Ant Or Termite? Learn The Difference Before Spring Swarming Season Arrives In New England

When these persistent crawlers come marching into your home, here’s how to spot the difference.

Ant Or Termite? Learn The Difference Before Spring Swarming Season Arrives In New England

Spring in New England is an exciting time of year. The snow begins to melt away, frigid temperatures give way to warmth, and greenery makes a comeback throughout the region. Unfortunately, there are a few less desirable things that return as well: nuisance pests. Two of these springtime pests in particular can be especially insidious—and on many occasions, difficult to tell apart.

In honor of Termite Awareness Week (March 3-9), let’s talk termites—and their near doppelganger, the winged carpenter ant.

Termite 101 for New Englanders: Meet The Eastern Subterranean Termite

A group of worker and solider termites

The Eastern Subterranean Termite is motivated by one goal: finding their next meal. They seek to get their chompers on wood, cardboard, paper, and cotton—any cellulose materials they can crawl their way to. These delectable meals for the Eastern subterranean termite also happen to be materials that make up your home. In other words: the structural damage that they can cause if left unchecked can get expensive.

A not-so-fun fact: termite colonies in this region can grow as large as 5 million workers. Smaller colonies are still significant at 60,000 termites on average. In fact, those smaller colonies can also consume an average of 5 grams of wood daily: 3% of their body weight per day.

Beware of Swarming Season

For Eastern Subterranean Termites, swarming season is now. From March through May, winged termites (or swarmers) will be on the prowl for new mates and a new colony to call their own. Especially humid conditions can make for more active swarms, increasing the number of swarmers leaving their existing colonies to seek refuge elsewhere.

During the beginning of spring and up until the start of summer, keep an eye out for the signs of swarmers taking up residence in your home.

  • ‍Wings: As they settle into their new home, swarmers will shed their wings—which are light-colored, veiny, and near translucent.
  • ‍Mud tubes: Termites will create their own structures to move through safely when seeking out their next meal. If spotted, leave them be. These can be crucial to help pest control professionals identify the location of the infestation.
  • ‍Damage: After chewing through structural elements or furniture in your home, you may begin to see bends, sags, or buckles. Be wary of any imperfections throughout your home, including warps in walls, beams, windows, door frames, or furniture.

You’re most likely to spot these signs near moist basements and crawlspaces—key spots for termite infestations. Be on the lookout, especially after frequent spring rainfall!

Ant 101: Meet the Winged Carpenter Ant

Let’s play a game: which of the above pests is a termite?

It’s not an easy distinction to make!

Termite swarmers are often mistaken for their winged doppelganger, the carpenter ant. The two pests even have similar swarming seasons. Carpenter ants, too, are known to reproduce and migrate during the late spring and early summer.

Carpenter ants are the most well-known ant species in the region. Often found in damp or rotting wood, they tend to haunt outdoor structures like decks, fences, and trees. But carpenter ants can be found indoors, too—particularly in areas with moisture problems, such as behind walls or underneath floors.

While they don't eat wood like termites do, their pursuit to create nests and galleries can cause significant damage to wooden structures. Carpenter ants infestations can also be tricky to treat. Addressing these uninvited guests early is key.

Termites vs. Ants: How To Spot The Difference

‍Now, let’s review the specific details that can help you set these two nuisance pests apart. There are three key areas to focus on when spotting a termite or ant-like critter in your home:

  • Wing Size. Termites have wings equal in size and length, whereas ants have one long and one shorter wing on each side of their body.‍
  • Antennae Shape. Termites have short, straight antennae, whereas ants have antennae with an elbow-like bend.‍
  • Body Structure. Termites have long, straight bodies, but ants have a visible, defined, cinched waist above their abdomen.

Can you see how Pest #1 has a defined waist and differently-sized wings? Those attributes mean that this is a winged carpenter ant. Pest #2 is a swarming termite, as identified by its equally sized wings, uncinched body,

Not Sure Which Pest You’re Dealing With? We Can Help.

Whether you’re combatting termites or ants, one thing is certain: call in the experts at the first signs of an infestation. Though they can cause damage in different ways, these critters share a tendency for destruction.

Before the infestation has time to cause costly damage to your home, get in touch to schedule a free inspection. We’ll help you identify exactly what you’re dealing with—and see the pests out for good, even during the busy swarming season.

Get in touch for details!