Flying Ants vs. Termites

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Carpenter ants vs termites in New Jersey

Have you found yourself asking the question, "What on Earth are those winged insects crawling all over my windows?" Well, you're not alone. Two of the most misunderstood pests are ants and termites. Both of which produce flying alates that are birthed for one purpose and one purpose spread. 

Ants and termites have many similarities. They both create nests in the ground and have species that can produce nests in man-made structures. They both produce workers for the purpose of locating and acquiring food. They are both insects, which means they have a head, a thorax, an abdomen, and six legs. And, they both produce swarmers.

Ant swarmers (often called flying ants) and termite swarmers have a lot in common. They are both produced by a mature nest for the purpose of going out and establishing new nests. They are male and female insects that mate and shed their wings. And, swarms from both of these insects don't travel far or last long.

All ant species can produce swarmers, but carpenter ants are the species that has the most in common with termites. This is because carpenter ants chew tunnels and galleries in wood, which can be quite destructive when these insects are left untreated.

termite on a damaged log outside a new jersey home

Differences Between Carpenter Ants & Termites

Flying ant wings vs termite swarmer wings

Termites and ant swarmers have four wings, but the wings of a flying ant do not stack evenly on top of each other like the wings of a termite. There should be a cleft at the tips of ant wings where the two left wings are slightly offset from the two right wings. Termite wings are white. The wings of carpenter ant swarmers are tan. The wings of termite swarmers go far beyond the abdomen, while the wings of a carpenter ant swarmer overhangs slightly.

Difference in color and size

Carpenter ant swarmers can be entirely black, but they may also have reddish coloring and are much larger than termite swarmers and easily distinguishable. Carpenter ants can be as much 5/8 inches long, including the wing length. Termite swarmers are only 3/8 inches long with wing length included. Termite swarmers have antennae that are somewhat straight. Flying ants have an elbow in the middle of their antennae. Carpenter ants swarmers have a distinct pinch between their thorax and abdomen where termites do not.

Which is worse: ants or termites?

When ant or termite swarmers appear, this is the question most folks want to know the answer to first, but it must be broken down into two parts. First, you must establish what type of ant you are referring to. While all termites are destructive to wood, not all ants are. There is only one type of ant you need to be concerned with in regard to property damage. That is the carpenter ant. 

Assuming you have found carpenter ants, this is what you need to know: 

  • On a national scale, termites are the clear winner. Termite damage is in the billions, while carpenter ant damage is in the hundreds of millions.

  • When looking at national statistics we must understand that there are many species of termite, and not all termites do the same level of damage. Subterranean termites are far more destructive than drywood termites. And, of all the subterranean termite species, the Formosan subterranean is, by far, the most destructive. While there are many species of carpenter ant, they are equally destructive. So, it matters what type of termite you're comparing to carpenter ants.

  • When determining the destructive capability of carpenter ants you also have to take into consideration the location of the carpenter ant nest (or nests). Carpenter ants do not eat wood, like termites. They chew on wood and push frass out kick out holes. If this frass (sawdust) lands in a hard-to-see area, or in an area that has dust and sawdust, an infestation can go undetected. This is often the case with homeowners who store their firewood inside. Wood storage areas conceal frass and make it more difficult to recognize a carpenter ant infestation. When a carpenter ant infestation is not addressed, damage can be comparable to termite damage on an individual basis.

The difference between carpenter ant damage & termite damage

Carpenter ants cost U.S. property owners millions of dollars in damage annually, but the damage caused by termites is in the billions. The difference in the damage is quite simple - termites actually eat the wood, where carpenter ants essentially damage it to make their nests. The difference in the damage is also visibly different when you look at the hallowed-out wood. Carpenter ant damage will be overall smoother, since these ants clean and polish the wood as opposed to eat it. Termite damage will typically contain soil and mud as they tunnel through the wood. 

While it is never a good idea to let either of these insects establish a nest on your property, termites are a much greater threat. This is due to the way termites damage man-made structures. They can come up from the ground and silently feed on the inside of wood for years without being detected. Fortunately, termite damage can be prevented and our specialists can even track down termites in your walls

If you need assistance protecting your home from termites, Arrow Pest Control can help. Our termite specialists know how to stop termite damage before it happens. And, if you have ants, we can help with that too.

termite damage in a new jersey home

Termite damage

carpenter ant damage inside a new jersey home

Carpenter ant damage

What is the difference between treating for ants and treating for termites?

Termites live almost exclusively inside the wood they feed on. If you have a current infestation in your home, it is necessary to directly treat infested areas within your walls with an insecticide. At Arrow Pest Control, we trust Termidor, America's number one termite defense product. This product is applied directly to areas where termites are detected, and when they pass through it, they share the knockdown agent with other workers. Then, through Termidor's "Transfer Effect" the product is transported to the colony by "carriers" and the colony is destroyed. It is sort of like introducing a virus. 

Carpenter ants do not live entirely inside the wood they infest. They come out to feed. Often, they feed outside a home so they don't reveal the true size of their colony to a homeowner. An educated pest control technician analyzes the path the ants are taking and put a bait down for them to take home. When the ants find the bait, they carry it back to their nest, and the nest is destroyed. 

If you're seeing winged ants or termites on your walls, it is vital to have your home inspected by a certified and educated professional. Both of these insects are destructive, and arresting an infestation early can save you a lot of money and frustration. For more information, or to schedule a service call, reach out to us. We've been serving New Jersey with industry-leading pest control for over 40 years. We'll make sure those carpenter ants or termites are completely gone because, when wood-eating pests are gone, life is good.

Jeffrey K.


‟I have a service plan with Arrow and use them quite often. Never disappointed, always friendly and knowledgeable and come right out and address the matter. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them at all.”
Jeffrey K.
Marlboro, NJ
Arrow Pest Control received an average rating of 5.0 out of 5 stars from 1380 reviews. 5.0 Read Google Reviews

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