Do termites look like roaches


Termites are very small and similar in size to ants, which often leads to confusion. There are also several different types of termites, which can make figuring out which control method to use challenging. In fact, knowing the key differences between ants and termites is a good starting point for identification. Knowing the types of termites you’re dealing with is the next key factor for professionals to determine.

Owing to their secretive nature, termites can be hard to detect, especially with an untrained eye. You are far more likely to spot the signs of termite damage before you spot termites themselves.

There are different types of termites, but there are some very destructive species that like warm, moist, areas. So, cities and areas like Miami, Atlanta, and Charleston can be affected by these species of termite.

As with any other pest, correct identification ensures the use of the most effective control methods and allows you to choose the most appropriate prevention steps to try and avoid problems in the future. You can discuss options such as chemical barriers or other methods to keep termites away.

Need help identifying termites? Call Ehrlich today at 1-800-837-5520 for advice and to schedule a FREE termite inspection of your home or business.

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What do termites look like?

Do termites really look like ants? Termite swarmers can look like flying ants, and they are often confused.

The difference between these two pests will greatly impact the type of service needed to control them in your property.

Often a suspected problem with termites, turns out to be a problem with carpenter ants or fire ants, because they look so similar.

Here’s how to establish the general differences in appearance and behavior between ants and termites:

Waist – Termites have a straight waist, while ants have a pinched waist.

Antennae – Termites have straight antennae while ants have bent antennae.

Wing Length – Termites wings are the same length while ants have wings of different length.

Look for discarded wings around window sills – Flying termites (also known as swarmers) are often confused with flying ants, because both their winged mating cycles occur during the springtime. However, flying ants do not shed their wings. If you have seen these flying insects in your property, you can be fairly certain you have identified termites if you’ve also found discarded wings.

Look for differences in body shape – The image below should help you identify important differences in body shape of termites and winged ants (termite is on the right, ant on the left):

Have you spotted termites in your home or workplace? As these insects are highly destructive, you should get professional advice and termite control from Ehrlich right away. Our termite control specialists know how to spot termite eggs, larvae and which types of termites might be causing the damage.

Why is identification so difficult?

Even armed with the above information, it may still be hard to make a correct identification using the naked eye. Bear in mind that termite swarmers are only about ¼ inch long – about the same size as a pencil eraser.

Identification is made even more difficult by the fact that termites often remain hidden away in properties for years without the owner’s knowledge. As already mentioned, the first indicator of a potential problem is usually visible evidence of termite damage.

Ehrlich’s termite species guide offers greater detail on what termites look like and how to recognize the common features between termite species.

What are the types of termites?

What kind of termites are you seeing in your home? Click here to find out.

Identifying termite species

All types of termites can cause damage to your home, but knowing a bit more about the different species of termites can help identify them more easily. Depending on where you are in the country can also determine the types of termites you may have to contend with.

The location of your property as well as its component structure will both have an impact on the termite species, which you may be at risk of.

Generally speaking, incidence of termite infestation is much higher in the southeastern states, such as Florida, and the west coast states, such as California, and gradually decreases the further north you travel in the country.

Here are some of the most common termite species found in the U.S. Subterranean termites are one of the most common species found throughout the U.S.

The top 3 most invasive species of this type, include the Eastern subterranean, Western subterranean and the Formosan subterranean termites.

Eastern subterranean termites are the most prevalent and can be found on the east coast in states like Georgia and as far west as Utah. Western subterranean termites are mostly found along the west coast and inland through to Nevada.

Formosan termites – are a particularly serious type of subterranean termite, but are not as common. Formosan subterranean termites are found primarily in Louisiana, Mississippi, along the Gulf coast.

Drywood termites – can also be found in the US, sometimes nearer to the coast although they don’t need moisture to survive. They are prevalent along the gulf coast as well as on the west coast in California.

Dampwood termites – live in damp and rotting wood and mulch, and can often be found near open water. They can enter your home through wood that meets damp soil.

Termites with wings

The primary function of termites with wings, or swarmers, is to reproduce and generate new colonies. They have two wing pairs, and the presence of these insects indoors signifies that a building is likely infested. Flying termites can commonly be found swarming around window sills or exterior lighting because light attracts them.

