All About Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants belong to the formicidae family and the Camponotus genus. They are active indoors during most of the year. They are large in size and black or the combination of red and black in color. They are often mistaken as termites. However, they can be distinguished from termites by their larger size and the shape of the antennae.

Carpenter ants live as colonies and each colony contains a queen ant and thousands of worker ants. The length of the worker ant is normally 1/4 inch, and the queen ant is typically around  3/4 inch long. Generally, carpenter ant swarms emerge during spring. This is a sure sign that a colony is nesting somewhere inside the structure.

Carpenter ants normally feed on the honeydew from aphids, plant juices and other insects. They also hunt for water and food scraps within the home. The carpenter ants spoil wood by hollowing it out for the purpose of nesting. They dig out galleries in wood, which have a soft, sandpapered appearance.

Carpenter ants build two types of nests

  • Parent colony
  • Satellite colony

Parent colony contains an egg-laying queen, offspring and thousands of worker ants. Satellite colony has large numbers of worker ants, but it does not have a queen ant, eggs or young larvae. The parent nest is generally located outdoors in a landscape timber, tree stump or a woodpile, whereas satellite colony is hidden behind the wall in the kitchen or bathroom. The carpenter ants also construct their nests in man made wooden structures and telephone poles.

The life span of the carpenter ants is generally long. The population of the carpenter ant colony grows rapidly as long as the food supply is constant. The colony reaches its matured stage and becomes capable of producing young queens and males, when it contains 2000 or more workers. It normally takes three to six years for a colony to reach the matured stage.

Damage Caused By Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are found in many parts of the world and vary in size from quarter of an inch to an inch and they prefer to nest in dead or damp wood. These ants hollow out sections of the tree and build their nest. Black carpenter ant is the most likely specie to get infested in the United States. There are several thousand of other species in this category of ants. The carpenter ants reside both indoors and outdoors and they always look out for place, which is moist, decaying wood or hollow wood. They create passages within the wood from one section to another section and move from one place to the other. These ants leave sawdust behind and this indicates that it has decided on a nesting location. Moisture is the key factor for this ant to breed and managing this specie is very essential, as it would cause infrastructure damage to your wooden particles.

The hollowing out and creating nests within the wood are the major damage caused by carpenter ants. Unlike termites the carpenter ants damage done to wood does not leave back mud like debris. The nest of the carpenter ants gave a smooth sand paper like appearance. These ants establish colonies in a moist environment but would nest only in a dry wood. The areas which are exposed to moisture like the windows, chimneys, leaky roof, bathtubs and those exterior areas that have the contact with soil and are moist will be the prime breeding ground for the carpenter ants. The carpenter ants do not eat wood but they damage the wood by excavating galleries. They create this in the place they nest, lay eggs and breed their young ones. The carpenter ants do not derive any nutritional value from the woods like the other species, say for example termites. The carpenter ants would never damage new wood but they would only cause damage to wood that is moist.  

Carpenter ants do not always damage the wood; they need a secluded place, which has adequate warmth and humidity that would make them well protected from their predators. If they are able to find such a place, which is suitable to them, then they do not excavate at all, this place need be made of wood as long as it meets the criteria for them to breed. They also build their nest in non wooden items like metal frames of swings, metal fence posts, curtain rods and in garden hoses which has not been used for a long period of time. The damage caused due to carpenter ants could be very significant and at times be more than the damage caused by moisture.

The damage caused due to carpenter ants in the sill plates and band boards will have to be checked immediately otherwise the damage in such places would prove to be very costly since the structure of the house does sit on the top of the sill plate and it would be tough task to repair or replace the sill plate later once it is damaged beyond a certain limit.

The carpenter ant galleries are very smooth and this is one way of identifying damage caused by carpenter ants from damages caused by other insects. The carpenter ant galleries have windows by which these ants enter and exit the nest when foraging and this is the way through which they eject the debris. Many a times the damage caused inside the piece of wood would very extensive but the surface would appear intact, except for windows.

If the nests of the carpenter ants are intact for a long time, they can cause significant damage to the buildings. They can also cause widespread damage to foam insulation. The damage caused by the carpenter ants is generally not serious like the ones caused by termites.  The amount of damage caused by these ants to the home depends on how many nests are present within the structure and how long the nest has been active.

Eliminating Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are the most difficult pests to eradicate. It requires several treatments and takes a considerable time. The problem becomes more serious, if the homeowner sprays pesticides to kill the obvious evidence. This attempt may scatter the satellite nest, making it difficult to eliminate.

Some simple tips to prevent the carpenter ants:

  • The homeowner needs to locate all the satellite nests in his home first.
  • It is worth finding the queens and the mother nests.
  • He needs to take steps to eliminate the conditions that support the growth of the carpenter ants. He can correct the leaks in roof of the home and in the plumbing area, as this attracts the carpenter ants.
  • It is worth clipping back the tree limbs and the vegetation, which touches the roof.
  • It is advisable not to spray pesticides on the ants outside the nests. This may scatter the ants.
  • Homeowners can avoid squashing foraging ants. Instead, he can follow them back to the nests.

The best possible method of controlling the carpenter ants is to destroy their nests. These ants follow a unique scent trails between the satellite colonies and the parent colonies. The scent trails are their food store. The homeowner can locate this scent trail with a little effort.

Eliminating the carpenter ants completely:

The homeowner can locate the nest of the carpenter ants with the help of certain simple steps. The best time to locate the carpenter ants is late night, as these ants are active at this time.

  • The homeowner needs to take a blob of diluted honey in a small quantity and place it onto the nonsticky side of pieces of masking tape.
  • After the ants have been fed with the honey, he can follow them on their journey back to the nest.

Once the nest is discovered, the homeowner can drench the nest with an insecticide. If he finds it impossible to find and destroy the nest, the best alternative is to call a professional pest control operator.

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