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The Differences Between Termites And Ants

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Termites and ants are two of the most common insects found in households around the world. Both species are known for their industrious nature, often working together in large colonies to build intricate nests and forage for food. They may look similar on the surface, but there are a few key differences between them that set them apart. It is important to identify the differences so that if you hire a pest control company to take care of a problem, they know exactly what species they are treating.


Physical Differences Between Termites And Ants

Body Shape

Termites are small insects with hard outer shells. Their bodies typically range from 1/8 to 1/2 of an inch long, depending on the species. Generally, they are either cylindrical or oval and their exoskeleton often has raised ridges that give them a segmented look.

In contrast, ants have bodies that are more slender and elongated with smaller heads. Their exoskeletons often have a smooth surface and their abdomens may be curved or pointed in appearance. The size of an ant’s body varies depending on the species, but they typically measure between 1/16 to 1 inch long.


Some ant and termite species have wings. Termites with wings have two pairs that are equal in length and shape, while some ant species have one pair of long, slender front wings and a shorter, thicker back pair. Additionally, when resting, ants will fold their front wings over the back ones to form an X-shape. Termite wings, on the other hand, rest next to each other in a straight line.

The wings of some ant and termite species are usually transparent and veined. However, the veins of ant wings are more pronounced than those of termites. Furthermore, when flying, ants will often hold their wings outstretched at an angle with the tips touching, while termites will hold their wings in a horizontal position, parallel to each other.


The antennae of termites and ants are quite different. Ants have a pair of “elbowed” antennae that help them detect smells and touches. Termites, on the other hand, have “straight antennae” with nine segments instead of the usual two found in ants. This enables termites to sense air currents and vibrations more precisely than ants.

Additionally, the antennae of termites are larger than the ones found in ants, giving them an advantage when it comes to detecting changes in their environment.


Termites are typically white or off-white, while ants come in a variety of colours including black, brown, yellow, red, and even pinkish or blueish shades. The easiest way to differentiate between a termite and an ant is by their colour. Termites tend to be more uniform in colour, while ants may have variations in their hue.


Behaviour Differences Between Termites and Ants

Termites and ants are both wood-consuming insects that can damage wood structures in your home or yard. While these two insects look similar, they have some key differences in behaviour in certain settings like how they interact with wood and their flying varieties.


Interaction With Wood

Termites ingest the cellulose found in wooden materials, which destroys and weakens the structural integrity of wooden buildings or furniture over time. Termites live in large colonies inside their tunnels, eating away at wood from the inside out.

In contrast, ants mainly chew through wood to create tunnels as a space for their colonies. They don’t consume the wood but instead use it as a source of shelter and protection from predators. The most common type of ant for this purpose is the carpenter ant.

Ability To Fly

Termites typically fly during the day when temperatures are warm. During takeoff, they quickly break away from their colony without looking back while flying in undulating patterns to find new nesting sites. Ants on the other hand usually fly at night or during dusk when winds tend to be cooler. Ants typically fly alone and don’t necessarily return to the same colony after leaving it.