The carpenter ant is a wood-destroying pest that can damage man-made structures, much in the same way termites do, except carpenter ants don't eat wood. Instead, they excavate it and push wood particles out of their tunnels. This fine sawdust is called frass. As we talk about hot spots for carpenter ants, we'll be discussing this frass quite a bit. Frass is one of the most important signs to look for to detect unwanted carpenter ant activity because these ants don't always leave noticeable damage for homeowners to see. Another important sign is the presence of the carpenter ants themselves. Unlike termites, carpenter ants can sometimes be seen crawling around in a location that is harboring a colony. So, let's start off with carpenter ant identification.
A carpenter ant will be dark red, black, or a combination of dark red and black. It will have six legs, three distinct body parts, and antennae, which look like handlebars--only those handlebars will appear backwards. Between its thorax and abdomen is a single node, but you might need to use some form of magnification to see it, depending on how good your eyesight is as it is quite small.
Carpenter ants of the worker caste are around ⅝ of an inch long, but may be smaller depending on the species. No matter what size they are, keep in mind that these ants are the largest ants you'll see in your home, by quite a margin. If you see an ant with a similar coloration that is less than ¼ of an inch, it is not a carpenter ant.
Before these ants damage your home, you're likely to see them in your yard. Knowing where they prefer to be can help you get a sense of what kind of carpenter ant pressures you're dealing with in your yard and around your home. And, if they are appearing around a shed, garage, fence, outbuilding, or some other exterior structure, it will be a warning sign of possible property damage. When carpenter ants infest, they chew galleries and tunnels in wood that can lead to structural issues and cascading damage. And, though carpenter ants prefer to chew on soft and decaying wood, they can damage sound hardwood as well.
Trees are a common home for these ants, especially trees that have holes, recesses, portions that are dying, or hollow areas inside. As a tree ages, there are many ways that it can be damaged, or grow in such a way that carpenter ants will want to use it as harborage. It may be a mechanical injury, stress, knots, disease, insect damage, etc. Old trees, which are in shaded or moist locations, are even more susceptible. Treating carpenter ants in a tree may not save the tree but it can help to protect nearby structures from being infested. This should be done by a professional. There are many suggestions on the internet for plugging or sealing tree cavities or for treating damaged trees with a sort of wound dressing, but these tips will not stop the decay or eliminate carpenter ant activity.
Carpenter ants prefer rotting logs, stumps, and tree limbs. If you have any of these near your home, it is important to pay close attention. Look for the presence of frass pouring out of a crack, or these large ants crawling around on the wood, especially at night. Consider having stumps removed and move all sources of rotting wood away from your home. This includes stacked firewood and construction materials near your outside walls.
An old fence is a potential carpenter ant harborage spot. These ants will get into any hole or cavity formed by drying and splitting. They can also get in at the base where the wood goes into the soil, especially if that soil stays damp for long periods of time. This can result in the damage of your fence and cause issues for your home if your fence is attached, as those carpenter ants aren't likely to stay in one location. They're known to create satellite colonies which consist of workers, mature larvae, and pupae. They'll build these satellite colonies near the parent colony. If carpenter ants are attacking your fence, you will most likely see damage around the base of your fence posts but, depending on the age of your fence, the damage could be anywhere. This damage will grow over time and can be made worse by other pests, such as woodpeckers looking for their favorite meal.
Since carpenter ants don't eat wood, you're likely to find these ants in gardens and ornamental landscaping. One of their favorite meals is honeydew and the aphids that create it. This makes them a benefit in the garden. But make sure your garden isn't close to your home or these ants could become very unbeneficial.
Carpenter ants prefer moist areas around a home because moist areas often have wet, rotting wood. If you have plants that get watered daily or shaded spots where rainwater moistens the soil for long periods of time, you may draw carpenter ants in. Search for frass coming out of foundation cracks or gaps in your exterior walls. Pay close attention to any areas that show signs of wood decay. Window and door frames are also a likely target for these ants as moisture often gets trapped in these areas.
If you have a deck, porch, patio, or exterior stairs, carpenter ants will likely attack these first because the wood of these structures are often less protected and often come into contact with the soil. The wood of a home is typically on top of a foundation, making it less likely to become moist and soft.
To get into homes, carpenter ants commonly come in through locations that have been damaged by moisture or other pests. If this is the case, there may be moisture in your wall voids, and carpenter ants may only be one of many issues you need to address. Finding of carpenter ant workers crawling around inside your home is a warning sign that should not be ignored. Contact a licensed pest control professional and get an inspection to safeguard your equity.
If carpenter ants find their way inside through a foundation crack, a hole in your outside walls, a gap under a door sweep, or some other entry point, they will look for locations within your home that have high humidity and moisture levels. Bathrooms are often the first places you'll see carpenter ants crawling around, especially if there are any plumbing leaks or moisture problems, which can cause wood rot.
Insulation in your attic or wall voids can also be a great harborage location for carpenter ants. The more your insulation feels like their natural habitat preference, the more likely it will be. They can create tunnels and galleries in spray foam insulation. Finding signs of this kind of infestation can be tricky. Look for frass, carpenter ant activity, or the presence of dead carpenter ants in spider webs. The webs created by spiders are natures sticky traps. They're helpful for assessing pest pressures.
Any location in your home where plumbing is moist with condensation or where slow leaks have formed will act as a carpenter ant magnet. This may be under a sink in the kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room. It may be visible pipes in your basement. It could be in the hollow space around a jetted tub or the floor void under a tub or shower. If you have a moisture problem, carpenter ants will love you for it.
Since carpenter ants are drawn to moist locations and rotting wood, their presence in a home should not be overlooked. It is important for the health of a home to have routine pest control inspections.
At Arrow Pest Control, we offer our Home Protection Plus plan to address the threat of carpenter ants in residential structures. This pest control program comes with one interior service per year and 2 exterior treatments, year-round pest protection, and free emergency service. You'll get surveillance and treatments for carpenter ants, pharaoh ants, acrobat ants, and several other household pests. Your home will be shielded from other destructive pests such as carpenter bees and subterranean termites (in supported communities within our coverage area). You'll have management of painful pests such as wasps and hornets. Your belongings will be protected from fabric & paper pests. And dangerous pests such as cockroaches, mice, rats, and fleas will be addressed. This program protects your home from more than 30 pests! When it comes to protecting your equity, your belongings, and your health, this package will give you the best bang for your buck.
Find out if you're in our New Jersey service area and request a free inspection right here. No home should be without a pest control plan. Pest control doesn't just make life more comfortable, it is essential protection. Get your protection in place today.
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