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Differences Between Ants and Termites


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Difference Between Ants and Termites

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Subterranean (Ground)Termites

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Click on image to enlarge

Drawing- a courtesy of University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Do I have ants or termites ? This can be a very troublesome question. Some of the flying winged ants can resemble the winged-swarming termite.

The swarming of small, dark insects near or inside a building may worry people who believe their home is infested by termites.

There is a difference between ant and termite reproductives(swarmers).

Termites go through a gradual metamorphosis

Termites go through the egg, nymph and adult stages.

Nymphs look like adult workers. Reproductives are dark-bodied.

Ants will go from a egg, to a larvae, then pupa and finally to the adult stage in what is called complete metamorphosis. The adult ant worker is an adult and looks like an adult ant.

Here are some ways do identify the difference between the physical resemblance.

Carpenter ant queen           Subterrearean Termite

  1. While both species have four wings, the termite wings are all the same size and the ant wings have noticeably larger wings in the front as compared to the hind pair. Ant reproductives (swarmers)have two pairs of wings.Often ants have a black dot near the tip of the front wings, and dark wing veins can be seen. You can't see termite wing veins with the naked eye.
    Ant wings do not break off easily. Termite wings break off easily, with just a touch. You may see the broken wings from the swarming termites in a area they have been crawling.
  2. Termites have an almost straight antennae, the ants antennae are elbowed.
  3. Termite wings are twice as long as the body.
  4. Ants appear distinctly segmented, because of their thin-waisted appearance. Termites have a broad-waisted appearance.Termite waists are not narrow.Termite bodies are straight-sided with no constriction.



Carpenter ants are black or brown and measure up to 1" in length. They are often confused with termites. Unlike termites they have pinched waists and elbowed antennae. Termites have straight bodies and antennae. As with termites, there is a winged version too.

Carpenter ants can do significant structural damage, but are more a nuisance than a structural problem.


There are several ways to recognize a carpenter ant infestation:

  • Swarmers: Winged form of the carpenter ant in a great number
  • Sawdust: If you see sawdust(frass) raining from your ceiling or from any indoor cracks.
  • If you see more than 10 ants a day in any room other than the kitchen.
  • If you see ants in your home and the ground outside is frozen.
  • Crunching Noise: If you hear munching, rustling or crunching noise coming from within a window sill, wall or ceiling.
  • For further information on carpenter ants go to: Carpenter Ants

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