Termites Or Carpenter Ants? How To Tell Which Wood Destroying Pest You're Dealing With

Subterranean termites and carpenter ants are two common wood-destroying pests that can wreak havoc in Colorado homes. These pests are often mistaken for one another, which can lead to ineffective treatments and further damage. As such, it is important to be able to tell the difference between subterranean termites and carpenter ants in order to properly identify and treat an infestation. There are several key characteristics to look for when distinguishing between these two pests, including physical appearance, behavior, and damage caused.

winged carpenter ants in denver getting ready to swarm

First, we will start with the similarities between termites and carpenter ants in Colorado

  • Both termites and carpenter ants should be considered enemies to your home’s frame and other wooden or cellulose components
  • These wood-destroying insects are attracted to water damaged or moist wood
  • In order to mate and reproduce, both insects swarm

But do termites and carpenter ants look alike?

Although it’s quite common for the two to be confused for one another, they really don’t look alike. Termite workers have creamy white to brown colored bodies that have not distinction between body sections. Carpenter ants, on the other hand, are typically large black insects that have three distinct body sections including a pinched waist.

Termite swarmers (the reproductive members of a termite colony) have straight antennae and two pairs of wings that are the same size. Carpenter ant swarmers also have two pairs of wings but their front wings are larger than their hind ones.

Although they both attack wood, they do so for different reasons

Termites infest wood in order to feed on it. Carpenter ants have a different M.O., they excavate inside the wood in order to create galleries in which to lay eggs.

Carpenter ants are more likely to be spotted in and around homes

Since carpenter ants do not eat the wood they tunnel through, they must find food elsewhere. That could be outside or it could be in the kitchen or somewhere else in the house.

Unlike carpenter ants, termites live most of their lives underground and tend to feed on wood starting from the inside out. This behavior allows them to avoid detection longer.

They are both destructive pests but termites cause more damage

As you can probably imagine, termites are the more destructive pest of the two because they eat the wood. What’s more, they work 24/7/365 which means they damage more wood faster than their fellow wood-destroying pest. If that’s not enough proof, consider this – termites are responsible for causing approximately five billion dollars’ worth of damage in the United States each year.

Signs of termite damage include:

  • Wood damage that looks like water damage
  • Buckling or warped wood
  • Swollen floors and ceilings
  • Hollow sounding wood
  • Bubbling or peeling paint

Carpenter ants should not be ignored though

While it is fortunate that carpenter ants are less destructive than termites, don’t let that fact lull you into a false sense of security. Carpenter ants are a serious pest problem in Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder, and NoCo and one that should not be ignored. If you find sawdust (also called frass) on the floor right below kick-out holes in the wall or notice tunnels and galleries that are smooth (like someone used sandpaper on them) when performing home renovations, there’s a good chance it’s carpenter ants are infesting and damaging your home.

What to do if you’re worried about termites and/or carpenter ants

If you're worried about the presence of termites or carpenter ants in your home, it's important to take action as soon as possible. Ignoring the problem can lead to costly damage and further infestations down the line. The best course of action is to contact EnviroPest at the first sign of a problem!

Our locally operated Colorado pest control company offers effective termite control and home pest control services that treat carpenter ants. When you reach out, we’ll be happy to take a look at your problem, identify the pest and any damages that may have incurred, and treat accordingly.

For greater pest protection from carpenter ants, sign up for year-round home pest control!

colorado's choice complete home pest control

Colorado's Choice Smart Service 

Our Colorado's Choice Smart Service is the most comprehensive home pest control plan EnviroPest targets 30+ pests and includes four seasonal visits and 24/7 digital rodent monitoring. 

Pests covered under the Colorado's Choice Smart Service includes:

  • Ants (Carpenter ants, odorous house ants, pavement ants, sugar ants)
  • Beetles
  • Centipedes
  • Earwigs
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Spiders (House spiders, rock spiders, wolf spiders, black widow spiders)
  • Wasps (Baldfaced hornets, paper wasps, yellow jackets)
This blog was originally published 03/09/15; it has been updated to include the most up to date information.
ant control customer fort morgan


‟Enviropest came to my rescue the next business day after I called and took care of my ant problem lickety-split. They are now on my speed dial.”
Linda P.
Fort Morgan, CO
EnviroPest received an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars from 2439 reviews. 4.6 Read All Reviews



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