These insects will turn into the queens and kings of new colonies. Termites with wings depart from their nests and fly when the conditions are appropriate. The males and females will swarm together in the air. After they land, the swarmers will shed their wings, mate, and start new colonies.

Control and prevention of termites after identification

Once correct identification is made, the most effective solution plan can be offered to quickly bring the problem under control. Ehrlich offers conventional termite treatment which uses liquid termiticide treatment and other methods include the use of monitoring and baiting systems.

Identifying termites from their damage

At Ehrlich, we confirm the invading termite species through a visual identification rather than just looking at the evidence of the damage to your building and its location.

However, some of the points below could be of help to you, when checking your building for signs of activity:

Subterranean termites begin their feeding process (damage) from the ground up and typically enter a building through the sub-structure. Homes with crawl spaces are at great risk. It is here you should look for evidence of damaged wood and mud tubes. Wood damaged by this particular species develops “galleries” (hollow tunnels), which run along the grain of the wood.

Drywood termites typically enter structures near the roof line or other exposed wood to begin building a colony. Inspect your attic for evidence of damaged wood. Look for tiny holes in the wood with evidence of frass collecting nearby. Probing the wood can also expose galleries as well.

Having experienced a termite infestation, most people will be eager to ensure they do not have the same problem in the future. Ehrlich can give you simple steps you can take to “termite-proof” your home or business and the prevention plans can offer further help.

If you suspect you have termites, call us today at 1-800-837-5520 or contact us online to arrange a FREE termite inspection for your home or business.

Termites Are Moving in With Cockroaches, Taxonomically

The wood-munching critters are technically just social roaches

A new study confirms what bug haters and the Orkin man have always suspected: cockroaches and termites belong together. As Susan Milius at Science News reports, the Entomological Society of America (ESA) recently updated the termite’s taxonomy, merging the families of their order Isoptera with those of the cockroach order Blattodea.

As Milius reports, the change has been a long time coming. As far back as 1934 researchers noticed that the specialized microbes in the guts of termites are also present in the guts of some cockroaches. Decades later, DNA analysis suggested that termites belonged to a branch of the cockroach family tree. That was confirmed in a 2007 paper which suggested termites be lumped with the cockroaches near a group of roaches called Cryptocercus, which tunnel into wood.

The move is supported by a new study published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, which confirms the lineage and defines termites as “eusocial cockroaches.” As Coby Schal, entomologist at North Carolina State University, explains in a press release, extensive DNA sequencing suggests that termites split from cockroaches 150 million years ago, roughly 50 million years before highly social species like ants, bees and wasps. Unlike cockroaches, which are usually solitary creatures with an omnivorous diet, the termite evolved a highly stratified social structure, including a king and queen, workers and soldiers. It also evolved to subsist on one food: wood.

So why did it take 11 years for entomologists to officially make the switch? Whitney Cranshaw of Colorado State University, a member of the ESA’s naming committee says some people were resistant to the move. “Probably some of us, including myself, didn’t want to make the change because we liked it the way it was,” he says. However, he voted for the change in the end. “It’s what’s right,” he says.

Another sticking point was that 2007 paper, which suggested a complete overhaul of the family tree. “What ESA did is update the taxonomic position the right way, by merging Isoptera within Blattodea, but keeping the termites families intact,” Thomas Chouvenc, a entomologist at the University of Florida tells George Dvorsky at Gizmodo. “The initial 2007 [paper] wrongly suggested to downgrade all families in subfamilies, and place everything into a new ‘termitidae’ family—despite the existence of an already existing Termitidae—which would have resulted in more confusion than anything else. Because of this confusion, it took so long.”

So do we now have to start referring to termites as cockroaches? Milius says not to worry, termites will keep their common names. “Technically all termites are ‘wood feeding eusocial roaches,’ but not all cockroaches are termites,” Chouvenc says. “If you have a termite infestation in your house, but the pest control company comes and says ‘you have cockroaches in your house,’ how confusing would this be? For common use, termite will remain termite.”

Cockroaches will still be referred to by their common names as well, which are too foul to publish.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

Termites Are Actually Social Cockroaches

Termites may look like white ants, but new genetic research confirms they are really a social kind of cockroach.

