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Carpenter Ant Damage vs. Termite Damage

By Chris Williams on March 15, 2011.

Q. How do you tell the difference between Carpenter ant damage versus termite damage?
carpenter-antGreat question! Both insects cause millions of dollars worth of property damage each and every year to residential and commercial buildings by weakening and destroying wooden structures. Carpenter ants can cause serious damage to structural timbers by excavating out cavities to raise brood and expand their colony. These galleries are not much different in appearance and function than the type you may have seen in an ‘ant farm’ under glass, but instead are chiseled out of wood. Unlike termites, they do not ‘eat wood’, but merely use it for shelter. They prefer sweets and are predacious on other insects (including termites) as well. Carpenter ant galleries are clean and meticulously maintained. In fact, they’ll often either pack this frass (course sawdust from their handiwork mixed with insect parts and pupal casings) away from the nest site or dump it out into piles. These dumping grounds are a key factor in determining whether you have a Carpenter ant or termite situation on your hands. Termites do not exhibit this type of behavior.
termite

Termites do consume wood and it is the sole component of their diet. The damage they cause differs in appearance from carpenter ants due to their biology and habits. Worker termites are pale colored, soft-bodied soil dwelling insects that are extremely vulnerable to water loss. To maintain critical humidity levels for survival, they must construct earthen tubes to move through and within the area they are feeding. Termite galleries will be filled with layers of mud and feeding damaged wood is thin with a ragged appearance.

Which type of damage do you have?

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