Carpenter ant activity is primarily affected by two things: heat and food. When temperatures are high and food is plentiful, carpenter ants are at their peak level of activity. This is usually during the summer months here in New Jersey. In the summer, carpenter ants can be found busily crawling around on bark, in tree cavities, and on the wounds left by the severing of branches. You'll see them crawling around on stumps and exploring stick debris. You'll see them in every nook and cranny of wood piles and brush piles. They are busybodies in the summer. But winter is a different story.
Most ants are dormant in winter. As summer comes to an end and fall temperatures slowly drop, it is going to become less likely that you'll see ants crawling around on the ground in your backyard or carpenter ants crawling around on all the places listed above. Ants are warm-weather critters. The cold weather slows them down and forces them to go into hiding. Some of them go back to their nests in the ground and seal themselves in. Some go back to their nests underneath rocks, pavement, and foundation slabs and stay dormant until temperatures warm up. Carpenter ants return to their homes inside trees, logs, stumps, and, if we haven't done our part to stop them, inside the galleries they've created inside our decks, porches, patios, fences, sheds, and homes. If this is the case for you, then carpenter ants can remain active during the winter. But they need heat and food in order to do it.
Location Location Location
Whether or not carpenter ants are going to be active on or inside your property this winter depends on where they establish themselves. In wooden objects in your yard, it is pretty safe to conclude, those ants aren't going to find the heat they need to stay active. So an infestation in a fence post, storage shed, deck, or exterior stairwell is likely to grow dormant and the damage is likely to stop for the winter.
If carpenter ants find an exterior location on your home to infest, such as a rotten sill just above your foundation wall, they may find enough heat to be active, but it is probably not likely. The bottom of your home isn't as warm as the top. Heat rises. That means dormancy is more likely for an infestation close to the ground and in timbers exposed to the outside cold weather. This can change, however, as snow builds up on foundation walls provides insulation for these areas.
If carpenter ants are able to infest higher locations on your home, such as your roofline, soffits, and eaves, they might find plenty of heat in the galleries they've carved out. This type of infestation often occurs when tree branches give them easy access to the roof, so it is always a good idea to trim tree branches which pass over or touch your roof, especially in the fall. If you have a high infestation like this, it is still possible for those ants to go into dormancy. It all depends on whether or not they can find food. The food resources outside are gone. But stored food in attics and storerooms can give these ants the sustenance they need to be busybodies when snow is piled up outside.
Deep inside a home, a nest of carpenter ants won't have to worry about cold temperatures. When they establish themselves under a jetted tub, a kitchen sink, a water boiler, or some other place that can be warm and humid all year long, these ants can remain active year-round.
So if you've been seeing big black ants crawling around and you've been wondering, "Why am I seeing ants in my home during the winter?" That's why. Carpenter ants love our homes and can be active in our homes all winter long.
Thriving Carpenter Ants
While carpenter ants prefer soft, moist, rotting wood, they can also damage sound timbers. It is somewhat rare, but it does happen, usually when they find a place to thrive. If you have thriving carpenter ants in your home, they can do damage that puts stress on the structure of your home, causing warping and stretching to happen. Floors can begin to sink down. Walls can begin to bulge out. Doors and windows can stick. If untreated, carpenter ants can be as destructive as termites.
Another thing you can expect thriving carpenter ants to do is replicate. One nest can easily turn into multiple nests as an infestation progresses. When this replication takes place, you may be fortunate to see the warning sign. But you may not.
What is the warning sign of a maturing infestation that is about to transform from one nest to multiple nests? Flying ants.
When a nest matures, it begins to produce male and female winged reproductives. The role of these reproductives is to mate and establish new nests. If you find winged ants crawling around on your interior window panes, walls, and floors, don't just vacuum them up and call it a day. Those flying ants didn't accidentally get into your home. They came from a nest inside your home and they're trying to get outside to the sunlight. That's why you often find them on your inside window sills. When you see flying ants, it is time to call a pest control professional and have your home checked out.
No one likes flying ants crawling around on their interior walls. This is one of the reasons carpenter ants don't do as much damage to homes. People catch them and call a professional before they can do too much damage. But winged carpenter ants don't always appear on the inside of a home. It is common for flying ants to emerge on the outside, which is their intention. This makes detection a lot harder. Here are reasons for this:
When a homeowner finds a few flying ants on the outside of their home, they don't think much of it. Flying ants can look like wasps or some other winged insects, which doesn't raise a red flag. After all, the world is full of winged insects. No big deal, right?
If a homeowner recognizes winged ants as ants, they sometimes don't recognize them as carpenter ants. The world is full of ants. Who's to say those are carpenter ants?
If a homeowner recognizes winged ants as carpenter ants, they may still shrug them off. They may be perceived as an impending infestation. And, if a home doesn't have any rotting or compromised wood, a homeowner may think that those ants will just move on. They don't consider that those may be ants that came out of a nest inside their home. Carpenter ant swarms don't travel far. If there are dozens or hundreds of ants on the side of a home, there is a pretty good chance that those ants came from that home or from a nest on the property.
Winged ants swarm together but the swarms don't last more than 30 minutes. That means you could miss the swarm entirely. It could happen while you're out having a luncheon. When you return, the majority of swarmers will be searching the properties of your neighbors for a place to establish a nest. Some will have already found new places on your property to create nests. The only sign you may get are shed wings. Male and female reproductives shed their wings during reproduction. Look for these shed wings in shaded areas, moist areas, locations that have branches, wood piles, and other places where there is wood.
If you don't detect carpenter ant reproductives, your problem is about to get worse, and you won't know it. You'll go from having one nest of carpenter ants damaging your home to two, three, or more.
There are many pests that can damage your home. Carpenter ants are only one of them. That's why no home should be without pest control service. You've put too much into the value of your home to allow it to be destroyed by insects, rodents, and other pests. If you agree, your next question is probably, "How do I choose a year-round pest control plan?" There are lots of pest control companies, and they make lots of promises. How do you know which one will deliver on what they say? The secret is to ask their customers.
A good pest control company keeps a good relationship with its customers. At Arrow Pest Control, we work hard from start to finish to make sure our customers are satisfied with their service. There is no better place to see this than on Google. It isn't easy to earn 5 out of 5 stars on 774 reviews. In fact, it is impossible without a close and dedicated relationship with customers and the ability to successfully solve pest problems. When you look for a pest control company, we highly recommend reading what customers say about them on social media. A lot can be learned by reading about the experiences of others.
If you live in our New Jersey service area and you want to protect your equity from carpenter ants or other destructive pests, reach out to us. We can help.
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