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Is that an Ant Nest or Termite Mud Tube?

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 house pests which are detrimental to human homes.

We have consolidated some key differences between ants and termites for you:

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.


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.

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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.


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.

Read Also: Am I getting the right termite treatment for my home

Resolve your pest issues effectively with professional help

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 company in Singapore to help them solve the problem effectively.


Ants and Termites FAQ

How do I get rid of an ant nest?

There are a few natural and chemical methods helping you to get rid of an ant nest. These methods include pouring boiling water, using white vinegar and applying ant gel. However, natural methods take time to work and it may not completely get rid of an ant nest, as different species will react differently. Moreover, the presence of an ant nest indicates that an ant infestation is present and you may not have the right eradication methods to deal with such problem. As ant species can be confusing, it is best to call a professional pest control service who can identify the correct species and recommend treatments accordingly.

Can ants build a nest in your house?

Yes, they can. As ants are tiny and can squeeze into small spaces, they can easily build a nest in wall crevices. As long as there is a viable source of food and water nearby, they can live virtually anywhere. This is why it is important to maintain a level of hygiene and clean up food waste and water spills immediately to avoid attracting ants.

What is a termite tube?

As termites are extremely sensitive to sunlight, they construct tunnels out of mud with their saliva and droppings so that they can get to aboveground and obtain food sources before transporting them back to their members. Known as termite mud tubes, they help termites retain moisture and resemble long straight brown lines on sturdy structures like walls and trees.

How do you tell if termites are active in your house?

Termite tubes along walls are actually the clearest indication of a termite infestation. Other signs include:

  • Seeing flying termites (otherwise known as alates or swarmers)
  • Presence of discarded termite wings on floors and windowsills
  • Observing hollow-sounding walls or head banging noises
  • Appearance of cracked or damaged walls, frames and beams

The only way to control termites effectively is to engage the services of a pest control company, as it requires specific tools, active ingredients and application methods to administer a termite treatment.

What is the difference between ants and termites?

Ants have three distinct body parts while termites only have two. Firstly, termites have straight antenna while ants' antenna are bent ('elbow-shaped'). Secondly, both are flying species that have four wings each; however, termite wings are similar in size while for ants, their front wings are bigger than their back wings. Finally, as termites and ants have different pest control treatments, knowing these differences can ensure that you engage the right pest treatment.

Where do ants normally hide within the home?

Ants usually hide within the walls, near windows and under appliances. They also lurk within the cabinets, along table tops and floor crevices. The main thing is that they like to be near their food sources, which is why ants are often found in kitchens and dining rooms.

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