Carpenter Ant Vs Termite Damage: Things You Need To Know

  • Written By: Phil Hawes
  • Time to read: 8 min.

Your home is most probably the most expensive purchase you’ll ever make, so when pests threaten that you will want to act fast. But what exactly are you being targeted by?

Both carpenter ants and termites can do extensive damage to your home if left unchecked, but there are some key differences between the two.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at carpenter ant damage and termite damage, so you can better understand what pests are after your home and how to protect them.

What’s the difference between carpenter ants and termites? Quickly identify them

At first glance you could easily confuse carpenter ants and termites – they are both small, winged insects that swarm. But there are some key differences between the two that can help you identify them.

Carpenter ants are larger than most household ants, ranging from 3/8 to 1 inch long. They are typically black or red in color, though some carpenter ants can be yellow or light brown. Carpenter ants have a narrow waist and long legs, and their wings are unequal in size.

Termites, on the other hand, are much smaller – usually only about 1/8 of an inch long. They are white or pale in color and have a broad waist. Their wings are also equal in size.

You can also tell the difference between these two insects by counting the number of segments that make up their body. Carpenter ants have three body segments – the head, thorax, and abdomen. Termites have just two body segments

The most obvious difference between carpenter ants and termites, however, is their eating habits which we’ll cover next.

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Signs of a carpenter ant damage

Unlike termites, carpenter ants don’t view your home or property as a source of food.

Instead, they’re looking for a place to build their nests.

Carpenter ants will usually enter your home through small cracks and crevices in the exterior of your home. Once they’re inside, they will start to create their nests by hollowing out wood beams and other structural elements.

If there are small holes in your wood structure and sawdust just outside the drilled holes (called frass), it is most likely done by carpenter ants than termites.

These pests prefer wood that is soft, rotted or starting to decay, so you may find them in areas like:

  • Attics
  • Crawl spaces
  • Under decks and porches
  • Around windows and doors
  • In bathrooms and kitchens

It’s much more difficult for these little critters to build their nests in harder woods, so you’re less likely to find them there.

Carpenter ants are also more active at night than during the day, so you may hear them moving around inside your walls after dark. It sounds like a regular soft clicking sound that is quite audible if you put your ear against the wall.

If you see carpenter ants in your home, it’s important to take action immediately as they can cause serious damage. If carpenter ants are left unchecked, they can cause significant damage to your home. In extreme cases, carpenter ant damage can even lead to the collapse of your home’s structure.

Other ways to spot carpenter ants

There are different castes of carpenter ants that serve the queen ant; the major and minor worker ants. The former are the guards for the nest while the latter are foragers and caretakers for the young.

After a year or so, the queen ant will produce winged males and females (also called swarmers) which will mate and then leave the nest in order to start their own.

So, if you see winged carpenter ants in your home, it’s a good indicator that there is an infestation nearby. These winged carpenter ants are usually black or red and about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch long.

You may first notice when some of these ants fly out of their nests to create new colonies. Usually, when they have found a suitable location, their wings fall off. If you are outside and you see these wings near windows, it can be a sign that the carpenter ants have already established their colonies inside your walls.

Signs of a termite damage

While Carpenter ants damage your home just because they are looking to build their own, termites view it as a good meal.

Termites often attack a home from the ground up, so if you see any termite damage it will likely be on the lower levels of your home.

Termites consume wood from the inside so it is hard to know whether it has been damaged or not. So simple ways to check for termite damage is to look for things like:

  • Hollow-sounding wood
  • Mud tunnels on the exterior of your home
  • Discarded wings from swarmers around the windows and floor

If you notice sawdusts formed in a straight line or a single corner, it is most likely their frass. It is composed of chewed-up wood, saliva, and termite waste. Usually, it comes out with the same color as the wood.

If you see any of these signs, it’s important to call a professional as soon as possible. Termite damage can be extensive and expensive to repair if left unchecked.

Termite vs carpenter ant damage: Which is worse?

If you had a choice, you would not have either of these insects in your home. But, is there one that is easier to find and get rid of?

How detectable are they?

