In the United States each year, carpenter ants do millions of dollars in damage. It is never fun to have an ant problem, but the risk to your home is minimal, especially if you catch the infestation early. Termites, on the other hand, cost U.S. property owners billions of dollars each year. And some termite species can render a home unrepairable in as little as three to five years. Knowing the difference between these two house-chewing insects can let you know how worried you should be.
Insects, from the Latin insectum, is a class of invertebrates within the arthropod phylum that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body, three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes and one pair of antennae. Termites and ants are both insects and share all of these traits. But they are two very different creatures, even in appearance.
Though both insects produce winged swarmers that are similar in color, you can tell them apart visually.
Body parts: The most visible difference is how their three body parts look. We've all seen ants at some point in our lives, and we're all family with the general look of an ant. It has a head, a thorax and an abdomen, all visibly separate, because of the thinness of the neck and the waist. Termites have three body parts as well, but you wouldn't know it to look at one. You can see its neck clearly, but it is not as defined as an ant's, and a termite has no waist to speak of. The problem with this visual inspection is that you may have to pick the insect up to see its body, because both of these swarmers have rather large wings.
Wings: Termites and ants both have 4 wings, but they are different enough to tell these two insects apart from a distance. Termite wings look like they have one wing stuck on their back because all four of their wings rest on top of each other. An ant's wings will appear less even because two of their wings are shorter than the other two. Most of the time, this is distinct, but on occasion you'll have to look closely.
Antennae: Ant antennae are always bent. Termites have straight antennae. But both of these insects have species of swarmers that can be pretty small.
Wingless insects: If you have ant swarmers, you will often see ants crawling around with the swarmers because swarmers lose their wings after mating.
If you see a stray insect with wings, you may want to take a closer look and determine what it is. Swarms don't last long and termites can silently infest your home. Make sure you are familiar with what winged insects can crawl around on your home. It can be hard to tell between hornets, ant swarmers and termite swarmers. If you see hundreds of winged insects, call a pest control company immediately. You don't need carpenter ants or termites in your home, damage is damage. Always take swarms seriously.