There are few things as frustrating as finding out that insects have destroyed your home. A home investment is the biggest investment many families will make. The equity that is in your home may be a part of your retirement plan. While carpenter ants prefer to attack rotting wood, they can move from softwood to hardwood when they infest. Over time, this can cause serious damage by weakening wall supports. Each year, these destructive insects cause property owners here in the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars in repair costs. That is why it is so important to recognize the warning signs of a carpenter ant infestation.
First Sign Of Carpenter Ants
This may seem silly, but actually seeing carpenter ants is one of the first signs you'll have that your home is in danger. The problem is most people don't recognize carpenter ants when they seem them or, worse, they shrug them off as no big deal.
Carpenter Ant Identification
Workers carpenter ants are about 13 mm in length and may be reddish, black, or a mix of both. If you're able to magnify one of these ants, you'll see one node between its abdomen and thorax. That is the waist of the ant. If you look closely, you'll also see that their antennae look like inverted handlebars, as though you could stand in front of the ant and grab a hold of them like you would the handlebars of a motorcycle.
Location Location Location
It matters where you see a worker ant. If you're outside in your garden, and you are several feet from your home, it isn't a big deal to see a few carpenter ant workers around. In fact, those workers can actually be beneficial in your garden. They feed on plant-damaging pests such as aphids and scale insects. But, if you see a worker crawling around near your foundation or, worse, crawling around on a counter or floor inside your home, it is time to have a professional take a look. It might be nothing. But, if it is "something" you should definitely get on top of the problem as soon as you can. The appearance of carpenter ants should never be shrugged off.
Another way you may see carpenter ants is when a nest releases winged alates. These winged ants are male and female reproductives that are sent out to create new nests. An alate may be as large as 20 mm in length. That is quite a bit larger than a worker, and a lot more noticeable. But, once again, many people don't know when they're looking at a winged carpenter ant.
Winged Carpenter Ant Identification
This biggest thing to keep in mind when you're trying to identify a winged carpenter ant is that it is an ant. It has two sets of wings that have a cleft at the tips when stacked on their backs. This helps to distinguish carpenter ants from termites, which have wing tips that look rounded when stacked. Termites are also considerably smaller than carpenter ants.
Sometimes winged carpenter ants are mistaken for hornets or wasps. We can understand why you may not want to get close to figure out which one you have. If you are brave enough to get close, the handlebar antennae should give you confirmation that you have winged carpenter ants. Black colored wasps have antennae that have a slight curve, not an elbow bend. Their antenna also go out forward from the head and bend toward the tips. The antennae of winged carpenter ants go out to the sides, bend like an elbow and go forward.
If you see winged ants crawling around on the outside of your home, it is possible that those ants came from inside your home. Ant swarms don't last long, and winged ants don't travel far from the nest that gave birth to them. If you see them on the inside of your home, they definitely came from somewhere inside your home. Often, these ants are seen on window panes. This is because they are trying to get to the light outside.
Sign 1: Wings
During the mating process, winged ants shed their wings. Sometimes, these shed wings are the only sign a property owner gets that carpenter ants have invaded because swarms happen so quickly. If you notice several wings littered on a window sill, floor, or some other surface, reach out to a professional for an inspection. You may also see wings stuck in spiderwebs. Spiderwebs are nature's sticky traps. They're helpful for monitoring pest pressures around and inside your home.
Sign 2: Sawdust
When carpenter ants excavate their tunnels and galleries, they don't consume the wood the way termites do. They must push the sawdust out. This sawdust is called frass. You can find frass in many places both inside and outside of a home. Usually, it will be in secluded locations.
Frass is often overlooked because it appears in places that have dirt, sawdust, or some other organic matter. If carpenter ants infest a woodpile, for instance, the frass will be easily overlooked. If carpenter ants infest a wall in a shed that is used to store carpentry items, such as saw horses or a table saw, frass does not look out of place.
Sign 3: Carpenter Ant Damage
If you have carpenter ants infesting your property, you may see areas where wood has been damaged. Hopefully, you'll see this on an external structure, like a fence, deck, shed, or outbuilding.
Damage done by carpenter ants can look like termite damage but there is a way to tell the difference. Termite galleries are gritty. Carpenter ant galleries are smooth. You're also less likely to see termite damage. Termite workers do not like the light and they are easily dried out by the sun.
Carpenter ant damage doesn't always look like tunnels and galleries. It can look like a hole that is frayed around the edges. It can look like dashes and dots running along a block of wood. It can look like wood rot (especially since these ants prefer to attack rotting wood). It can look splintered. It may just look like a wall is disintegrating.
You're likely to find carpenter ant damage in moist areas, like on fence posts that go down into the moist ground, at the base of buildings where the wood touches the ground, on wood that is in shaded locations behind plants and other landscaping, on wood borders that surround flower beds, on the wood of a building that has a stack of firewood next to it, on basement timbers, and in other places that are dark, moist, and secluded.
What Do You Do When You Find Carpenter Ants?
If you're seeing these ants on your property, it is time to reach out to a professional. Carpenter ant damage can become serious over time. It is important that you have a professional confirm that you have carpenter ants and apply treatments that work to eliminate them. A professional knows what products are trusted by industry experts and how to apply them in a way that is conscientious of the environment and the health of everyone in your home. Most importantly, a professional knows how to monitor for carpenter ant activity to ensure that all of these destructive insects are gone. Once the initial infestation is taken care of, your pest-control technician can guide you in ways to prevent future infestations from taking root, such as:
- Controlling moisture near your foundation walls to make your home less interesting to carpenter ants.
- Setting firewood, construction materials, and other wood products at least 20 feet away from your foundation walls.
- Keeping leaves and sticks raked up.
- Checking for leaking hoses or spigots that can create pools of standing water.
- Trimming trees near your home to allow the sunlight to drive rainwater that accumulates. Trimming trees will also help to prevent carpenter ants from using branches as a bridge to get to higher locations on your home, such as your vulnerable roofline.
- Sealing holes, gaps, and cracks in your exterior walls to keep carpenter ants out. These ants don't typically chew their way into a home through sound, hardwood. They will find an entry point or work their way in through a spot that has been rotted by moisture.
- Putting exterior trash in sealed containers and routinely cleaning containers to make them less attractive.
These are just some of the ways you can manage carpenter ants and prevent an infestation. They also help to prevent infestations from many other pests.
If you live in New Jersey and you need assistance with carpenter ants, reach out to us. You can trust the experienced and knowledgeable professionals here at Arrow Pest Control to solve your pest problems. But don't just take our word for it. As of this writing, we have 668 reviews on Google with a 5-out-of-5-star rating. It was no easy feat to achieve that kind of rating. We're rated highly because our team gets the job done right. Join our family of happy customers by requesting a free, no-obligation, home estimate right here.
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