10 Common Termites That Look Like Ants

Termites are some of the most troublesome insects to find in your home. By the time you find them, they can create considerable wood damage.

Ants aren’t s problematic to your home’s structural integrity which makes them less of a threat, but still a possible pest. Telling apart ants from termites is crucial.

Dampwood and drywood termites look like ants the most. They have a brown body that measures up to 9.5 inches and can be easily confused with ants. Subterranean termites come in lighter colors, not specific to ants.

Identifying termites

Termites are generally the same size as ants. But they can grow larger. Termites can also come in a cream or white color.

  • Size

Termites grow up to 0.5 inches. Ants can grow up to 1 inch. In general, ants are about the same size as termites.

  • Shape

The easiest way to tell termites apart from ants is by their body shape. Termites have a wide waist while ants have a narrow sculpted waist.

  • Antennae

Ants have bent antennae while termites have short straight antennae.

  • Color

Ants are black, brown, or dark red. Termites are white, transparent, dark brown, or black. Dampwood and drywood termites have brown colors that resemble the brown colors of ants.

  • Habitat

Ants come out in the open while termites prefer to hide. Ants aren’t as secretive as termites as they come out in the open even during daylight.

Wester Drywood Termite

1.     Western Drywood Termite (Incisitermes minor)

Western Drywood Termites live across Southern states such as Florida, Texas, and California.

As with ants, Western Drywood Termites also come in different casts.

Their swarmer casts have brown and orange heads and a dark brown body.

The wings of the Western Drywood Termites are also dark brown.

Growing to a maximum size of 12.5mm, these types of termites are among those similar in size to ants.

This species is dominated by a king and queen that lay eggs in the spring or the fall, depending on their region.

Even the king and the queen of the species resemble ants.

The queen has a light brown head and a dark brown body while the king has a brown head and a dark brown to the black body.

The time of the year when you see these termites can also establish their identity as opposed to ants.

Western Drywood Termites are active and swarm through the year in Florida, except in December.

They are known to swarm from September to November elsewhere.

These termites may swarm earlier in desert climates. You can see them swarming in daylight from April in desert climates.

Kalotermitidae Termite

2.     Southern Drywood Termite (Kalotermes approximates)

Southern Drywood Termites live in Southeastern habitats such as those in Florida and Georgia.

These termites are adapted to both tropical and temperate climates which means they could move out of Florida during the summer.

Southern Drywood Termites come both winged and wingless.

This species of termite has a size that varies from 7 to 10mm, being easily confused with flying or wingless ants.

Termites of this genus with wings have very long wings that can measure twice the size of their body.

The wings are always dark brown while the body of the termites is either red-brown or brown.

One characteristic that can help specifically identify these termites is their habitat.

Southern Drywood Termites only choose one piece of wood for nesting, eating, and living.

Drywood termite

3.     Desert Drywood Termite (Marginitermes hubbardi)

Desert Drywood Termites can be confused with yellow ants such as Crazy ants in their alate-winged stage.

These termites then become light brown as they end up swarming.

You can find these ants in all types of riparian zones or dense vegetation zones next to water sources.

They can also invade homes causing structural wood damage.

These termites are most common in suburbia where homes are close to the water and their natural habitat.

Most common in Southwestern US states such as California and Arizona, these termites are known for preferring arid areas but they can nest inside homes as well.

Florida Dampwood Termite

4.     Florida Dampwood Termites (Neotermes castaneus)

Florida Dampwood Termites are among the most common termites that can be taken for ants in all of their casts.

The larvae of Florida Dampwood Termites have brown and white coloring.

Alate termites have a dark brown color with long dark brown wings.

Even soldiers of the species can be confused with ants. Florida Dampwood Solider Termites have a light brown head and a dark brown body.

The body is wide without a narrow sculpted waist, as with all termites as opposed to ants.

Dampwood Termite

5.     Desert Dampwood Termite (Kalotermitidae sp)

Desert Dampwood Termites are among the most common species of termites in California, Texas, and Arizona.

These termites aren’t seen as big of a threat or as a considerable pest as other termites as they mostly live underground, outdoors.

These termites feed on the root of various trees. They are also known to be feeding on surface-level damp wood.

On occasion, they might migrate toward nearby homes. Their impact on homes is reduced compared to other termites.

Desert Dampwood Termites have dark brown bodies. The worker cast of the species does all the work and is likely to be seen outside looking for food. Worker Desert Dampwood Termites have bright spots on the abdomen.

Nevada Dampwood Termite

6.     Nevada Dampwood Termite (Zootermopsis nevadensis)

Nevada Dampwood Termites are light brown or dark brown. These termites are common across California, but only at high elevations.

Nevada Dampwood Termites live in damp conditions across woodlands located at altitudes of up to 9.000 feet.

This makes the termites a lesser threat to homes and a species that may only be confused with ants when out camping or hiking.

Pacific Dampwood Termite

7.     Pacific Dampwood Termite (Zootermopsis nevadensis)

Pacific Dampwood Termites are light brown with dark brown wings. Once they lose the wings, they become mostly light brown.

This species is native to the United States with a numerous presence in California, Washington, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, and Northwestern Canada.       

Adapted to humid conditions, the Pacific Dampwood Termite lives in dampwood. It affects homes to a lesser extent compared to drywood termites.

Like other termites, Pacific Dampwood Termites also live in colonies.

Dark Southeastern Subterranean Termite Alate

8.     Dark Southeastern Subterranean Termite Alate (Reticlitermes virginicus)

Native to Southeastern US territories, the Dark Southeastern Subterranean Termite Alate class has a dark brown to the black body.

Its size is comparable to the size of ants as no Dark Southeastern Subterranean Termite Alate is larger than 9.5mm.

Only present in a small area of the US, this type of termite rarely goes for hardwoods as it prefers softer wood fibers. The termite doesn’t cause any damage to hardwood materials in good health.

Dark Southeastern Subterranean Termite Alates don’t cause any direct damage over short periods.

It takes at least a few years for these termites to form their colonies, just as with many other termite species.

Once the colony is formed, these termites can begin swarming.

Since they live in Southern US, these termites begin swarming sooner than June.

Arid Land Subterranean Termite

9.     Arid Land Subterranean Termites (Reticulitermes tibialis)

These termites have a dark brown to black color. The species has the widest US distribution of all Reticulitermes termites.

It lives in multiple Western territories, including those at high altitudes.

The habitat of the species spread to the central parts of the country.

Present both West and East of The Rocky Mountains, this species has one of the least impactful natures in the world of widespread termites as it doesn’t live in populated areas.

These termites live in the ground in woodlands where they slowly construct their social nest over a few years.

Termites of this genus are known to be present at elevations of up to 6-.7.000 feet.

Harvester Termite

10. Harvester Termites (Hodotermes mossambicus)

Not all termites live in North America and not all termites eat wood.

Harvester termites live across certain regions of Southern and Eastern Africa.

This species feeds on multiple types of dying grasses with no direct impact on human settlements.

The sole impact of this Harvester Termite is its grass-depletion effect in areas of the world where grasses might be rare due to droughts.

This species has a dark brown body. Its head is very large in proportion to its body.

Some workers of this species have a dark brown to the black head and a light brown body.

Like all termites, Harvester Termites also have straight antennae, unlike ants.

Summary

Termites look like ants in size, color, and movement patterns. They are different species of insects, however.

All termites have a wider body or mid-section about ants which makes them look different.

As seen from the species above, termites are also known for having different eating habits.