Termites, Carpenter Ants, or Beetles?

Serving Illinois and Indiana

How to tell the difference between a termite and an ant by Anderson Pest Solutions - Expert termite exterminators serving Indiana, Illinois and the greater Chicago area

No one wants to hear the word “termites” when it comes to their commercial property or their home, and the words “carpenter ants” or “beetles” bring no relief either. If left untreated, termite, carpenter ant, or beetle infestation can become a serious issue.

Each year, we receive numerous panicked phone calls when home and property owners start finding small and large winged critters flying all over the place. You might be finding these winged pests around your home or commercial property, around doors, windows, showers, and toilets. When your home or property becomes invaded with these winged pests, the first reaction is to usually blame termites, but termites might not actually be responsible for the damage.

Do You Have Carpenter Ants, Beetles, or Termites?

Carpenter ants, beetles, and termites share a lot of bad traits, the main shared trait being that they are all attracted to wood, wooden structures, and wooden objects. Listed below is more information on how you can determine if termites are the cause of your damage, or if you might be facing a carpenter ant or beetle infestation instead.


There are many different types of termites, with the most common type being a subterranean species. Termites are often found nested underground in colonies of 2 to 10 million individual termites. These pests can grow to anywhere from 4.6 millimeters to 12.3 millimeters in length. Like carpenter ants, termites also have a sort of “pest hierarchy,” including worker termites, soldier termites, and swarmer termites. Worker termites tend to be cream colored and wingless, while soldier termites tend to have a large brown head with large wingless cream-colored bodies. Swarmer termites are typically a little bit easier to spot, as they are black in color and have two wings.

Termites are especially drawn to any structure that is composed of wooden or cellulose-based materials, such as your floors and wood trims, decks and fences, walls and ceilings, roofs and tiles, and foundations. Seeing swarming termites near your home or property is not a sure sign of infestation. Swarming is a sign that there is an established termite colony somewhere near your home, as queen termites and swarming termites will fly off in search of places to build a new colony. If you are seeing an increasing presence of termite swarmers, termite wings, termite frass (wood shavings or droppings), termite mud tubes, or damaged wood, it is likely that you have a termite infestation.

Carpenter Ants

Like termites, carpenter ants build colonies. The carpenter ant queen is in charge of the parent colony, and the worker ants will go forth and find new nesting sites, much like swarmer termites do. Carpenter ant colonies typically don’t grow as quickly or to the extent that termite colonies do, but they can still wreak havoc on your home and property. Carpenter ants have a “parent” colony and a “satellite” colony and establish communication and travel between the two by creating trails. Parent colonies are most often created within tree stumps, chopped down or rotting trees, sheds, homes, and commercial properties. Queen carpenter ants can range from 16 to 18 millimeters in length, where worker carpenter ants typically range from 6 to 13 millimeters in length. Carpenter ants are typically black in appearance, although they can also be red or brown in color.

One of the biggest difference between termites and carpenter ants is why they destroy wood. Carpenter ants do not actually eat wood; they excavate it in order to expand upon their own nests. Signs of carpenter ant infestation include the presence of frass, or the tiny shavings of wood produced when they excavate. In some cases, you may also hear carpenter ants in your walls as they excavate wood for their nests. If you are experiencing these signs of damage, it is likely that you have a carpenter ant infestation.

Wood-Boring Beetles

Wood-boring beetles can be identified by their long, narrow, flat bodies. These pests have six legs, grow to 1/32 to 1/4 inches in length, and are reddish brown to black in color. The way that their bodies are shaped allows them to easily attack and bore into wood surfaces, often turning them into masses of very fine powder-like material. Female beetles will lay eggs on hardwoods and rough wood surfaces. The larvae will then burrow into the wood, and then one to five years later, they will emerge from the infested wood. Wood-boring beetles can be difficult to spot as they spend most of their lives living inside of wood undetected. These pests are especially attracted to ash, oak, hickory, and walnut.

Because these beetles like to bore into wood, their destruction can be slightly easier to diagnose, as there will be small exit holes measuring from 1/4 to 3/8 inch in diameter where adult beetles have emerged from the wood. If you are seeing these exit holes, or very fine sawdust on or beneath wood and wooden objects or structures around your home or property, it is likely that you have a wood-boring beetle infestation.

Expert Exterminators in the Midwest

While termites, carpenter ants, and beetles can cause large amounts of damage to any type of home or property, don’t panic. Unsure of which type of pest is causing your infestation? Our licensed extermination specialists are trained and knowledgeable about the differences and similarities between these common pests, and can provide a pest management plan that will fit your needs, eliminate the problem, and keep your home protected.

<< Back to Termite Exterminator Services