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Difference Between Ants and Termites

Distinguishing Termites from Ants

With strong resemblance to ants, termites are the second most numerous insects in the world although their number has been declining due to environmental change and habitat loss. Most people mistake them as big ants and are being treated as such in exterminating them due to their destructive characteristics. However, despite of their strong physical similitude, termites are even more damaging to human properties than ants. They could consume anything with cellulose and sometimes, they do not go noticeable when they enter our walls or windows. They are harder to track than ants. They consume the inner part of the structures while the surfaces still look fine unless the damage is already extensive and irreparable. In order for us to apply necessary and appropriate precautions and eliminating procedures, we should be able to identify termites rightly as they are.

Just With the Naked Eye

Even without a microscope or any laboratory instruments, termites can easily be distinguished from ants by just looking closely at their body parts. Termites only have two visible body parts and those are the head and the body. Their eyes are more profoundly noticeable than those of the ants'. The ants, on the other hand, have three body parts and those are the head, the abdomen and the thorax which connects the head to the ant's abdomen. Thus, the bodies of the later insects are divided into two parts; the abdomen and the thorax. Some termites and ants are winged so they may look confusing as well. However, even this similarity also has distinct differences and these can be seen through their antennae. The antennae of ants have profound bend and ends with a club. The numbers of sections and the presence of the club are even important to those specialists who study and inspect these insects. Imaginably, it looks like an arm with a bended elbow that ends with a fist. The termite's antennae do not have this distinction. They are just fairly beaded.

With More Scrutiny

Other important physical characteristics that could easily be checked are the wings and the color. Both ants and termites have four wings, that is, two pairs of wings. The difference lies on the length of the wings but it needs to be looked on closely. When both of these insects are dead and just lying around with undistorted or damaged bodies, the wings are folded and they may appear identical in length. If you would spread them and notice that the wings have different lengths, that dead insect is an ant. The front wings of the ant are longer than the rear wings. When a live ant is at rest, the front wings are folded and the rear wings are not visible. The wings of the termites, however, are fairly of the same length. Moreover, termites only have two distinct colors and that would be pale brown and white while ants have more varied colors which include red, black and brown but the brown ants could not be mistaken for termites since they are remarkably smaller and distinctively ant-looking.

Diet Makes the Diff

When it comes to their diet, termites would consume anything which has cellulose while ants would just gobble on anything with enticing smell and taste. Termites feed on woods, soft plastics, fruits, leaves and animal wastes. With almost the same kind of appetite, ants do not eat woods and soft plastics but they feed on dead animals which termites do not since their diet extends to eating live smaller insects and fungi. The termites' bodies are capable of producing their own cellulose enzymes and these enzymes enable them to digest anything, hard or soft, with cellulose. They would even consume carpets, clothes, Styrofoam, papers and cardboards. This particular characteristic make them so destructive and loathed by home and other industrial building owners. In foraging food, termites end up destroying properties indiscriminately. In some places, the damages would even cost the owners thousands of dollars in repairing or even rebuilding the whole place. Worst case scenario, termites have just been reported having eaten ten million Indian rupees which would amount to $222,000 together with some documents and furniture which were also damaged.

Looking At Their Dwellings

Moreover, termites have a sophisticatedly ordered society like ants but they surpass them in having highly remarkable engineering capabilities and acute survival instincts which could be well demonstrated on how they defend their colony. The social system of termites is divided into three castes. The first and most valued in their settlement is the caste of the queen and the king. These two termites have a sole task of reproducing and increasing the population of the termites which is highly essential in their survival. The second caste is the group of workers. This classification is subdivided into smaller groups depending on the specific tasks of the aid termites. Most of them are assigned to forage for food, repair damages in the colony and feed the other termites by their mouth or anus that is why termites consume a lot when they eat. They consume as much as their bodies could hold so that they can sufficiently feed the other termites. Some of them, however, are assigned to take care of the young ones andthe eggs of the queen. Some are just assigned to assist the queen in everything that she needs since she could not freely move due t her increased size. The last group of workers is assigned to assist the last caste and this is composed of soldiers. Of all termites, soldiers are readily born and biologically structured for battles. They are usually blind and only very few of them are born with partly functional eyes. Their globular heads are large enough to block entries from invaders and below their cuticles lie a sack of fluids which they rupture when they commit suicide as their last resort to protect the colony.

How Two Species Differently Affect Human Lives

Since termites are very destructive insects, we tend to use different means to exterminate them but upon mistaking them as ants, we fail to do so. For this reason, it is highly important to take these laid out details into consideration first before planning out a strategy in dealing with them. In seeing some termites in your house, it must be taken seriously and unlike ants, we could not just spray insecticides on them and sweep them off the floor then, leave the matter just like that. If we see them, we need to have the whole house or building inspected for possible a possible colony hiding within our walls, windows, attics or even our floors before we end up losing our properties and spending a lot for repairs or rebuilding. It is remarkably helpful to know our enemies well before exterminating them because we might just end up losing.

Thanks for reading this awesome post written by,
Michael Rozatoru
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