Given how relatively solitary regular cockroaches are compared with termites and their complex societies, researchers note these findings could shed light on how social behaviors develop in all insects.

Researchers added that the cockroach penchant for coprophagy, or eating feces, could very well have led termites to evolve in the first place.

Scientists had long known that cockroaches and termites were related to each other and to praying mantises. Features they all share include specialized cases that enclose their eggs and perforations in the internal parts of their heads.

What researchers have debated for decades is whether or not termites evolved from cockroaches. Evidence suggesting this possibility included symbiotic microbes that certain termites and wood roaches had in common, as well as physical similarities between their young.

After conducting the most exhaustive genetic analyses yet into the subject, studying 107 different species of termites, cockroaches and mantises from across the globe, entomologist Paul Eggleton at the Natural History Museum in London and his colleagues now conclude termites are indeed a family of cockroaches, findings detailed online April 5 in the journal Biology Letters.

“This finally establishes where termites belong within the insects,” Eggleton told LiveScience.

At first these results might appear unlikely, given the extraordinary differences in behavior and diet between these insects. Although cockroaches are somewhat convivial, they cannot hold a candle to the astonishingly complex societies termites can form, with colonies including up to millions of insects specialized into workers, soldiers, kings and queens. And termites are renowned for eating dead wood, while cockroaches are well-known coprophages, or feces-eaters.

Eggleton and his colleagues note, however, that ants and bees, which are likewise social, evolved from solitary wasps. They added that cockroach traits such as their gregariousness and their coprophagy might have set the stage for the evolution of termites.

When termite ancestors devoured each other’s droppings, they could have shared the microbes that eventually led to a key termite feature, the ability to break down wood. Ensuring such wood-digesting microbes get passed on to offspring requires a close relationship between parents and their young, laying the groundwork for “their whole complex social system to have evolved,” Eggleton said.


For a homeowner, knowing the basics of termite identification can mean the difference between stopping an infestation early or having to make expensive repairs.

So what does a termite look like? Where do they live? How can you tell if you have termites? Here are some quick tips to help identify whether or not you have a termite on your hands.

Termites range in size from one-eighth of an inch to one inch long. They can vary in shades of white, brown and black, depending on their type and age.

Termites are sometimes confused with flying ants because both have wings and antennae.

To differentiate the two, note that termites have two sets of equal-length wings on their bodies, three body segments (which are not as distinct as an ant’s) and straight antennae. Ants have two sets of wings that are different lengths, three distinct body segments and bent antennae.


Most common termites in the United States are the native subterranean termites. Other types found in the United States are drywood termites and Formosan termites, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Termites live in colonies, which take time to form and grow, according to the State University Extension.

Termites like moist areas, with high humidity.

Termites eat cellulose, which is found in plants and trees. This is why the structural lumber of your house is the main reason termites enter. They’ll also eat or chew through other building materials in the process of foraging, such as insulation, plastics, fabrics and carpet (not to mention your furniture).


Termites are bad news for your home no matter what type. Learn the differences between the species, and you can do everything in your power to prevent these invaders from taking a bite out of your investment. Here’s a drywood termites vs. subterranean termites checklist to help you identify the enemy:


Winged termites are called alates. Subterranean alates have one single thick, dark vein that runs parallel to the top of the wing. Drywood termites have a complex system of veins, usually at least three or four in each wing. Most termites shed their wings within minutes of landing. This is often the only evidence they leave behind.


An important difference between the two is that subterranean termites nest in the ground, while drywood termites nest inside the wood they are infesting. This leads to varying points of attack on your property. Subterranean termites make mud tubes to tunnel through the ground and invade your home. These tubes protect them from predators and dehydration. Drywood termites don’t dig mud tubes, needing zero contact with soil. They infest your home by air and require less moisture (which is why they don’t need soil or the mud tubes).


Excrement is one of the most common secondary signs of any pest infestation. Each species of termite has different eating and traveling habits, which you can detect in the ‟land mines” they leave behind on the battlefield. Subterranean termites leave behind a non-ridged, cardboard-like excrement called a ‟carton,” which is used as lining in mud tubes. Drywood termites create ‟kick-out” holes to push their excrement through the wood. This leads to their distinctive six-sided ‟frass,” which resembles fine grains of sand or salt and pepper gathering in small piles on the floor.


