Each year in the United States carpenter ants cost property owners millions of dollars. But this figure is nothing compared to the billions spent out annually on termite damage. That is why it is important to be aware of the difference between these two insects.

Often mistaken for each other, termites and carpenter ants both produce winged reproductives to spread their species to new areas and to start new colonies. If you find winged insects on your exterior walls it is important to identify them.

Distinguishing Traits of Termites and Ants

  • Swarming termites are pale in color. Flying ants will be black, brown, red or a mixture of these colors.
  • Termites and ants both have two sets of wings, but termite wings are equal in size. Ants have the recognizable body shape of an ant, with three distinguishable body segments.
  • Termites have three segments as well, but they do not have the thin waist of the ant.
  • Termites have straight, beaded antennae. Ant antennae have a bend in them.


These two insects come for different purposes. Understanding what motivates them can help improve detection and minimize damage.

  • Carpenter ants chew galleries into wood to create a home. They start with moist, decaying wood and move on to more sound wood as they bore deeper into a structure. But these ants don’t come for the wood. They are looking for a food source and can get it inside a building if food is left out or unprotected. They can also get food from around a building by eating leafy vegetation and insects, like aphids, that eat this vegetation.
  • Termites come to eat wood. They do not need another food source. This makes termites much more difficult to detect because, unlike ants, they do not journey out in search of food.


Swarming termites on a tree.Winged reproductives are a sign that a colony of termites or ants could already be living inside the walls of your business. Though knowing which insect you have can set your mind at ease–because carpenter ants are much less destructive–it is still important to have a professional inspection to determine the extent of your infestation. If left unchecked, carpenter ants can do significant structural damage. Make sure your business is safe from these wood-chewing insects.

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