Superficially, termites and maggots do have a number of physical similaritie. They can both be an off-white or yellow color and are roughly the same shape and size. Naturally, both of these pests are unwelcome in the home and it’s understandable to not want to get too close to them for a positive ID. Thankfully, you can make the distinction by observing other factors, such as habitat and behavior, from a more comfortable distance.
From a Distance
Without observing the creatures from close range, they will appear very similar. Many home owners with termite infestations believe they actually have a maggot infestation because of the physical similarities. However, adult termites typically reach a size of 3/8 inch, while most maggots grow slightly larger, around 1/2 inch in length.
Termite Larvae and Maggots
Termite larvae bear an even closer resemblance to maggots, although they are typically much smaller, at around 1/10 inch. The juvenile termite lacks the hard shell of the adult, but in all other aspects, closely resembles the adults. Maggots, however, look nothing like the adult flies that they’ll eventually become. They have no wings, legs and are a totally different color. So if you spot a group of small, tubular insects of varying sizes, it’s probably adult and juvenile termites. If the swarm is uniform in size, it’s more likely to be maggots.
Swarming is common to both termites and maggots. However, they swarm in different ways. Termites build nests or mounds and have an organized hierarchy therein. The nest contains different cells for workers, the queen and larvae. Termites typically remain hidden from view. Maggots swarm freely, gravitating toward food sources, such as rotting organic matter. It’s highly improbable that you’ll see a swarm of termites devouring a rotting piece of food. That’s classic maggot behavior.
Another key distinction is that the termite has wings. These are vestigial, though, and may not be apparent at first glance. Termites, even at the larval stage, have a distinct head, while the head of a maggot is practically indistinguishable from the rest of the body to the naked eye. The most reliable marker for distinguishing between termites and maggots is the presence of a mound. Only termites create mounds. If you’re willing to use a magnifying glass, you’ll see in great clarity how these two creatures are anatomically different. Termites have antennae, wings and legs; maggots do not.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.