Did you notice that heat wave we just had at the beginning of August? The word "muggy" doesn't even begin to describe it. According to meteorologists, the dew point temperature pushed up into the 80s. If you're not familiar with what a dew point temperature is, here is a simple description given by meteorologists: below 55 is pleasant, 56-60 is comfortable, and above 76 is downright miserable. So, above 80 is just about as bad as it gets here in New Jersey. We can thank the tropical weather that has been pushing up from the South for all that heat and humidity we've been getting.
When tropical storms pass through, there are a few things we can expect (aside from the miserably high dew points). We can expect thunderstorms, high winds, lots of rain, the accumulation of standing water, and a chance of flooding. We can also expect carpenter ant infestations to increase. All of these conditions have an effect on carpenter ants. Here's how it works.
High Heat and Humidity
When the dew point is high, it can make us miserable. But it also makes carpenter ants miserable, specifically black carpenter ants (C. pennsylvanicus) which are destructive wood-destroying pests. These insects like to stay cool. That is one of the reasons they can be found as far up as Canada, but not as far down as South Florida.
When it gets muggy outside, these insects look for a place to hide. This may be in the ground, a log, a tree, or inside your home. These ants aren't picky. They'll inhabit any wood that provides the right level of moisture and the right temperature.
Okay. They enter homes to get away from the heat and high dew point, but they'll go back outside once it cools back down, right? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but those carpenter ants actually like living in your home. Your home gives them a cool place to escape the hotter days and a warm place spend the colder days. So, all that hot weather we got at the beginning of August set up the conditions for these ants to move into your home—to stay.
While carpenter ants don't like the high heat and humidity, they love moisture. In fact, they are drawn to it. If an area is damp or saturated with moisture, it will be attractive to carpenter ants. This is because moisture creates the conditions for wood rot. And, if you're not aware, carpenter ants love decaying wood. It is their favorite place to establish their colonies.
Heavy Rain and Flooding
All of the rain we've been having has caused flooding in many areas. If your property has been affected by flooding, it could have led to one or more of the following conditions that can attract carpenter ants:
Standing water. Carpenter ants need access to a constant water source in order to survive.
Rotting fence posts. Before carpenter ants get into your home, they are likely to target decaying wood in your yard. A popular target is fence posts, especially if they are untreated, unpainted, or aging.
Rotting wooden structures. An old shed, deck, porch, patio, and other wooden structures that have been saturated with water will begin to rot. These will be strong attractants for carpenter ants.
Overflowing gutters. If your gutter system has any obstructions or breaks, all of that rainwater can run right down your outside walls. If it does, it can soak the wooden areas of your home and make them more appealing to carpenter ants.
When winds pick up, it can cause branches to fall to the ground and even knock trees over. Logs and sticks in your yard will make it more interesting to carpenter ants. And, if carpenter ants come into your yard, it is only one more step for them to invade the wood of your home. It is important to make sure that all wood is removed from your property, including the stumps left by fallen trees. Stumps can act as a sort of staging area for carpenter ants. If carpenter ants establish a nest in a stump near your home and the nest matures, you'll soon have flying carpenter ants crawling on your walls and searching for new locations to create even more nests. It is a logical progression.
All the extra precipitation we've had has also caused plants to grow faster. Rainwater has more oxygen in it than tap water, which means rain does a better job of feeding your grass and ornamental plants than your sprinklers.
Have you noticed how often you've had to mow your lawn? Well, extra mowing isn't the only downside of extra rain. When plants thrive, the insects that feed on plants such as aphids and scale insects thrive as well. These thriving insect populations will likely lead to more carpenter ants as they eat aphids, scale insects, and the honeydew that they produce. And higher carpenter ant populations increases the risk of home infestations occurring.
How Bad Is It?
There is no way to know exactly how much of an impact all of this rainy weather has had on the carpenter ant populations or how much of an increase there will be in home infestations due to hot, muggy temperatures. All we know for sure is that infestations are more likely. That is why we're encouraging property owners to take greater measures to keep carpenter ants from invading.
Rake sticks and leaves up to make your yard less interesting to those ants.
If you have any firewood stacked outside, make sure to keep those stacks at least 20 feet from your outside walls and raised up off the ground to prevent carpenter ant harborage.
Inspect your gutter system and make sure there are no breaks or obstructions.
Inspect exterior spigots and hoses for leaks. Plumbing leaks can add to your moisture problems.
Trim any trees that are near your home. This will prevent carpenter ants from using them as bridges to gain access to the higher points of your home, and will also allow sunlight to dry the soil around your foundation perimeter.
Make sure all exterior trash is bagged and placed inside clean, sealed receptacles. Trash is a strong attractant for ants of all species, and carpenter ants are no exception.
Do a detailed inspection of your foundation, exterior walls, especially around door and window frames and pipes or conduit that passes through your walls. While carpenter ants can chew their way into your home, they are more likely to exploit an entry point. Seal those holes, gaps, and cracks to make your home more resistant against these pests.
Keep An Eye Out For Carpenter Ants
Once you've sealed things up and removed attractants, it is important to know the signs of carpenter ant activity—just in case.
When carpenter ants infest, they sometimes give themselves away when they produce sawdust and push it out kick-out holes. These ants don't eat wood, they chew on it. The fine sawdust that is created by the chewing activity is called frass. There are many places you may find frass. You may find it in a crawl space under your home, on the floor in your basement, stuck to a wall in your home, or clinging to the rafters in your attic. Be aware that frass can be pushed out into wall and ceiling voids, where you can't see it so this is not an ironclad way of detecting carpenter ants.
If carpenter ants are infesting the wood of your home or wood found on your property, you may see winged ants crawling around. These are female and male reproductives that have one purpose in life: to establish a new nest. If you find these ants inside your home, it is likely that you have a current and mature infestation.
Carpenter ants are secretive insects that prefer to keep their tunnels hidden from view to prevent the invasion of predators. But they sometimes mess up and reveal these tunnels. If you see holes or galleries in wood, it may be damage caused by carpenter ants.
If you notice a big black ant crawling around inside your home, you may be dealing with an infestation. Though a carpenter ant can travel as far as 100 yards to find food, there is only a small chance that a worker ant will find a way into your home from an outside nest. It is possible, however, so keep an eye on it. If you keep seeing these scout ants every once in a while, you should definitely have a professional take a look. One visible ant can be a sign of thousands living in your walls. Those carpenter ants don't have to raid your pantry and kitchen to get their food. They can live inside your walls and find all of their food outside, so you may never see them.
All that hot, muggy, wet weather is good for carpenter ants and bad for New Jersey homeowners. Protect your home before carpenter ants move in. If you ever need any help, reach out to Arrow Pest Control. When it comes to controlling pests in New Jersey, our team has 5 out of 5 stars. Just ask Google!
Request Your Free Inspection
Schedule Your No Obligation Inspection Today
Recent Blog Posts
Read the latest articles & news