ant vs termite in Broken Arrow OK |  Arrow Exterminators, Inc

One of the most common ways that homeowners discover they have termites is by coming across a large group of what appear to be big, winged ants. Winged termites, also called termite swarmers, come out in the springtime to reproduce and find a new habitat for their colony, which is why they’re such a major concern to see crawling around your property. But, with how similar they look to other winged insects, how can you tell if you have termites or something else?

Learning the differences between termites and flying ants could help you identify an infestation far earlier on, potentially saving you the headache (not to mention cost) of serious repairs. The pros at Arrow Exterminators, Inc. are here to explain the main differences between flying ants and termites so you can properly protect your home. 

How to Tell Termites and Flying Ants Apart

Both termites and carpenter ants have a caste of “swarmers”, which are winged reproductives that swarm to form new colonies. It is in this stage that ants and termites are most often confused. Here’s how to tell them apart:

  • Antennae: Termite antennae are straight and point directly in front of them. Termites also have beaded antennae, which means the antennae are not long and smooth, but made up of many individual joins put together—like beads strung in a row. On the other hand, ants have antennae that bend in a near 90-degree angle. 
  • Body: Termites are about the same width from their head all the way down to their body, so they are very rectangular in shape. In contrast, ants have very thin waists, and you can see the distinct separation of each segment of their bodies. 
  • Wings: Both ants and termites have two sets of two wings. However, the termite’s wings are identical—all four wings are exactly the same shape and length—while ant wings vary significantly in size. The wings are also much longer than the termite’s body, where ant wings are about the same length as the ant’s body.
  • Visibility: Termites can go undetected for years in your home, but carpenter ants are more likely to show themselves. They leave wood shavings around where they’ve been digging, and you’re more likely to find their discarded wings around your home.
  • Diet: This factor ties into carpenter ants’ diet. Carpenter ants don’t actually eat the wood they bore through. They prefer to eat other insects, sometimes even termites. Since termites eat cellulose from wood, they don’t have to venture out of your house’s structure.

If you discover that your flying insects are actually ants, you may be dealing with a different type of pest: carpenter ants. This pest is very frequently mistaken for termites, and though they’re different, each comes with its own challenges. 

Carpenter ant vs termite infographic - Arrow Exterminators, Inc.


Do Carpenter Ants Damage Wood?

While you may breathe a sigh of relief upon discovering that those winged insects are actually just carpenter ants, you may not be out of the clear just yet. Carpenter ants are also capable of causing pretty extensive damage to the wooden structures in your home. They don’t consume the wood like termites, but they do bore holes into the surface to excavate their colonies. 

Are Carpenter Ants as Dangerous as Termites?

Termites and carpenter ants attack wood in different ways. Carpenter ants build their nests in decayed wood and then expand to sound wood, insulation, or wall voids. While they indeed destroy wood, the damage caused by carpenter ants isn’t as destructive as what termites are capable of.

Termites usually enter structures through basement windows, doorways, siding, porches, or other structures that are in contact with soil. Established colonies can range from 60,000 to over a million workers and can consume nearly 5 grams of wood per day. Without a doubt, termites can be much more dangerous than carpenter ants.

Signs of a Termite Swarm

It’s pretty easy to spot a termite swarm as it’s happening; after all, coming across dozens or hundreds of big, winged insects is about as unnerving as it gets. However, even after a swarm is over, you may be able to tell that there are termites nearby. Some key signs of a termite swarm include:

  • Piles of discarded wings around windows and doors.
  • Mud tubes on walls and foundations.
  • Hollow-sounding wood.

It’s also helpful to note that swarms typically take place on a warm, damp spring day. Heavy rain may deter the termites from coming out into the open, though even swarmers need moisture to survive, so they will wait for the ideal weather during breeding season.

What Should I Do During a Termite Swarm?

The first emotion most homeowners experiencing a termite swarm will have is fear. The most important part of dealing with a termite swarm is remaining calm. In most cases, attempting to kill the termite swarmers with insect spray is unnecessary as most will die during the swarming process.

If you catch the swarm early enough, it is important to not try and stop them from escaping from the existing hole. If the hole is covered with tape or some other material, the alates will create new holes to escape from. However, homeowners may opt to place a Ziploc bag or other plastic bag in front of the hole to contain them.

Once the swarm has ended, homeowners are encouraged to clean up the dead alates. It is important, however, to save some of them to show the pest control provider that you choose for your service. Once the swarm has ended, schedule a service appointment with a trained termite control company to remove the existing colonies within your home.

Need Help Identifying Termites or Ants?

When swarming, both carpenter ants and termites are feared for their ability to destroy the wooden structure of your home or commercial property. For that reason, it’s important to get annual inspections from a professional pest control company. Here at Arrow Exterminators, Inc., our termite control team will help keep termites away from your home year-round. Contact us today!

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Termites vs Flying Ants Serving Broken Arrow OK & Oklahoma City OK

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