What are white ants and do they exist, the very simple answer to this is no? So why do we use the term white ants?
The term white ants have been around for many years and it relates to termites, but termites are not ants.
Many pest control businesses started to advertise their business using the term white ants and that’s how it actually came about.
Ants and termites may look the same to the untrained eye because of the way they move around and look, but they are very different.
The only thing that ants and termites have in common is the fact that they are both social insects that live in colonies.
Termites are generally a pale brown colour and they have no constriction between their abdomen and thorax.
Termites have a cuticle that is very sensitive to desiccation so they need to stay in a moist environment.
Termite workers and soldiers are both blind and their antennae are beaded they are also sexless and wingless. The termite reproductives have two pairs of wings and a pair of compound eyes.
Ants can vary in colour this will depend on the species and they have a visible constriction between the abdomen and thorax.
The ant’s antennae can vary but they are more often than not elbowed. Ants also have two pairs of unequal wings. The forewing is larger than that of the hindwing.
Ants have one pair of compound eyes and the ant’s cuticle is not susceptible to desiccation, unlike the termites.
Ant nests are a humid environment but they are well adapted to outside environments also unlike termites.
Ants do not attack sound timber they are known for living in decayed timbers. They may excavate the timber for the colony to live in.
The workings inside an ant nest are clean and will be free of faecal marks that can be found inside termite workings.
So the term white ant is really incorrect you won’t hear an experienced termite inspector using the term white ant.
As mentioned earlier termites are definitely not ants but they have the potential to do a lot more damage than ants.
Ants are very much a social insect and this is evident when they are observed in and around their colony.
Most ants live in a permanent nest they may change their nest if the surrounding conditions change.
They have different roles within the colony much the same as termites do; the job of the worker ant is to forage for food.
Ants look for food by using well-defined trails and use pheromone scent markers to let the other ants know where it is.
They are either scavengers or predators the ones we see commonly around our house are more scavengers.
Some ants will attack and eat termites these would be classed as predators this would be the one-time ants come in handy.
Some ant species may bite or sting humans and apart from being a nuisance, they can also spread disease.
An ant can carry different disease organisms on their body or even in their digestive tract. This can cause dysentery and other pathogenic bacteria such as salmonella.
Because ants are often found in and around our kitchens the possibility of disease transmission to humans shouldn’t be counted out.
About Termites (White Ants)
Well, we all know that termites can eat our homes and can cost homeowners an absolute fortune in repairs.
But there is only a handful of white ants Oops! termite species that are of any real concern to homeowners. A licensed termite expert would be able to identify any threats around homes during an inspection.
Like ants, termites are social insects and live in colonies some of which can be small and some very big.
There are some 300 different species of termite in Australia and as mentioned earlier only a few will damage timber in service. Most termites are grass or debris feeders and are of high importance to the well-being of the environment.
Termites have many different types of nests from a ground nest, arboreal mound or tree nest, Pole Nest or a Subterranean nest. The type of nest will depend on the species of termite.
Different species like Coptotermes or Schedorhinotermes build subterranean nests causing the most damage to homes.
Termites are always on the move looking for new food sources to feed their ever-growing colony. The search for food never stops and once a good food source is found the rest will come and harvest it.
Termites work so well together and each caste member has a role to play within the colony. Termites are one of the most successful insects on the planet and that’s because of the way they work together.
Because of the destruction that termites can do to a building, it’s important to have a 12-month termite inspection done.
All homes should also have a full termite barrier installed around them to help keep out termites.
The one thing from reading this blog that you now know is that termites are not white ants. The term white ants are used by people with little experience with termites.
But after all, whether you call them termites or white ants they will eat your home if it’s not protected.
I have inspected plenty of homes and installed many termite barrier systems and seen homes with major termite damage. The one thing that could have saved most of them is a regular 12-month termite inspection.