Termite vs ants: it’s ok if you don’t know the difference.

As licensed building and pest inspectors, we are trained to spot the difference. You’ll be surprised at just how different ants and termites are from each other. This blog post will explain how to tell the difference between termites and ants, and what to do if you find them in your home.

Is it an ant or termite? Distinguishing Physical Traits

While both ants and termites are social insects, they have many physical differences. To begin with, ants are typically smaller than termites and have elbowed antennae, while termites have straight antennae. Ants can be distinguished from termites by their segmented abdomen, whereas termites have a straight and smooth abdomen. Termites are often light, beige or tan in colour, with two pairs of wings of the same size. On the other hand, Ants are usually black or red in colour with longer wings at the front.

termites and ants

Termites eating some decaying wood

Ants vs Termites: The Different Behavioural Traits

Distinguishing traits aren’t just physical; you can often tell the difference by their behaviour. You’ll usually find termites in large colonies. Although ants don’t tend to have colonies as large, they do exist. It’s also interesting that ants rely on a decentralised communication system while termites rely more on pheromones.

If you watch closely, you’ll notice that ants don’t eat wood, and they are not often the cause of significant structural damage. On the other hand, termites are known for consuming paper, wood, and any substance that is rich in cellulose. Suppose you notice wood damage on your property or see piles of sawdust and wood pellets. In that case, this is a strong indicator that you have an infestation.

ants and termites

Ants feeding on a small piece of chicken left on the kitchen bench

Do Termites Walk Around Like Ants?

Ants and termites are so tiny that you probably haven’t noticed how they walk. Well, very differently. Because ants are much smaller than termites, their legs are proportionately longer and more suited to walking. Ants also have a set of legs at the back. These legs allow them to drag their abdomens along the ground, but termites do not have this feature. You will not see termites walking around your property as ants do. The only time termites walk is when they’re in the winged stage or have just shed their wings – one of the telltale signs of termite infestation.

How to Prevent and Control Ants and Termites

Control and prevention differ for both ants and termites. Where termites add much greater risk to the structural integrity of a property, control methods tend to be more intensive and require a sense of urgency. Preventative measures are always the best option for controlling ants and termites. But in the case of identifying termite activity in particular, a professional pest inspector will be able to sort the issue quickly.

termite vs ant

Preventative measures for ants include:

  • Store food in airtight containers
  • Clean up crumbs and spills.
  • Patch up any entry holes.

Preventative measures for termites include:

  • Remove any wood you have lying around your house. As the rain soaks through the wood, it is easier for termites to burrow.
  • Remove any paper or cardboard that termites can access.
  • Address any moisture areas inside the house, for example, leaking pipes, rising damp, cracked tiles, and wood rot. You might need a building inspector to use their equipment to identify any hidden leaks.
  • Identify moisture sources outside the home, including pooling water, leaking taps, and poor drainage.
  • Adding a termite barrier to your home with a regular inspection plan

termites vs ant

How Can I Tell If I Have Termites?

The bad news is that termites are very common in South East Queensland, especially in urban areas such as Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan, and Gold Coast, particularly in suburbs with bushland and Eucalyptus trees. You’ll quickly find out if you have an ant or termite problem by the telltale signs.

Issues such as stuck windows and doors are easy to overlook, but it is a major red flag for termite activity. Termites target windows and doorframes as the wood is exposed. They can warp your doorframe as they eat through the wood, making it difficult to close your doors or windows. Any timber that is easy to access becomes a target for termites.

Tunnels are a clear indicator of termites. You may even see tunnels running from a tree to your house. Tunnels are a telltale sign that termites make their way between two tasty meals. Lastly, discarded wings are a red flag. Termites have a caste system that consists of swarmers, soldiers, and workers. Swarmers are the reproductive members of the colony, and they tend to shed their wings.

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Do Termites Go Away On Their Own?

Yes, termites can go away on their own, usually to find their next food source. Prevention is so important because you don’t want them to come back!

Termites vs ants, which is the one you don’t want on your property?  Ants are annoying and unsightly, yet Termites can cause excessive damage if left uncontrolled. You’ll get peace of mind if you have our expert pest inspector check your entire property. We are experienced and know the telltale signs of termite or ant infestation. We have the latest equipment to find hidden termite activity and can outline a plan to eradicate the pests and implement prevention measures.