Difference Between Termite and Carpenter Ant (With Table)

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The term ‘ant’ refers to an insect, which is part of the family Formicidae and order Hymenoptera. Their node-like body plan and elbowed antennae distinguish them from other insects. They are often found together in swarms where they raise hillocks of earth. Various ant groups exist worldwide.

Termite vs Carpenter Ant

The difference between termite and carpenter ants is that termites eat wood, paper and wood products. On the other hand, carpenter ants do not actually eat the wood. They chew the wood and push away the chewed wood, forming piles of chewed wood near its nest.

Termites, also known as white ants, are not actually ants. They are a part of the order Blattodea. They exist below the ground level and travel between their food source and nest with the help of mud tubes. They live inside chewed wood to make their nests.

Carpenter ants love neatness. Their nests and tunnels are very neat. They keep their nests clean by removing dead ant bodies, removing leftover food, etc. They also collect resins, which they use for disinfecting nests. Wet or rotten wood attract them as they are easier to form tunnels.

Comparison Table Between Termite and Carpenter Ant

Parameters of ComparisonTermiteCarpenter Ant
Waist sizeIts waist is broad.Its waist is narrow.
AntennaeIts antennae is straight and bead like.Its antennae is segmented and elbowed.
Attracted toWood and moistureSweets, wood and moisture
FoodIt eats the cellulose present in wood.It eats proteins and sugar.
WingsIts two sets of wings are symmetrical to each other.Its forewings are larger than the hind wings.
Kind of tunnel wallsSmoothRagged, rough and lined with soil
ColourDark-coloured or reddishLight,transparent or creamy white

What is Termite?

Termites, also called white ants, are insects with straight antennae, and a straight abdomen. They are white and light brown in colour and have wings that are equal in length. It is estimated that they cause a damage of 500 billion dollars every year.

They skillfully chew through wallpaper, wood and flooring without actually being noticed.  They grow at a very fast pace since its queen lays millions of eggs in her lifetime, sufficient for the destruction of a house. A treatment is necessary to make them go away as they never go away on their own. They are thus called the ‘silent destroyers’.

They are attracted to places with comparatively less ventilation and moisture. They loved closed places too. That is why it is advised not to leave basements, cabinets and storerooms closed for a long time.

They can be identified by damaged wood, termite droppings, drooping from the ceiling, mud tubes, termite poop, and hollow sound of wood.

What is Carpenter Ant?

Carpenter ants are the largest of all ant species in the world. They have a thin abdomen with a bent antenna. They have wings that are unequal in length. Unlike termites, they take years to cause considerable damage. Though, it is important to get rid of them as well.

There exist 24 species of carpenter ants in USA alone. Their size and colour differ among varying species and also between individuals belonging to the same colony.

All species of this ant group like decayed wood as their nesting sites. These areas provide ample temperatures and humidity. They do not eat the wood, by when colonies remain active for years, damage becomes significant. This is because a colony forms various satellite colonies near the parent one.

Termites and carpenter ants are fierce enemies competing for the same territory. Carpenter ants can eat and kill termites and even eliminate an entire colony.

They can be located in the following ways:

  1. By following trails of worker ants
  2. If piles of wood shavings are found in front of openings
  3. Clean and smooth tunnels in wood also indicate their presence

 Main Differences Between Termite and Carpenter Ant

  1. One of the most prominent differences is their body shape. While termites have broad waists, carpenter ants have narrow waists.
  2. Termites actually eat the wood for their cellulose. On the other hand, carpenter ants do not eat wood, and instead create their homes in the wood.
  3. One can spot a swarm of termites but not single termite. They can be identified by the signs they leave around. Whereas carpenter ants an be seen when they leave their nests for food.
  4. Carpenter ants swarm when they mate. Flying carpenter ants look similar to termites in swarms. Though, they can still be distinguished by their distinctive body features.
  5. Termites make galleries that are filled with mud and soil and are rough. Whereas tunnels made by carpenter ants are smooth and finished.
  6. Termites cause greater damage than carpenter ants which take time to cause significant damage.


 Both termite and carpenter ant are destroyers of wood and build nests in chimneys, sinks, bathtubs, etc. They are by far the most notorious insects for a homeowner causing significant damage. They are a serious threat to plant life too. They both have different pest control measures thus, it becomes important to identify them.

As both insects are found near wood, it becomes difficult to identify them. They have various distinguishable features which assist us in identifying them. Their body features, diets, visibility, attractants, wings and antennae help us in distinguishing between them.

To avoid these pests, it is important for us to not leave cabinets and storerooms closed for a long time. Wet wood attracts these insects and thus it becomes essential to not keep wet wood at home.

For proper identification, it is necessary to contact a professional and have them removed from the house. Various pest exterminators can help in this matter. Neglecting these pests can cost one thousands of dollars.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0964830509001474
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-294X.1996.tb00374.x
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