Termites vs Ants

Last Updated: December 30, 2016

Despite the fact that termites – particularly termites with wings – look an awful lot like ants, the two insect families are not closely related. Termites are actually cousins to cockroaches. This might surprise you, particularly since termite behavior and ant behavior in a colonial setting can be similar; both insect families participate in cooperative care of young insects, all have workers, all have soldiers, and all have reproductive. In truth, it really is a question of ants vs termites – these insects are sworn enemies and it’s up to soldier caste termites to prevent ants from invading. Let’s take a closer look at what separates termites from ants.

Ants vs termites

In Australia and some other places, worker termites are often referred to as white ants, because they do look quite a lot like ants when swarmed together. Worker termites typically have soft bodies with only two segments – a head and an abdomen – and like flying termites, their antenna extend in an unbroken line from the forehead, creating a “V” shape.

When it comes to soldier termites vs ants, the main differences are quite easy to spot. Soldier termites typically have light colored abdomens and dark colored heads with strong jaws and long, V-shaped antenna. Ants, on the other hand, are normally brown, black, red, or some combination of colors, and they possess triple-segmented bodies and less pronounced jaws.

Another way you can tell the difference between termites vs ants is in the way they travel. If you happen to see ants moving along as they go about their business, they typically travel in straight lines. They’re extremely orderly. Termites are the opposite; they move with no real rhyme or reason, and you just won’t see a line of soldier termites emerging from a colony to conduct tasks of any type. In fact, the only time termites intentionally leave the safety of their colonies is when they swarm in order to develop new colonies.

Flying ants vs termites

Flying ants vs termites – the two insects look quite a bit alike at a glance, but spend a couple of moments looking more closely, and you’ll see that these insects have many differences.

Flying termites have:

  • A pair of straight antennae that make a “V” shape from the front of the head
  • Two pairs of wings, each pair being of equal length
  • Straight bodies with no delineated “waist”
  • Two body segments instead of three

Flying ants have

  • A pair of bent antenna that form a rough “U” shape from the front of the head
  • Two pairs of wings, with the front pair being longer than the back
  • Nipped waists with large abdomens to the rear
  • Three body segments instead of two

It’s fairly common to encounter flying ants at any time, as long as the weather is warm enough for them to emerge from their nests. There are many different flying ant species and all look different in terms of size and color, but they all share these same characteristics.

The only time you’re going to encounter flying termites is during mating season, which varies from one termite species to the next. To learn more about this behavior, be sure to spend a moment reading our articles on drywood termites, Formosan termites, and subterranean termites. Armed with the information you receive, you’ll be able to tell the difference between flying termites vs ants with ease, plus you will be able to determine what to do next if you think you may be dealing with a termite infestation.

Notice the distinct body shape differences between the termite (left) and ant (right).
Notice the distinct body shape differences between the termite (left) and ant (right).

One thought on “Termites vs Ants”

  1. I need to find out what is biting me! I have small red bites all over me since I moved in my new apt. They are not really raised they have a hole in the center. I have had it professionally exterminated twice! I can’t find anything!!!!! No bed bugs.. No fleas!! I can’t see anything! I have no animals but there are a few stray cats around the property. Also, my apt has brand new carpets! I found a few bugs on the window sills that look like baby flying ants. Please help if you can. I have pics of what I did find. I have an infant and a toddler in the home so I really need to get to the bottom of this. If anyone can help please respond. Thank you!

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