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Carpenter Ants vs Termites – How to Identify Them and Prevent Damage

Carpenter ants and termites are insects that can, and will, do considerable damage to wooden structures. Whether at your home or place of business, these insects will force the replacement of all affected structures if left unchecked.

To an untrained eye, the damage may look similar, but each attacks the structure in a different manner.

Early recognition of the signs and symptoms of either a carpenter ant vs termite infestation is a vital necessity to avoid total loss of structures.

With an understanding of where to look and what signs to look for and the help of a professional pest control expert, extensive damage can be avoided.

Carpenter Ants vs Termites – How to Tell the Difference

Carpenter Ants

This image shows carpenter ants burrowing through the wood, creating tunnels to and from their nest.

Carpenter ants, unlike traditional ants, burrow into wood to use as nests.

In addition, they will also dig right through the wood to make tunnels for them to travel to and from the nest.

As time goes by, they will continue to attack until eventually the structure that they have chosen will have been damaged beyond repair. To avoid irreparable damage, it is important to know what to look for.

First, you will likely notice the physical presence of the worker ants walking around.

Also, small piles of wooden shavings, similar to what sharpening a pencil produces, will appear under and around the wooden structures that they attack.

This is an example of carpenter ant damage inside a house. They will burrow through the wood, making tunnels to and from the nest. Carpenter ant damage can be extensive.

You may even be able to identify their presence by the sound of rustling as they move through and around the structure and damage their targets.

While the worker carpenter ants can be identified by their presence and associated rustling, the telltale sign of a large infestation is the appearance of their winged partners.

If you find these winged carpenter ants and have yet to call a professional, it is time to act immediately.


Termites can cause immense damage to wooden structures on your property. Unlike carpenter ants, termites actually eat the wood, destroying it completely.

Unlike carpenter ants, which use wood as nests and tunnels, termites actually eat and consume the cellulose of wood as a food source. The hollowed tunnels left behind as they consume wood leaves the structure weakened.

Sagging wood, which may appear to be water damage at first glance, is a sign of a termite infestation. Termites can and will destroy a structure even faster than their carpenter ant counterparts.

Two types of termites exist: dry-wood termites and subterranean termites.

As the names suggest, dry-wood termites will reside in wood structures as they continue to eat them as a source of food.

Subterranean termites, however, live under the ground and “commute” in tunnels (built of their own feces, saliva, and soil) that are distinguishable by their brown color.

They can be found through cracks in the foundation of homes, as well as around the base of the foundation

It is easy to tell the presence of termites from the presence of carpenter ants by examining the damaged wood.

An example of the immense damage termites can do to your home. Our previous home was an old wooden train carriage and much of the wood looked like this. The only beams left standing were high-quality hardwood, mostly ironbark.

For example, termites will leave behind feces and other debris in the hollowed-out tunnels that are created as they eat, while carpenter ants will smooth and clean out the tunnels for easier passage.

Similar to carpenter ants, a telltale sign of a large infestation is the presence of winged swarmers, the presence of which requires immediate action.

Immediate and Decisive Action

It is vital to inspect your wooden structures if you are concerned that an infestation may exist.

Given time unchecked, either of these insects is fully willing and capable of not only damage but also render the structure of your business or home irreparable.

As soon as you notice any type of damage that could be attributed to carpenter ants or termites, you must contact a pest control professional who specializes in termite and carpenter ant removal immediately.

If you delay, the problem will only worsen as they continue to expand throughout.

This image shows a pest control expert inserting termite traps into the soil around the house. A good example of prevention!

As any doctor would tell you, the best medicine is preventative medicine, as well as early detection of illness. The same holds true for termite and carpenter ant infestation.

Preventing the problem from ever occurring in the first place will save you time, money, and surefire headaches. In order to do that, we also recommend contacting a pest control professional before a problem ever occurs.

Rather than waiting until you recognize an infestation that has reached the point of no return, schedule an appointment soon. They will visit your home or place of business to inspect your property, as well as provide measures of prevention and maintenance.

While you may be able to identify the damage after it has occurred, incurring losses in the process, a professional keen eye can stop an infestation from ever getting to that point.


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