Subterranean termites are voracious feeders but they are somewhat picky. They only chew on the softest part of the wood found between the grains. Drywood termites eat across the grains, leaving galleries that don’t follow the grain of the wood. If you have neat, lined patterns of destruction that appears to include mud or dirt, subterranean termites are likely the culprit. Erratic, smooth galleries that contain fecal pellets, are likely the work of an army of drywood termites.

In the end, this conflict won’t really come down to subterranean termites vs. drywood termites. It boils down to termites vs. your home and the relentlessness of your counterattack. Unfortunately, that’s not a battle you’ll ever win on your own. Call Terminix® and make sure your home doesn’t become just another casualty in the war against termites.


Soft or hollow-sounding wood

Mud tubes with white, squishy insects inside them or swarms of flying termites

Don’t struggle with termite identification. Call Terminix® today and schedule a free home inspection. When it comes to your home, you want to be sure.

What Do Termites Look Like?

There are over 40 species of termites in the United States alone. Although they have distinct characteristics, most look similar.

  • Size & Length: they typically measure between 1/4 and 1/2 of an inch long.
  • Body: The pests have soft bodies and straight antennae.
  • Color: Colors range from white to light brown in color. Worker termites often appear lighter, while swarming termites are darker.

Differences in Species

There are variations in size and color between termite species. For example, western subterranean termite soldiers have yellowish heads, while western drywood termite soldiers have reddish brown heads. Dampwood and drywood termites tend to be larger than subterranean termites.

Differences in Castes

Termites have three different castes, each of which performs different roles within the colony. Each caste has unique physical features to help it fulfill its role in the colony.

Even within the same species, termites that belong to different castes can look very different.

Workers Worker termites tend to be lighter in color. Workers are the smallest of the castes. In general, workers and nymphs are soft-bodied and look like larvae.

Soldiers tend to have worker-like bodies, but with hard heads that are often dark in color and have large jaws. Soldier termites have soft bodies with hard, enlarged heads and large jaws (mandibles) that help them protect the colony. Fully mature, reproductive termites have wings and hard bodies that prepare them for leaving the nest to start new colonies.

Alates Or Flying Termites
Alates (swarmers) have wings and hard exoskeletons that may be very dark in color. Additionally, flying and swarming termites can be recognized by their prominent wings. Flying termites have two sets of wings of equal length, and these wings are almost twice the size of the termite’s body. Termite swarmers appear to have two body segments with a straight abdomen, and straight antennae.

Subterranean Worker and Soldier

Termite Look Alikes
Some homeowners may confuse flying ants and flying termites. Pest control experts are trained to distinguish between these two insects based on differences in their appearance.

Can You See Termites with the Human Eye?
While the pests are small, termites are visible with the human eye. Winged termites, or swarmers, are somewhat larger than workers and can be more easily spotted. This is helpful since homeowners are most likely to encounter swarmers, which take flight during mating season to look for new nesting sites.

Identifying Termites by their Habitats

Knowing where termites live helps homeowners identify infestations.

Dampwood termites, for example, are found in areas with moist climates; however, these termites can be found in areas of the home where water leaks occur. They typically set up colonies in damp basements or bathrooms.

Nevada Dampwood Soldier

On the other hand, drywood termites are found in dry environments of the coastal, southeastern and southwestern portions of the U.S. Drywood termites typically live in undamaged, dry wood of houses and apartments.

Drywood Termite Worker

Identifying Damage

Since the pests eat cellulose found in wood, termites destroy, walls, furniture, and other wooden materials in homes. The damage they do may appear in the form of sagging floors and ceilings or infested wood might look water damaged. Additionally, homeowners may find piles of sawdust, mud tubes or the shed wings of swarmers.

Professional Identification

While you should regularly monitor for pest activity, you should contact a trained professional for termite identification, prevention and treatment. Pest control experts can distinguish between termites and other insects, and identify termites by species to make sure prevention and treatment techniques target that specific species- unique behavior.

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