Is it a Termite or an Ant?
Winged termites are usually, but not always smaller, about 1/4″ in length. They appear to be cigar shaped and have one body segment, straight antennae, and two pairs of equally long wings.
Ants have three body segments with a narrow waist, elbowed antennae and a longer pair of front wings.
Termites invade structures of all ages, old and new. The queen can produce thousands of larvae, and colonies can number in the millions. They live as deep as 20 feet underground, but prefer the warmth, moisture and food.
What is the Difference Between a Termite and an Ant?
Termites and ants are both small creatures that we find all over the place – though hopefully not in our houses. We move mountains to make sure that they don’t make it into our sacred lair, but what are some of the differences between our many-legged friends?
What is a Termite?
Termites are small insects that exist in many parts of the world. The two most popular types of termites found in homes and in nature in the West are formosan and eastern subterranean termites. These termites are likely to be the things that cause people who own older homes all kinds of problems. They are known as the “silent destroyer”, because they go undetected in the home while they chew through wood and cause around $5 BILLION in property damage every year.
Where Do They Live?
Termites live in underground colonies, similar to ants. In order to survive, termites need contact with the soil and the nutrients it provides, hence why tend to burrow into houses from the bottom-up, which is also why they cause so much. They need a dark, moist, nutrient-rich environment.
What Do They Eat?
The most common form of termite food is dead plants or wood. They are known as “detritivores”. They’ll eat just about any form of decaying plant, or decomposing animal matter or even faeces. Their penchant for wood has made them an annoying pestilence in Western Europe and North America, particularly in older houses built with lumber that is unprotected from infestation by these insects.
What is an Ant?
Ants are our curious little friends for whom we lay traps during the warmer months of the year to repel them from entering our homes. These little many-legged friends of ours have a particular affinity for anything sweet – that’s why you may find them crawling all over bags of unattended sugar, or long-forgotten candy. There are over 700 North American ant species, the most common among these is the “Carpenter Ant” and “Odorous House Ant”.
Where Do They Live?
Like termites, ants live in fairly large colonies, depending on the type of ant – Carpenter Ants, for example, can live in colonies with up to 50,000 ants! Almost half of these will be “worker ants”, and several thousand “Queen” ants. Ants can also live in trees, in the walls of buildings or homes – ants can basically make a nest pretty much anywhere.
What Do They Eat?
Ants are almost a greater pestilence that termites because ants are omnivores – that is, they’ll eat pretty much anything. They’ll even eat other insects. Ants really don’t care what you put in front of them, they’ll chew through it. Certain types of ants have other affinities, for example, carpenter ants (hence the name) tend to have a likeness for wood. Pharaoh Ants are another type of ant with a particular affinity for sugary things. Don’t leave your fruit or other sugary treats out overnight if you’re in a high-ant-density area.
How Are They Different?
So, now you know a little bit about both the termite and the ant, what are some differences between the two?
- Termites have wings that are of equal length. In comparison, winged ants have wings that are longer in the front than the back.
- Ant antennae are elbowed, whereas termite antennae are straight.
- Termites have a thicker waist area than ants do.
- “Worker” ants and “worker” termites are different colors: ants are reddish-brown, whereas termites are transparent and light-creamy colored.
- Termites eat the cellulose of decomposing wood. Meanwhile, ants eat sugars and proteins.
- Termites make much more of an effort to hide – usually, if you have an ant problem in your home, you’ll know it because you’ll see them. In contrast, termites hide in all the places that nobody thinks to look, often until it is too late to save your home from property damage.
How Are They Similar?
You could be forgiven for mistaking one for another. Here are a few similarities.
- Unless one looks closely, they do look very similar!
- They are both “eusocial” insects, meaning that they both live in colonies where only a few members of that colony are capable of reproduction.
- Both build and live, in mounds made of the earth around them.
As you can see, ants and termites have more differences than they do similarities. This makes them no less a pest to you in your home. If you think your home may have been infested by either ants or termites – but particularly termites – you should definitely get your home inspected by a professional. Ants are easy enough to deter with ant traps, but termites can cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to your home. Get rid of them quickly!