Ants view the soft, fleshy bodies of termites as a tasty treat packed with protein. In large enough numbers, ants have even been known to obliterate termite colonies, making the use of harmful pesticides unnecessary. This is great news if you don't mind having a lot of ants around. Most people don't like any insects around, however, so they have exterminators deal with ants, termites and beetles. Others may not mind ants, but may confuse them with termites because of their similar anatomy and call the exterminator anyway.
Ants as Pest Control
If you discover termites in your home that happen to be living near an ant colony, there is certainly nothing wrong with letting nature take its course. It is important to understand, however, that ants may not be an effective substitute for alternative termite controls. Ants have long viewed termites as a food source, so termites have adapted to make themselves more difficult to eat. Some termite larvae become soldiers, growing large mandibles they use to fight off attacks from ants and other predators. These termites will fight to the death, willingly sacrificing themselves for the colony. Termites also build their colonies by creating small tubes and tunnels. These tubes are often too small for ants. While ants can seriously damage a termite colony, there is no guarantee that they will be able to completely eliminate the termites.
Anatomy of Termites and Ants
When attempting DIY pest control, it's important to know which insect you are dealing with. You may, for instance, find carpenter ants unpleasant, but termites are a much more serious problem. Flying ants and flying termites, referred to as "swarmers," look extremely similar. There are three clues that will help you tell them apart: Termites have four wings, all of which are the same length. Ants, too, have four wings, but the back wings are shorter than the front wings. Termites have straight bodies, while ants have a clear narrowing of the abdomen, much like a waistline. The antennae will also give termites away: Ants have bent, or elbowed, antennae, while termite antennae are straight.
In nature, ants and termites are often found living close to each other. Termites and carpenter ants both like wood, but for different reasons. Termites eat the wood, but carpenter ants do not. Instead, they burrow into wood to lay eggs. When the eggs hatch, the young ants will leave their wooden nest to create an ant colony and feed. Other ant species simply prefer to nest in rotting wood such as logs, telephone poles and landscaping timbers. Even though they live in some of the same places, termites are destructive, while ants are generally considered more of a nuisance.