You may have heard that ants will kill and eat any termites in your yard or house, taking care of a termite problem before you have to. But this isn’t true:
Ants do eat termites. In the wild, they attack termite nests for food. But in urban areas, like your backyard and home, ants might only eat some termites when they can get to them or when there’s competition for resources. Most of the time, ants and termites live near to each other in peace.
Ants don’t look for termites and they aren’t a sign that you have termites. But if ants and termites both happen to be in the area, then they tend to carry on with business as usual. Understanding why this is so and how to tell the difference between these insects can help you identify what you have in your yard and how to get rid of the problem, the right way…
Ants and termites that live near each other (with videos)
In residential areas, ants and termites can live quite near to each other without a problem. Each one builds a nest for their own colony, and ants and termites will never live in a nest together. A colony carries on with their day-to-day work, without worrying about the other one’s colony.
Ants and termites don’t often come into direct contact with each other.
Termites are usually found underground or inside wood, such as in tree stumps or wooden houses. Ants often walk above ground or on wood, unless they are carpenter ants. Carpenter ants don’t eat wood but they do drill into wood to make a nest. If they find termites along the way, they might kill some if the termites are easy to catch.
Ants will most likely never kill off an entire termite colony in your yard or house for three main reasons:
- Ants collect only the food they need at that time because ants don’t store food. A termite colony can have half a million to one million termites in it, which is far too many termites for the average ant colony to kill off and feed to their young.
- A termite’s nest is hard to access. Some termites live in wood, where they are protected by the wood and mud tunnels they build on top of the wood. Other termites live in a large underground nest with tunnels. Ants struggle to move around the nest because the tunnels are much smaller than the tunnels in their own nests.
- Termites fight back: all termite nests are guarded by soldiers with big heads and strong jaws called mandibles. When ants attack or try to eat termites, the termites bite the ants. And because there are so many termites, the termites often win the battle and the ants give up and run away.
The following video from The Termite Trackers shows ants and termites on top of and inside a piece of wood. When the termite nest is broken by the pest controller, the ants and termites simply try to restore order, and the termites work hard to close the nest again.
There is, of course, always one who doesn’t play along, and you’ll see one ant who has it in for a poor termite for some reason…
In the wild, it’s a different story.
When scout ants discover a termite’s nest knowing that they can eat the termites inside, thousands of ants will raid the nest and attack the termites. But do the ants or the termites win?
Here’s a video from the BBC showing an ant attack on a termite’s nest and how it all ends…
Termites vs ants: How to tell the difference
Termites are often called “white ants”, but they aren’t ants at all. Ants and termites are completely different species. Because there are so many kinds of ants and so many different termites, it’s impossible to compare each species here.
If you think you might have ants and/or termites in your yard, or you don’t know how to tell the difference between them, here are the four basic things to look at:
An ant’s antennae bend at a 90-degree angle in the middle.
A termite’s antennae are straight, but they may sag or hang down toward the ground. The antennae are made of small beads.
Both swarming ants and swarming termites have two sets of wings.
A flying ant’s wings are different lengths, with the front wings longer than the back wings.
A flying termite’s front and back wings are about the same length.
An ant has a very small pinched waist.
A termite has a thicker waist, and a more rectangular body shape.
Worker ants are usually red or a dark color for sun protection, and you will often see them outside or in your house looking for food.
Termite workers are usually white (where the name “white ants” comes from), light, or transparent, and they stay hidden in their nest as much as possible.
What kinds of ants eat termites?
When it comes to your yard and home, there are three types of ants that eat termites:
- Red ants
- Black ants
- Carpenter ants
When red, black, or carpenter ants come across termites and the ants are looking for something to feed their young, they are more likely to take termites back to their nest as food.
What else eats termites?
Here is a list of things that eat termites, making them termites’ natural predators:
- Amphibians, such as frogs and toads
- Birds, such as woodpeckers and ant-eating chats
- Insects, such as assassin bugs, ground beetles, dragon flies, and praying mantis
- Reptiles, such as lizards
- Spiders, including a group called the “termite hunters”
- Underground mammals, such as moles and shrews
- Wasps (click here for the lowdown on what pests wasps eat)
How to get rid of ants and termites in your yard
Because ants and termites are different insects, it usually takes different methods to get rid of each one.
Below are some highly recommended products that are all available on Amazon to try. Please follow the instructions carefully, and if none of these methods work, you may need to call in a professional.
How to get rid of ants
If you want to get rid of ants, here are some of the best products on the market:
- Place liquid ant baits wherever you see ants and around the ants’ nest. Over time, the ants carry the poison into their nest, eat it, and the colony dies off. Be sure to keep these baits away from children and curious pets
- Indoor and perimeter bug barrier spray for protection of up to one year
- A shaker bag granule spreader for your yard (not indoors) that kills ants and other bugs within 24 hours
How to get rid of termites
If you want to get rid of termites yourself, you have a few options to try:
- Termite stakes and baits that you place in the ground
- Soil-applied barrier treatments, such as these Termite Killer granules
- Applying borate to wood that’s infested with termites or may become infested
How to get rid of termites and carpenter ants
There are some products on the market that kill both termites and carpenter ants in wood, such as
- A 5-year barrier spray for lawns, plants, trees, and building surfaces
- Terro spray cans, which penetrate crevices and hard-to-reach places, killing termites and carpenter ants for up to 30 days
- An outdoor and indoor spray that kills carpenter ants, termites, and 90+ insects on contact