Both carpenter ants and termites destroy the structure of your home if the signs of infestation are ignored. Small problems may lead to more serious ones which may cost significant amounts of money or worse, make your home structurally unstable.

The damage caused by termites cannot always be detected immediately. They can damage floorings, wallpapers, and wood structures in a short period without us knowing as they can chew through them undetected.

How quickly do they damage properties?

On the other hand, carpenter ants can also create damage without being detected. That being said, it takes many years for them to cause significant damage, unlike termites. They create less damage than termites. Carpenter ants usually create their nets on open vents and foundation cracks.

How bad is the damage?

The damage caused by termites is usually worse as they consume wood from the inside. Carpenter ants, on the other hand, excavate wood to create their nests which can make holes visible on the outside of your home.

Although carpenter ants do not directly consume wood like termites, the damage they cause is still significant as it weakens the structure of your home.

Carpenter ant damage is not as bad as termite damage, but both should be addressed immediately to prevent further destruction.

How much do they cost to get rid of?

The cost of getting rid of carpenter ants or termites is equally expensive. If you wait too long, the damage they cause will be more costly to repair. It is important to address the problem as soon as possible to avoid further damage.

Carpenter ants are usually easier and less expensive to get rid of than termites. However, if the problem is ignored, it can become a bigger problem that will be more costly to fix.

How to treat for carpenter ants and termites

Once you have detected the unwanted presence of either of these pests, you are probably keen to know how to quickly get rid of them!

Treat for carpenter ants

Before you can identify the proper treatment, you need to know which pest has damaged your wood. If you can’t identify which pest it is yourself, it is best to call a professional.

Once you’ve identified that you are dealing with carpenter ants you need to next locate their nests. This can be a difficult task as they like to build their nests in difficult-to-reach places. Once you have found the nest, the next step is to treat it.

There are many ways to get rid of carpenter ants, but the most common and effective way is to use insecticide dust or baits. Applying the insecticide dust or baits to the nest will kill the carpenter ants and their larvae.

If you opt to do the treatment DIY, you need to use an insecticide that has pyrethroids that is then sprayed on the nest. You should also consider using boric acid as it is a very effective insecticide.

Sometimes, you may need to drill into the wood surfaces to reach their nests. If this is the case, you need to be extra careful not to damage the wood any further.

Treat for termites

For termites, you can try both chemical and non-chemical treatments. If you do not want to use insecticides but want to get rid of the termites, you can use biological control agents such as nematodes and fungi.

In the USA, EPA reviews pesticides first to know if they possess risks to the environment and public health. These are used to prevent and treat termite infestations before they can spread to other wooden structures in your home.

One of the EPA-approved pesticides for termites is termiticides. Take note that only pest control professionals are allowed to use these. One of the most commonly used termiticides is used for soil-applied barrier treatments.

Another termite infestation treatment is by using termite bait. This treatment method is created to reduce the impact on health and the environment. A termite bait has active ingredients that can prevent insect development, growth regulator, and stops termite activities.

Is carpenter ant and termite damage covered by homeowner’s insurance?

Each year, a large number of households in the US make pest control calls due to carpenter ants and termite infestations. These critters can cause extensive damage to your home, so it’s important to be aware of the possibility that your homeowner’s insurance policy may not cover the damage they cause.

Be sure to read your policy carefully and contact your insurance agent if you have any questions about what is and is not covered.

For the most part, a termite infestation is not covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy. Standard insurance only covers damage from accidents including damage to properties due to fallen trees or fires.

Insurance companies believe that regular maintenance to prevent infestations should be done by homeowners. Basically, they believe that termite and carpenter ant infestations can be prevented if a homeowner is responsible for the maintenance of their home.

However, there are homeowners insurance policies where you can claim for the repairs associated with termite damage.

An example of this instance is a fire that started with termite-damaged electrical wires. Also, a house that collapsed due to termite infestation can be covered by insurance, though this happens very rarely. To qualify for a homeowners insurance claim, you need to pass an infestation report from a professional.

You do not have to get separate insurance policies for infestations. Instead, pay for regular maintenance done by pest control professionals to prevent termites and carpenter ants from entering your homes.

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