Everyone is familiar with ants and termites. They are very commonly found in and around houses, and all homeowners need to deal with them at some point of time. In comparison to wood eating termites, ants are less destructive, except that they bite and sting. Small mud tubes (round or flat) with approximately ¼ inch diameter in the walls and other wooden structures are an indication of a termite infestation. Termite holes can also be found in old and damp wood.
Termites and ants are quite similar and many fail to distinguish one from the other. Termites that are normally seen are the flying ones that have reproductive ability. The wingless termites are workers, and live in dark conditions such as inside old wood, under furniture, etc. On the other hand, both winged and wingless ants are found in any place where there is a food source.
Ants and Termites: An Overview
Similar to bees, both termites and ants are social insects, wherein there are certain groups in a colony. Each group performs specific activities that are different from the others. A termite is usually light-colored and an ant is darker in color. Some more distinguishing features are mentioned below.
Termites basically feed on wood. Thus, they are found in places where there is an abundance of decaying wood. It is also not unusual to find termites in furniture. On the contrary, ants are omnipresent and can feed on any food source like fruits, vegetables, food spillage, etc.
Check the Antennae
If possible, compare the antennae of termites and ants. You can clearly see that termites have straight antennae that are present in a beaded nature (like a string of beads or pearls). On the contrary, the antennae of ants are curved (also called elbowed antennae) and present in a continuous line.
Length of Wings
Both winged termites as well as flying ants have two pairs of wings. The difference is that all the four wings of termites are similar in shape and size, whereas the forewings of ants are larger than the hind wings.
In termites, the wings are grayish-white in color while in ants, the wings are transparent. Thus, veins present in the wings of ants are clearly visible, which is not so in case of termites. You can see a gray tinge in the wings of termites.
In termites, the body is divided into two parts - head and body. The body of ants comprises three distinct parts - head, thorax, and body. Termites have a broad waist, while the waist of all types of ants is slender at the point where it joins the thorax.
Position of Legs
The legs of termites are shorter in length as compared to that of ants. In ants, the three pairs of legs are attached in the thoracic region, whereas in termites, they are equally-distributed throughout the body length.
Carpenter ants are large species and often confused with termites. The pinched waist and elbowed antennae are used to explain the difference between the two. Unlike termites, carpenter ants rarely swarm in groups. In addition, termites undergo gradual metamorphosis, while it is complete metamorphosis in ants. Thus, it is not very difficult to differentiate between termites and ants once you know these basic characteristics.