It's common for a panicked homeowner to bring a termite in only to discover it's a winged ant. It's also dangerous when someone dismisses an actual termite as an ant. Often this happens because a homeowner knows one type of termite. What's in front of them doesn't look like it, so they just assume it's not. Yet it may be a different kind.
The species of termite you're dealing with also makes a big difference. The most common is the subterranean termite. As the name suggests, it builds its colony underground. It needs access to moisture to survive. When termites chew through the wood of your home, they're in a dry environment. Because of this, subterranean termites build tunnels made of mud. These work like highways that funnel termites into your home and back to their colony.
The termite you're most likely to encounter is this type. If you see one, chances are it'll be a swarmer. This has a black, shiny body and white wings. This makes it easy to mistake for a carpenter ant (and vice versa).
Termites vs. Ants
A subterranean termite and carpenter ant are about the same size. They're each about half an inch in length. The wings are even similar in size.
There are three key differences between the appearance of a subterranean termite and carpenter ant:
1. A termite has wings that are the same size and look pretty symmetrical. They're very rounded, like a long oval. An ant's wings tend to come to more of a triangular point. If you see them open their wings, you'll also notice that its front wings are larger than their back ones. Termite wings are all the same size.
- Their antennae are also different. Termites have straight antennae – there's no bend. An ant has antennae that veer back toward its body before angling sharply forward.
- The most obvious difference is their bodies. Termites don't have pinched segments. Their bodies are a similar thickness most of their length. An ant's body has three very obvious segments. Each segment thins before the next one starts. Even with something so small, you can tell the difference.
Remember that carpenter ants can cause damage, too. They're not termites when it comes to that front; they won't destroy a home like termites can. Carpenter ants can infest a home and destroy wooden features, however.
Finally, you have drywood termites. You're less likely to encounter these. They don't live underground. They live in the wood itself and will chew through it voraciously. An infestation can be hard to identify because they don't build telltale mud tunnels for travel.
A drywood termite is very similar to a subterranean termite in shape. The big difference is that their bodies are reddish in color, and their wings are reddish-brown.
Finding termites in your home can make your heart sink. Even if you're unsure, it's always safe to call a local pest control specialist who can come identify the pest for you.
Different termites are addressed with different solutions. Termite treatments for both types have proven very effective, though. Above all, don't delay. You can't just kill the ones you see and assume the problem is solved; they are a bare fraction of the ones you can't see.
Relying on spot treatments alone will also scatter them further throughout the home. You need a solution that addresses the entire home at once. The best solution is baiting systems that allow termites to carry the bait back into their colony where it can eliminate the queen. So long as the queen exists, she can keep renewing termite numbers. That's why you need termites to do the work for you and carry the bait back into their colony.
The longer you give termites to develop a foothold in the home, the more of the home can be destroyed and the longer getting rid of them will take. That can risk your home, your entire property, and your family's financial future. You don't have to go through the toughest parts of being a homeowner alone. This is an area where asking for help immediately is your best course of action.
If you are having pest problems, contact the Rid-a-Bug team today. We can help you identify the particular unwelcome guest that’s invading your home - and more importantly, throw them out for good.