Carpenter Ants 

 

Carpenter Ant Characteristics

Size

Carpenter ants come in a wide variety of sizes. Many carpenter ant colonies can have a combination of large and small carpenter ants. However, carpenter ants are some of the largest ants that you'll find - measuring up to five eighths of an inch long. That's about the width of a finger tip.

Color

Depending on the species, carpenter ant color varies from:

  1. Black
  2. Brown and black
  3. Red and black
  4. Light brown

What Attracts Carpenter Ants in a Home?

Like most pests, carpenter ants are attracted to your home because that is where they can find the food and shelter they need to survive. It's important to note here that carpenter ants don't eat wood - they nest in it.

  1. Carpenter ants feed on a wide variety of food, especially other insects. They also enjoy the honeydew produced by plant-feeding insects, such as aphids, scales and mealybugs.
  2. Damp wood or pools of water from leaks can provide carpenter ants the damaged wood that they like to nest in.
  3. Carpenter ants like to tunnel through soft and water-damaged wood to build their nests.
  4. Carpenter ants that you spot inside your home may be nesting inside a satellite colony and are foraging for food. Other carpenter ants may be nesting outside in the main colony and are foraging inside your home for food. The main colony must have a constant source of moisture to survive, so it's usually located in damaged wood outside. This includes dead limbs, tree holes, stumps, landscape timbers and more.

The satellite colonies may be located in any suitable void, such as hollow doors, curtain rods or shower rods. Or they may be located under attic insulation.

These ants set up trails between the main colony and satellite colonies, and between different satellite colonies. Foraging ants can most easily be seen along these trails at night when the ants are most active. Sometimes, the trails occur beneath the ground following tree roots.

Carpenter ants are also nocturnal, so homeowners are more likely to spot them at night.

These tips will help you prevent or limit a carpenter ant infestation inside your home:

  1. Store any firewood away from your home and remove any dead wood or wood scraps from around the foundation. Terminix recommends burning or getting rid of firewood within 2 years to keep carpenter ants from infesting.
  2. Trim dead limbs from trees away from your home and remove stumps. Rid your yard of these potential nesting sites. This also helps with any moisture issues attracting the carpenter ants to your home because it allows sunlight to get through to wet areas around your home's foundation.
  3. Make sure that all plumbing or roof leaks are sealed, and check crawl spaces for excess moisture.
  4. Direct water from your gutters away from your home structure, and ensure it's not allowed to accumulate close to the foundation.

Are Carpenter Ants Bad?

Though carpenter ants don't eat wood like termites, they do tunnel into the wood in your home to build their nests. As these ant colonies grow, this wood tunneling can grow and cause damage to the structure of your home. And because carpenter ants like to nest in water-damaged wood, their presence can be a sign of a larger water issue that you should have checked out.

Not only can carpenter ants cause damage to your wood structure, but if you find them inside your home, their presence may indicate a water leak. Or they can be associated with an overly wet, poorly-ventilated crawl space or attic.

When Should I Worry About Carpenter Ants?

As soon as you notice or suspect any carpenter ants in your home, you should contact a pest control professional immediately. That's because like termite infestations, carpenter ant infestations can often go undetected for a long time, and most of the damage they can cause isn't visible on the surface. And by the time you notice the signs, extensive damage may already be done.

Visible signs of a carpenter ant infestation in your home include spotting actual carpenter ants or piles of wood shavings (also referred to as "frass") in the areas they've been tunneling. If it's carpenter ant damage, then you're going to have tiny insect parts in that frass.

In the spring, mature carpenter ant colonies produce winged reproductive ants. These ants are commonly called "swarmers," or "flying ants," and they fly out to start new colonies. Flying ants will have their wings for a couple of weeks before shedding them when they start a new colony. When you see flying ants in your home, you should contact a pest control company to inspect and identify your issue.

How Do I Get Rid of Carpenter Ants?

Carpenter ants can be very difficult to control. Doing so requires certain skills, knowledge and experience. Carpenter ant control involves tracking down and treating as many satellite colonies as possible inside and outside of the home as well as attempting to find and treat the main colony.

Accessing the main colony may be difficult because it might be located high in a tree or on a neighboring property. In such cases, a pest control professional may use carpenter ant baits, but certain situations may warrant different treatment methods, and a professional will know the best method to use.

If you have moisture or damaged wood in or around your house, please call a pest control professional inspect your home for any potential carpenter ant activity.