At Lomax Termite Control, we regularly get questions about how to identify the difference between termites and ants. While the picture above gives you a brief overview of some of the distinct physical differences, this page will go into greater detail.
It is easy to tell an ant from a termite. You don’t need a microscope. All you have to do is get the bug to stand still, relatively speaking, and look at its midsection. The ants have “wasp waists.” Between the thorax and the abdomen is a narrow connection in ants, just like with wasps. The termites do not have this slender waist. Their width continues, gradually increasing, from the thorax to the abdomen.
If you want to look closer, notice the antennae, the two “wires” that come out the head in the picture above. In the termite, these antennae are straight. In ants these antennae have elbows.
If you find ants or termites with wings, look at those wings. All four of the wings of a termite are about the same length. The two rear wings of a flying ant are shorter than the front wings.
Ants are almost always easier to find. They don’t hide nearly so much as termites. There are wood-eating ants, but they are not as well hidden as the termites. Most ants live in visible holes or nests, or they issue from cracks in the concrete. Their nests often are formed by removing earth from the holes they dig in the ground. They have darker, more hardened skins. Due to the fact that they have eyes, they have great perception of the world around them. Termites are usually hidden. Because of this they have soft bodies of pale colors. They often enter a wooden home and seal the entrance. Or, they will live in the soil and form tunnels to get to and from the wood which is their feeding ground. Worker termites are blind (they have no eyes) and find their way by following the passage ways, by following pheromone trails, or with their antennae.
Ants feed on almost anything. Have you seen ants crowding around dropped crumbs or sugar? Ants like all kinds of sweet stuff. Some ants eat leaves and vegetables. Some eat other bugs. Some eat termites. What do the termites eat? Just wood.