acrobat ants do not cause the same amount of damage as Termites or Carpenter ants because they do not make their own holes. Acrobat ants nest in wood, particularly moist wood and insulation. If they enter your house, they will often nest in wall voids. You might notice wood pieces or insulation near the walls and the foundation. Acrobat ants often get mistaken for Termites because they are seen inside wood and walls.

Quite often, Acrobat ants will nest inside the galleries and tunnels in wood left by a termite colony or Carpenter ants. If you have treated a Termite nest, but it seems to be active again, it could be Acrobat ants have moved in rather than a new colony of Termites.

Take a look at electrical wiring and pipes coming into the home from outside. Are there ant trails? Acrobat ants will take the opportunity to use entry points into your home.

When to Call a Professional for a Termite Infestation

Termites must be taken seriously. If you have seen signs of an infestation, it could mean the colony has been around in your home for many years. If Termites are in the walls, it can result in serious structural damage to the beams.

Call a professional pest control company as soon as you notice signs of an infestation. The pest control expert may find a Termite colony or less harmful look-alike pests.

If you find Termites in the yard or a small wooden structure not close to your home, you might be able to treat the infestation yourself. If the Termites are outside, we recommend getting a Termite inspection just to be on the safe side.

Causes of Infestation

Termites are attracted to moisture-damaged wood and damp soil; if you have leaking gutters and faucets along with humid basements, kitchens, and bathrooms, you could attract Termites.

And finally,

The National pest management association has said Termite infestation causes five billion dollars in repairs and pest control a year in the United States!

If you suspect you have Termite infestations in your home, you should call a pest control expert and get a Termite inspection.

We discussed in our article ‘Insects that look like termites’ 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. 

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