Is it a Carpenter Ant or Termite?

Carpenter ants are among the largest ants in North America with workers of some species being up to one-half inch long. They don’t consume wood like termites but excavate it to make their nests, which in large colonies can consist of an extensive network of galleries and tunnels that often start in an area where there’s damage from water or wood decay.  They can expand their nest into sound wood and compromise structural integrity. They also commonly nest in wall voids, hollow doors, and insulation.  In natural settings, they excavate into the heartwood of living trees or into dead trees and stumps.

It’s common to find carpenter ants in homes during spring. Seeing one or a few winged queens doesn’t mean they’re living indoors.  If you’re finding large numbers of winged ants indoors it’s a likely sign that a nest exists inside your home. If you’re not sure what type it is, here’s a key to identifying common types of household ants.

It’s easy to confuse the winged carpenter ants that leave the nest on mating flights with termites.  To tell the difference between ants and termites, look at their antennae, waist, and wings. Also, carpenter ant sawdust is fibrous versus the 6-sided shaped pellets of drywood termites. Here’s how to tell the difference between ants and termites.

The best overall strategy for managing carpenter ants is prevention!  Eliminate conditions such as moist wood and old stumps that provide good nesting sites. Search for nests and remove them. Read on to learn more about managing carpenter ants. 

Alert!  If you think you have them around, watch out! Carpenter ants can’t sting but can inflict painful bites with their powerful jaws and spray formic acid into the wound, causing a burning sensation.

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