Did you know that across North America termites cause over a billion dollars in damage annually? Termite destruction often costs more than hurricanes, floods and tornadoes collectively. Unfortunately though, there’s no government warning or news media to alert you to the pending damage. It is up to you, the homeowner, to protect your own property. Recently, we’ve been asked a lot about termites. Specifically, what is the difference between termites and ants? These are the three differences between termites and ants.

Termites are nicknamed the silent destroyer for good reason. They are nasty little creatures that often go undetected until it’s too late. They do have some defining characteristics though that can help you identify them so you can take immediate action. Subterranean termites are often confused with ants because they live under ground and dig tunnels like ants. A sure sign that you may have a subterranean termites infestation is the swarming period in the springtime when the subterranean termites fly around looking for a place to build a new colony. Here are some other ways to tell the difference between termites and ants.

Antenna

Ants have bent antennae that look sort of like an elbow. Termite’s antennae are straight or slightly curved, but never bent like an elbow. You’ll probably need to capture one of the offending creatures in order to take a look at it, or just call your friendly local pest inspector and they will handle it all for you.

Body

Ants are thinner in the middle section than that of their destructive cousin, the illusive termite. Perhaps it’s because the termites have been feasting well on the wood in your beloved home. Some obvious signs of this is bits of sawdust looking stuff, which is actually termite waste, left behind on your floors or windowsills. Also, look for little tubes or tunnels that are made of mud and generally found on walls, floor joists, chimneys and posts.

Wings

Image via Flickr by schizoform

Another distinguishing characteristic of the dreaded termite is that it has larger wings and they are always similar in size and shape, meaning they all look alike. The wings of a flying ant are far more random and do not look alike in size and shape. If you still aren’t sure whether it’s an ant or termite, look for wood that’s been left behind that might be hollow inside or blistered looking and clearly damaged.

Termites have roughly the same body size as many species of large ants that are known as the carpenter ant. Carpenter ants also dine on wood, and often tunnel into wet wood, causing millions of dollars of damage across the nation every year.  Both the termite and carpenter ant swarm in the springtime to mate, so they’re often confused for one another by frustrated homeowners. However, a closer inspection will show significant differences between the two. Studying the insects carefully with a simple magnifying glass will reveal the distinctions mentioned above, but if you are still confused don’t wait, call a pest control expert immediately.