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Ants vs. Termites - What Are the Differences?

Ants vs. Termites - Spring Pest Control tips in Maryland and Virginia

Despite popular belief, ants and termites are not closely related. In fact, methods of ant control vastly differ from methods of termite control, so the very first step in the fight against an infestation is identifying just what you’re dealing with. Knowing the tell-tale signs and distinguishable traits of both ants and termites could save you from a whirlwind of trouble in the future. 

Ants vs. Termites Comparison

  TERMITES

ANTS

BODY Head and thorax with a broad waist Head, thorax, and abdomen with an hourglass waist
ANTENNAE Beaded and mostly straight with a slight curve Elbow or handlebar-shaped
COLOR Slight cream or pale orange (only the king and queen are black) Reddish-black
WINGS
  • two sets
  • uniform in size
  • equal in length
  • paddle-shaped
  • weak strength
  • two sets
  • non-uniform
  • different lengths
  • pointed
  • strong
DAMAGE TO WOOD Eats wood Excavates wood, creating entry and exit tunnels
EATING HABITS Wood and only wood Omnivorous, often found outside foraging for sweet treats
TELL-TALE SIGNS
  • discarded wings
  • mud tubes
  • frass, consisting of fecal matter
  • no droppings at all
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: If they're white, they're termites!
  • marching ants hunting for food outside and making their way back in through entry points
  • frass, consisting of chewed up wood and fecal matter
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: White ants do not exist!
INTENSITY OF DESTRUCTION MASSIVE - often costing thousands in repairs MINOR - often ants get noticed before damage becomes detrimental

How Do Termites and Ants Get Inside a House?

Ants and termites get into a house differently, so determining just how the insects foraged their way in can immediately point to the type of insect you’re dealing with. 

Termites Live Underground and Rely on Wood-To-Ground Contact

For subterranean termites, entrance occurs mostly at the ground-level or below through wood structures. They can also enter through cracks in foundation, concrete blocks, or brick mortar. Subterranean termites eat wood rather than nest within it, so they create mud tubes for shelter, moisture, and warmth. If this type of termite relies on entrance several feet above ground-level, you may notice mud tunnels leading to small holes in wood and foundation. 

For drywood termites, swarmers will locate small holes and crevices within the wood of homes. They’ll excavate a small nest, seal themselves inside, and will begin producing eggs. Due to their entrance habits, drywood termites do not rely on wood-to-ground contact and thus, can enter at any floor level. 

Ants Are Not Restricted to Ground-Level Entry Points

Ants will enter a home through any small crack or hole within a home’s wood structure, siding, and window or door frames. They’ll even make their way into your home through tiny openings around plumbing and electrical fixtures. As they are not restricted to an underground lifestyle, ants are able to crawl up high on wires, shrubs, and tree branches to find small crevices and openings at the top-level of your home. 

Ant Droppings vs Termite Droppings

Seeing as subterranean termites use their fecal matter to create mud tubes, you will rarely see droppings. No droppings at all plus wood damage, is a tell-tale sign of a termite infestation. On the other hand, drywood termites do not create mud tubes. If you have drywood termites, you will likely see mounds of droppings that resemble mounds of salt and pepper. Colors can vary, but they are dependent on the color of wood that the termites are eating.

Unlike drywood termite droppings, which consist solely of fecal matter, ant droppings look like soft, fibrous pieces of wood and fecal matter loosely compacted together. Ant frass consists of wood particles, feces, tiny pieces of dirt, and sometimes, parts of dead ants. You’ll typically find ant droppings near nesting sites in slit-like openings within the wood. They will dispose of their fecal matter through wood crevices, treating wood crevices as natural garbage chutes. 

Ant vs. Termite Myths

Myth #1: White Ants Exist

You may have heard the popular term “white ants” to describe termites. As noted in the table above, white ants ARE termites. So, if what you see is a crawling white insect, you may have a termite problem! 

Myth #2: I Won’t Get Termites If I Have Ants

It is true that ants will attack and eat termites, however, ants will NOT wipe out an entire termite colony. It is possible to have both an ant problem and a termite problem at the same time. Termite nests are very hard to penetrate, so ants will either wait for something else to cause damage to the nest (e.g. humans or animals) or will create small holes in the nest. A termite will sacrifice its life for the good of the colony, so when one patches up the damage, ants will take the opportunity to attack. However, it’s important to understand that ants will not attack the entire colony at once -- they will only take what is absolutely necessary. 

How Do You Get Rid of Ants and Termites?

With B.O.G. Pest Control experts, of course! When it comes to termites, we here at B.O.G. utilize only the most innovative methods of termite treatment. We’ll thoroughly inspect your home, confirm a termite infestation, determine the severity of the issue, eradicate termites using Termidor HE Liquid, and follow up with long-term protection utilizing Advance baiting systems. If ants are your problem, we’ll double check to confirm your suspicions and create a custom-designed plan of attack to completely eliminate the entire colony. 

When it comes to ants vs. termites, it’s extremely important to call professionals. Without proper expertise and access to high-quality products, infestations can quickly get out of hand – especially if you’re dealing with termites.

Whether you're looking for pest control in Annapolis, pest control in Arlington, or anywhere else in our service area, give B.O.G. a call!

Luckily for Maryland and northern Virginia, we proudly offer reliable, long-term protection for residents in the following locations:

  • Riva
  • Crofton
  • Annapolis
  • Laurel
  • Lorton
  • Fairfax
  • Vienna
  • And more! 

Trust in our expertise! Learn more about our termite and ant control services! 

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