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North New Jersey Residents – Do you have winged ants or termites?

image courtesy of our friends at Northwest Pest Control in Atlanta GA. www.callnorthwest.com

Ants are highly evolved social insects, health not unlike wasps and hornets, that feed on a variety of food sources.  Pest ants are known to invade homes and kitchens in the spring and summer months, but in nature most ants are extremely beneficial.   Outdoors, ants will feed on plant pollen or fruits, some ants are predators of other insects and still other species of ants will herd and tend honeydew producing insects called aphids like cattle. 

Termites, on the other hand, are a fairly primitive insect that is closely related to cockroaches.  Termites are one of a handful of creatures on the earth that can digest cellulose (wood) as a food source.  Like ants, termites are a social insect, living in large colonies beneath the soil.  Like ants, Termites are a hugely beneficial insect in nature, but can come into contact with man when they infest buildings causing damage. 

subterranean termite worker

It is very important for homeowners to know the difference between these two insects.  Ants can be an occasional invader and a sometime pest, termites can cause significant damage to your home.  The biggest difference in appearance is between a simple ant worker and a termite worker.  Ant workers are dark brown to black, have elbowed antennae and a pinched waist.  Termites on the other hand, are small white insects with a thick waist, and short straight antennae (see photo).  You’ll easily find ant workers foraging on the surface but termite workers will usually be found inside wood or mulch they are actively feeding on. 

The workers look different in between these two types of insects but there is a life stage that look very similar and can be easily confused.  Both Ants and Termites will spawn winged reproductives, or “swarmers”, that tend to look very similar.  They will both be dark brown or black and both species will have two pairs of wings.  The best way to tell the difference will be the differences already mentioned in the thickness of the waist and the shape of the antennae.  (see above photo)   Termite swarmers also tend to lose their wings very easily so finding a pile of cast wings and only a few insects is entirely possible.

termite reproductive flight or “swarm” occurring at a joint in an exterior door frame.

Curious about termites? take a look at the wiki file for the Eastern Subterranean Termite here.

Here’s a wiki file about ants in general, wiki

If you think you have reason to suspect either Ant or Termite activity in our home, please fill out the form here to request a free estimate!

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