During warm months, termites will be swarming. After a rainy day, you may find clouds of small pests flying around your property. The two most common perpetrators of this behavior are termites and flying ants. Of course, most homeowners are highly fearful of a termite infestation due to the damage they can cause. It’s important to try to quickly identify the pest you’re dealing with so a pest management company can put together a treatment plan. When it comes to telling the difference between termites and ants, you should consider behavioral factors and visible differences in physicality.

Behavior of Termites vs. Ants

Termites Eat Cellulose and Cause Damage

Termites eat cellulose found in wood and can cause significant damage to your home. In the event of a termite infestation, they will typically gravitate toward areas with plenty of wood. Termites can’t actually survive without extremely specific moisture levels, so they build mud tubes to provide shelter. Termites will chew wooden structures, including property foundations which can lead to structural damage.

Carpenter Ants May Destroy Wood, but Not Because They’re Hungry

Most ants have multiple food sources, and carpenter ants are no exception. Carpenter ants don’t eat wood, but they will chew it up and spit it out, leaving damage in their wake. Carpenter ants will bore holes and build tunnels in search of food as opposed to the mud tubes termites craft.

Termites and Ants Both have Flying Varieties

During swarming season, termites send their swarmers in an attempt to start new colonies. In a similar manner, several varieties of ants will send out their swarmers, too. While the behavior of both specimens may be similar, there are some core physical differences you may observe.

Physical Differences between Termite Swarmers and Flying Ants

With multiple varieties of termites, and dozens of ant species, narrowing down the core differences between the two insects can be challenging. That said, the most commonly misidentified termites and ants are winged and can often be seen swarming in massive quantities in early spring. If you are able to capture one of the bugs that’s stumping you, there are a couple of things you can look at to determine if you’ve got winged termites or winged ants.


Termites have two sets of wings of almost equal length that have many barely visible pale veins. Ants also have 4 wings but the hind wings are much shorter than the forewings and the wings have only a few veins that are dark in color.


The termite body is uniformly wide/thickened behind where the wings are attached. In contrast, the ant’s body is constricted/pinched in behind where the wings are attached.

Antennae/feelers on the head

Termites have straight antennae but ants have elbowed antennae. These differences are subtle and difficult to notice since these pests are small, but they can be identifiers if you are able to view samples up close.

Call in the experts at Dodson to determine if you have termites or ants once and for all.

If you aren’t sure what kind of pest you’re dealing with, a professional pest control expert can help. Dodson inspectors can perform a free inspection to evaluate what insect is swarming your house and can form a treatment plan from there. We specialize in termite control and ant control. Regardless of what kind of pest you have on your hands, Dodson pest control professionals can help.

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