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staircase damaged by termites

Do I Have a Carpenter Ant Problem or a Termite Problem?

While some pests sting or bite, others can damage your home and that’s precisely the case with termites and carpenter ants. These wood-destroying insects cost U.S. home- and business-owners a pretty penny every year in repairs. For this reason, it’s important to know what kind of infestation you’re dealing with so that you can get it taken care of right away.

Below, we’ll explain how to tell the difference between a carpenter ant problem and a termite problem.


While you’re more likely to see carpenter ants than termites, it can be helpful to know what these pests look like and how their appearance differs.

Carpenter Ants

carpenter ant

  • Color: Carpenter ants can be black, red, brown, or even a combination of black and red.
  • Body Size: These insects measure anywhere from 1/2 to 5/8 inch long, which is about 4 to 8 times the size of the typical black ants you see around homes and gardens.
  • Body Shape: Like many ants, carpenter ants have clearly segmented bodies: it’s easy to tell the head from the middle part (thorax) and the rear part (abdomen).
  • Wing Size: Carpenter ant swarmers (the reproductive members of the colonies) have 2 sets of wings. The top wings are longer than the bottom wings. When folded, the wings will be only slightly longer than the ant’s body.
  • Wing color: Carpenter ant wings have a yellowish or brownish tint.
  • Antennae: Carpenter ants have 2 distinctly bent antennae.


termite workers

  • Color: Swarmers (flying termites) are often brown or black. Wingless worker and soldier termites are typically creamy yellowish-white or brown.
  • Body Size: Size varies by species. Subterranean termites (the type you’re most likely to have) measure about 1/8 inch long, noticeably smaller than carpenter ants. Formosan termites can measure up to 1/2 an inch. Drywood termites can range from 3/8 to 1 inch.
  • Body Shape: Like other insects, termites have 3 body segments (head, thorax, and abdomen) — however, it’s hard to tell just by looking where the thorax and abdomen end. When you see a termite, you’ll probably notice the head and what looks like one long body segment.
  • Wing Size: Termite swarmers have 2 sets of wings, although because of the way they stack, it may look like they only have 2 wings. The top wings are the same length as the bottom wings. When folded, the wings will be noticeably longer than the termite’s body.
  • Wing color: Termite wings look white.
  • Antennae: Termites have 2 relatively straight antennae.


Unfortunately, it can be hard to know your home has a problem with one of these pests until some damage becomes visible. If you do notice damage from carpenter ants or termites, it’s time to bring in an expert to eliminate the infestation.

Signs of Carpenter Ant Damage

Carpenter ant activity tends to be more visible than termite activity. Here are some signs that your home has carpenter ant damage:

  • You see one or two carpenter ant scouts in your home or a trail of foraging carpenter ants on your property.
  • You see flying ants in your home or discarded ant wings.
  • Piles of sawdust or fine wood shavings appear around your baseboards, window sills, and door frames. The ants discard this chewed-up wood from their tunnels (or galleries). You may be able to see the “kick-out holes” they used to discard the wood.
  • You hear rustling in the walls. Carpenter ant colonies number in the thousands, and you may be able to hear them chewing as they build their nests.

Signs of Termite Damage

You might not see a single termite throughout the entire time they’re damaging your home. This is especially true of subterranean termites, which nest underground and cause damage to wood and other materials from the inside out.

Keep an eye out for these signs of termite damage in your home:

  • You see mud tubes near your home’s foundation. These will look like little tunnels or lines of dirt. Subterranean termites create these tubes with soil and their saliva and use them to travel between their nest and their food sources.
  • Your home has bubbling, cracking, or peeling paint. As termites chew up wood and other materials in your walls, it releases moisture. This can cause paint to bubble and can even create a musty odor, similar to if you had water damage.
  • You discover hollow, fragile wood. You can tap or knock on wood to hear if it has been hollowed out by termites. The wood may be so fragile that you can easily puncture it with a screwdriver. This is because termites tend to leave a thin, veneer-like outer layer while chewing up the inside.

Do you need help with wood-destroying pests in your home? Don’t hesitate to contact Hoffman's Exterminating Co., Inc. for an inspection: (800) 615-3920.