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Difference Between Ant Nests & Mud Tubes

Ants and termites have a lot in common: they both live in underground colonies or built inside trees, they create their homes, they’re natural enemies, and they’re both annoying house pests that destroy human homes.

While they have a lot in common, the way they invade homes and the amount of damage they do differ. While it is hard to determine if you’re dealing with an ant invasion or a termite invasion without professional help, below are some ways that will help you differentiate between an ant’s nest and a termite’s mud tube.

1. Appearance

One way to differentiate an ant’s nest and a termite’s mud tube is in the appearance: Ant nests look like a pile of mud called “anthill”, while a termite’s mud tunnel is a straight line that run along structures.

The presence of an anthill means that there is an ant colony directly underground, and a queen ant is nearby. To get rid of an ant infestation, pest control professionals often look for anthills or nests, since this will help them know the location of the queen ant.

In contrast, the presence of mud tubes will not directly lead you to the termite colony, since these mud tubes are used to transport food and resources from the surface to the subterranean termite colony deep underground.

This is one reason why doing a “spot treatment” on the mud tubes on the wall doesn’t result in the full eradication of the termite colony, and homeowners will experience recurring infestation on other parts of the home sooner or later. Proper termite treatment is needed to control and eradicate the root source of the colony underground.

Mud tubes come in various sizes and strength, depending on their usage.

2. Composition

Composition is also one way to differentiate termite mud tubes from ant nests. The mound on top of an ant’s nest is made of fine dirt or soil, while a termite’s mud tube is composed of dirt, saliva, and feces.

An anthill is often formed as a result of ants digging underground tunnels as they expand their colony. They get rid of the extra soil during the excavation by carrying and disposing the soil back to the entrance of the nest to keep the nest clean, causing the soil to pile up and form the anthill.

Anthills are soft and loose due to it being made of fine soil, sand, or clay; some may contain small rocks or sticks that ants use to help strengthen the hill from weather disturbances, but this is only for some species of ants.

This, however, is different from a termite’s mud tube since mud tubes are hard and compact. Mud tubes are formed by termites mixing dirt with their feces and saliva. It then becomes hard in the outside because of exposure to air, but remains moist enough inside for the termites to thrive.

Mud tubes help termites move around aboveground by locking in moisture, which is necessary for subterranean termites to survive. It also helps protect them from being detected by predators like ants, which is their natural enemy. Mud tubes can extend as high as 15 feet when built on walls.

3. Species

Knowing the difference between an ant’s nest and a termite’s mud tube is also important in determining the kind of house pests you are dealing with. And is a vital information that will greatly help pest-control specialists when they assess your home.

There are two types of termite species, and they behave differently from each other. Mud tubes are created by the subterranean termites who live deep underground; this is because subterranean termites cannot survive without a large amount of moisture in their surroundings, and mud tubes help them lock in the needed moisture. This is different from the drywood termite species, which normally nest in wooden furniture within the home and not underground.

For ants, the presence of an anthill might mean you’re dealing with a dangerous species of ants, like the fire ant, that will viciously sting anyone who disrupts their mound. It could also be a mound of carpenter ants that do considerable damage to home and structures. The difference in the structure of the mound will help you determine the type of ant you’re dealing with.

Given the similar nature of ants and termites as social insects, it’s hard to differentiate one from the other, especially to the untrained eye. But despite the similarities, the way they behave and build their colonies differ from one another. The solutions and recommendations to resolve the infestation would also differ. Knowing the difference will play to any homeowner’s advantage when they call their local pest control professional to help them solve the problem effectively.