Husker Hort

A Nebraska View of Horticulture

Ants or Termites?

Leave a comment

Spring is officially here. Trees are blooming, grass is greening up, and the insects are beginning to swarm. Ants will begin swarming…or wait are they termites? Knowing the difference between these insects can make a difference in whether you let them be or if you should be concerned.

Positive identification of the pest is crucial in knowing if control measures need to be taken. Both ants and termites can swarm outdoors in the spring; don’t automatically think when you see a swarm of insects that you have termites on your hands. There are a few distinguishing characteristics to help you quickly identify a swarm of ants from a swarm of termites. Ants have two pairs of wings. The front wing is slightly longer than the rear wing. When you look closely at the antenna, they will have ‘elbows’. Another characteristic to look for is the waist. Ants have a pinched waist between their second and third body segments. . Swarming ants can have wings to help them move the colony from place to place. Once they get to a location that they find suitable, they clip their wings off and look like ‘normal’ ants again.

Termites have a slightly different appearance. Termites also have two sets of wings, but both wings in the set are the same length and of equal size. The antenna of the termite is also slightly different than that of an ant. The antenna of a termite is straight, as opposed to elbowed like that of an ant. The waist of the termite is also different. Termites have a broad waist between their second and third body segments.

After properly identifying the pest, you can then select the control method. There are about a dozen ant species associated with homes in Nebraska. In the spring, ants often find their way into homes before food is available outdoors. Once an ant finds a suitable food source, it alerts all of its friends. It might make you feel good to kill the one scout ant, but there will be others. To get a good control of the ant population, you have to control the colony. There are three methods that you can use to control the colony. You can find the colony yourself and treat it. This approach may not be as easy as it sounds, especially if the colony is in the wall or under a concrete slab. Baits are another approach to treating for ants. Most of the ready-to-use baits work well on the sweet-loving ants, but some prefer protein. If the sweet-baits aren’t being eaten or don’t seem to be working, try a protein based bait. The last approach is to contact a licensed pest control company. They are able to apply a perimeter spray to help control the ants.

Termite control is a different story. A swarm of termites on the ground near the house doesn’t automatically mean you have a termite infestation, but it doesn’t hurt to have the home checked by a professional. The products that are on the market for termites should be applied by a licensed pest control operator.

I am sure you never thought you would have to look at the waist of an insect for proper identification, but you will be glad you did in the long run.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at elizabeth.killinger@unl.edu, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at https://huskerhort.wordpress.com/, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.

Advertisements

Author: Elizabeth Killinger

A Nebraska Extension Educator out of Hall County with a focus in horticulture and sustainable landscapes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s