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The differences between ant and termite reproductive or “alate” stages are subtle. Ants have thin “waists” and bent antennae while termites’ antennae are straight and have no apparent “waist” at all. Both have two pairs of wings, but on termites, all the wings are identical while ants have two different sized and shaped sets of wings. Compare the two in this picture. Remember that although the two insects are shown about the same size for comparison… in reality termites are very tiny insects. There are numerous species of carpenter ants. Contrary to popular belief they are NOT always large nor are they always black and they DO NOT actually eat wood but rather hollow it out to make space to live in. Carpenter Ants LOVE moist, softened or rotted wood but simply because it is easier to chew up than uncompromised wood.
While termites actually chew, swallow and digest wood to derive their nutrition, Carpenter Ants eat the same things any other ant eats; and in your home, that means they eat anything that YOU eat! Another telltale difference between the two insects is the condition of their tunnels and nests. Termites are messy housekeepers whose rough nests are filled with mud and “frass”. But Carpenter Ants’ tunnels are larger, clean as a whistle and look as if they were finished with sandpaper. The sawdust they create is pushed out of their nests and is frequently found in large piles on the floor below an infested area.