Bugs that look like termites

Bugs that look like Termites – Identification and Damage

Carpenter ants, carpenter bees and Powderpost beetles are bugs that look like termites. So, don’t think that every brown color bug with waxy wings is a termite. Most people are unable to distinguish between termites and many other similar-looking bugs. This lack of awareness results in termite infestations growing to enormous levels at home or on your property. To help you avoid expensive pest control, here are some ways you can identify termites and other pests, along with the ways they can cause damage to your property. 

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How to identify Termites?

There are three main types of termites you will come across, which are:

  • Drywood termites
  • Dampwood termites
  • Subterranean termites

Termites are identifiable by their broad waist. This broad waist makes their body look segmented into two, when in reality termite bodies have three different segments. Termites also have straight antennae where most other bugs have bent antennae. Termites have four separate wings that are almost double the size of their body. Normally, termites are black or brown in color while some species of termites can also be white or reddish. 

Damage caused by Termites

The most obvious sign of termite damage you will see is damage to wood. The extent of damage depends on the type of termite. Besides this, you will often find piles of dry feces (fecal pellets) around the area of infestation. 

Moist wood and poor drainage can attract termites. Termite infestations also occur due to excessive condensation issues or unchecked plumbing leaks. 

Majority of homeowners fail to recognize signs of termite infestation until the damage becomes too extensive. Most of the structural damage to wood is already done by this time. Hence, the price of removing the termite infestation and repairing the damage will be higher.

How to identify Carpenter Ants?

Flying ants are often mistaken for termites, especially carpenter ants. Termites and carpenter ants look extremely similar in size and shape and both live in large groups. You should remember that while black carpenter ants live throughout the eastern US coastline, termites are found everywhere except in Alaska. 

Carpenter ants are identified by their narrow waist and tri-segmented body. You can compare carpenter ants with wasps as they look quite similar, except for the smaller size of the former. These ants have two equal-length wings in the front too. The back wings of carpenter ants are smaller but not larger than its body size. Carpenter ants are also similar in color to termites, as they are black, brown or reddish. The antennae of carpenter ants are bent in the middle while termites have straight antennae. 

Damage caused by Carpenter Ants

Similar to termites, carpenter ants also damage wood. However, the signs of damage by both are different. Carpenter ants usually create cone-like piles of frass (shredded wood debris) outside their nest. As they continue to excavate the tunnel in the wooden structure, the carpenter ant keeps pushing the frass out of their hole. 

Drywood termites use what are called as “kick holes” to dispose of dry fecal pellets. These fecal pellets get collected within their burrows and outside an infested area, making them one of the most prominent signs of drywood termite infestation. These holes can be quite difficult and expensive to repair. Apart from this, mud-tubes are another sign of termite infestation, as unlike carpenter ants, subterranean termites create tunnels in the mud that connects them from the soil to the wood they feed on. 

On the other hand, carpenter ants tunnels are smooth with clean inner surfaces which look almost sanded. Carpenter ants can enter your home through small crevices and cracks, such as near windows and doors, and even the flooring. These ants build their nest by tunneling into moist, soggy wood. You may also find carpenter ant infestation in areas with insulation. 

Carpenter ants can cause large-scale damage to wooden structures as they build huge colonies. They have powerful jaws that can give quite a painful bite. Some carpenter ants also spray a type of formic acid as defensive chemical into the wound, making it hurt even more. 

How to identify Carpenter Bees?

Unlike termites, carpenter bees are not swarm insects but independent. Each female carpenter bee has her own private nest inside a tunnel in wood. Though multiple carpenter bees can live in the same area, their wood tunnels are separate. 

Damage caused by Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees dig funnel-like holes which are usually half-inch in diameter. These bugs look extremely similar to termites and their tunnels are often mistaken for the “kick holes” created by drywood termites. However, termite holes are usually around 1 mm in diameter while carpenter bees create a bigger hole. 

You can identify a carpenter bee’s burrow by the piles of yellow sawdust material outside. While preparing the tunnel, female carpenter bees tend to push the chewed wood material out through the tunnel’s entrance. You can see this sawdust material as a dark yellow stain on the wood. You can find carpenter bee infestations in the southern and eastern parts of the United States, from Florida to Arizona and all the way to New York. 

How to identify Powderpost Beetles?

Powderpost beetles are a type of small wood-boring species of beetles. The Anobiid is the most common type of Powderpost beetle, often called as ‘furniture beetle’. You will usually find these bugs infesting in the southeastern and coastal states of the US, where temperature and humidity are higher. 

Damage caused by Powderpost Beetles

Similar to termites, Powderpost beetles also create tiny holes in the wooden surfaces in your home, or even in the woodpile near the shed. However, unlike termites, the Powderpost beetle will chew these holes to exit the next after building it. These holes are usually around 1/32 to 1/8 inch in diameter. 

These beetles chew wood into a fine powder which you may find streaming out from the holes, or collected below on the ground. A Powderpost beetle infestation tends to leave the lumber looking like shot-holes. These beetles are attracted to damp wood. Hence, you will usually find them infesting barns, basements, lumber stored outside or seasoned firewood. These beetles also infest furniture, flooring, wooden trim and picture frames. 


You should call in a professional, such as Eden, if you see damaged wood with lines of beetles, ants or termites infesting it. A professional exterminator can identify the pest, the extent of damage and suggest the most effective ways to get rid of the particular infestation. 

Enjoy a beautifully manicured lawn with our timely yard work services that care for your yard according to the season. Call us today!

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