Carpenter Ants vs. Termites

The silent enemies of wooden structures


You’ve recently noticed some dirt gathering here and there inside your house and wondering how it got there? Maybe seen a dirt pile on a window sill?

And now you’re freaking out just considering the hundreds if not thousands of dollars you’ll have to pay if you uncover a nasty termite infestation? Well, hold your horses because they might not be termites… But, definitely call an inspector since the alternative could be just as bad.

In this article we will be comparing two of the most dangerous pests to have near your wood structures or flooring: ants and termites. And you might think “Ants do not eat wood!”, and you'd be right, but, Carpenter ants will chew on it nonetheless so, pay attention.

3 star

How do I tell Carpenter ants apart from Termites?

Let’s dive into some of their characteristics: what makes them similar and what differentiates them. This comparative table might help:


Oftentimes, you will not need to inspect the insect itself but examine their frass. Frass refers to the sawdust-like material they left behind as they work their way into wood structures.

In the case of the Carpenter ants, since they do not feed on wood, it is correct to say it is sawdust combined with excretions and insects bodies. They push this dirt out through holes they make as they tunnel their way inside the wood to make galleries for the colony to live and reproduce. Termites, on the other hand, are not there to establish their colony.  They feed on the wood, so their frass consists of excrement  and mud they carry from their underground nests.

It is important to recognize the differences between carpenter ant and termite wood damage because chances are, you may not see the actual insect. Carpenter ants are nocturnal and termites are rarely seen. Be aware, even if you do get to determine which insect is responsible for the damage, it is not recommended to take care of it on your own since pesticides are dangerous and its use handled by trained and licensed professionals.

Ampest star

Where should I check for Carpenter ants or Termites?

Carpenter Ants vs. Termites

Carpenter ants are attracted to wood that has sustained water damage, other insect damage or humidity. They usually take advantage of windows and door frames  that are decaying or rotten. Once they get in through vulnerable spots or hollow spaces it is predicted that they will nest. This usually takes place in areas that become soaked by water leaks from damaged flashing, bad plumbing, bad caulking resulting in wood that remains moist.

Subterranean Termites are found in northern Illinois, these pests build their colonies underground and travel above ground to access food sources. They enter homes through cracked or unsealed foundations and through tunnels constructed from mud, their feces, and saliva. The presence of these tunnels near the foundation or winged swarmers may indicate an active colony.

Ampest star

Is the wood damage caused by Carpenter ants and termites different?

Yes, if you examine the damage caused by Carpenter ants, you may find that the tunnels appear clean and smooth. The galleries made by termites, on the other hand, tend to be muddy.

In both cases, the damage may go from a couple hundreds up to thousands of dollars.. The reason is that both species can effect roofing or flooring, beams or windows, basically anything made out of wood and since most of our structures are made out of wood, the damage may be pricey. 

Even though termites are more difficult to detect,  when they are, it’s likely they’ve caused lots of damage already. Carpenter ants are known to install several satellite colonies near a main one. If this is the case, they could be infesting more than one place at a time, increasing the bill. As you can see, both species represent a big risk and it is important to tackle the problem the right way or even better, prevent it, by doing seasonal spraying or baiting. It will always be cheaper to prevent than to treat one of these infestations.

Ampest star

Is it safe to use pesticides on Ants or Termites?


So, at this point you have identified an infestation in your home. What should you do? Is the use of pesticides even safe for humans and pets?

We cannot speak for other services, but at AMPEST we’ve been using environmentally friendly products for a long time, and what does that mean? Well it means that our exterior  treatments, like our power spray, are safe for people and pets when applied according to label directions., they are  aligned with EPA’s strict safety parameters and do not represent a risk for you or your loved ones as long as you follow our experts’ recommendations.

Same deal with our inside treatments,  Since many of our materials are synthetic pyrethroids, that means they target insects while having a low mammalian (mammal) toxicity. So you, your kids, and your pets, are safe and sound under our care.

There are a lot  more treatments available to get rid of these infestations and we’ll make sure to recommend what’s best for your specific case.

Ampest Exterminationg & Wildlife Control

Monday - Friday: 8:30am - 5:00pm
Saturday: 8:30am - 12:00pm

Contact Us

"*" indicates required fields