Ants and termites can look very similar on first glance. Similar in size and shape, it can be difficult for an untrained eye to see the differences between them. They both require different types of treatment for elimination which makes identification paramount.
Some of the ants vs termites questions our customers ask include:
- What is the difference between ants and termites
- How do I know if I have ants or termites?
- What do termites look like?
- Are winged ants termites?
- Can I have both ants and termites?
In terms of scientific classification ants are within the order Hymenoptera and the family Formicidae. Termites are within the order Isopterm, with several families under that order. This shows us that ants are quite distinct from termites. This article will examine the differences between terms and ants in terms of morphology, life cycle and social characteristics.
Morphologically ants have elbowed antennae while termites have antennae that resemble a string of beads. Ants have compound eyes present while termites have no eyes. The pedicel (waist, between the thorax and abdomen) is present in ants but absent in termites. The end of the abdomen in ants is pointed but is blunt on a termite.
In terms of their life cycle, ants and termites share some similarities and some differences. Both ants and termites have a stage where they have wings during the reproductive cycle. The wings of reproductive ants are strongly veined with unequal fore/hind wings. In termites, there are no visable veins and the fore/hind wings are equal.
Socially there are differences in the structure of the castes of the colony. Castes are specific divisions within insect colonies that are determined by the roles in the colony. Both termites and ants have castes for workers, soldiers and reproductives (discussed earlier). Worker ants are sexually undeveloped females while termites can be both males and females who are sexually undeveloped. Soldiers in ant colonies are actually workers serving a dual role. Termite soldiers are also sexually undeveloped males and females (like workers) but have two different body forms depending on the species of termite. The first one is the mandibulate or jawed form and the second is the nasute or long-nosed form.
Another major difference between ants and termites is their diet. Ants are scavengers which means they eat a variety of different food. They do no eat wood but instead make their homes in it. Termites feed on plant tissues such as wood and grasses.