Carpenter Ants: How They Differ From Regular Ants and When You Should Worry

Written by Chem-Wise on . Posted in Blog

carpenter-antMost homeowners know the dangers of common pests like termites and mice, but there are many pests that can affect the structure and safety of your home. Carpenter ants pose just as serious a threat as termites, and many homeowners might not notice them because carpenter ants may look like other types of ants at first glance.

Nobody wants to have any kind of ant in the home, but carpenter ants are the most damaging. Here’s what you need to know about identifying carpenter ants, their behaviors, and signs of an infestation in your home. With the right pest control methods, your home can be safe and protected once again.

They’re Not Always Big, Black Ants

Carpenter ants can vary in size based on sex, age, and type. But the most common carpenter ants you’ll find in your home simply look like big, black ants. They are astonishingly large compared to a standard black ant. In some cases, carpenter ants can appear brown or have a mixture of red and black.

The most telling indicator is their size, with some adult worker ants reaching half an inch in length. However, size should not be the only thing by which you judge carpenter ants. Large, black ants almost certainly are carpenter ants, but they can appear smaller in size.

All carpenter ants have a smoothly rounded thorax (midsection). Regular ants have a bumpier exoskeleton. Carpenter ants also have a single petiole, which are small bumps that appear at the ant’s “waist” where the midsection tapers off.

They Have Large Appetites

Contrary to what most homeowners believe, carpenter ants do not eat wood. They are not like termites who feed on decomposing or dead wood in the structure of your home.

So why are they so dangerous? Carpenter ants make their homes and tunnels through wood. If a colony of ants becomes established in their home, they can borrow into joists, woodwork, and flooring as the ant colony grows.

They emerge from their wooden habitat to eat sweets and proteins, including other bugs. They enjoy foraging for foods, so it is not uncommon to see worker ants looking for food scraps in the kitchen.

They Cause Home Damage

Sometimes, prevention is enough to keep carpenter ants out of your home. Typically, these ants prefer wood that has “gone over” to mildew, softness, and rot. In nature, they colonize in wood that is easy to penetrate, like tree stumps and fallen logs. Carpenter ants in your home are more likely to infest areas like:

  • Cabinetry swollen from water damage
  • Framing around windows, especially if damaged from window condensation
  • Attic beams and trusses that are not well-ventilated
  • Wooden structures in damp basements

Moisture control on the home is one of the best defenses against encouraging carpenter colonies. However, even vigilant homeowners can unluckily attract ants because of a close establishment of a parent colony.

Parent colonies are the “main” colony of the group of carpenter ants. This colony might be in a neighboring house or in the yard. Mating females with wings can move eggs into a new area, even an area without rot or mold, as an offshoot colony that still serves the main colony. In this case, even hard wood in good condition may be subject to infestation.

They Leave Telling Signs

So if these ants have such a huge potential for causing damage, how can you know if your house is under attack? Many ant colonies go unseen, and you might not notice wood damage immediately. Even the presence of one or two ants does not meant that you have a colony living in your home.

However, there are some telling signs that a nest is inside your home. These include:

  • Large groups of winged ants. If you see several ants with wings, particularly in the spring time, it’s a sign of swarming. Over the past summer and winter, males and queens grow to adulthood, forming enough new ants to fly to a different place to begin a new colony. If trapped inside, the swarm has nowhere to go.
  • Carpenter ants in winter. Seeing an ant in your house in spring, summer, or fall is not a major indicator of infestation. Winter is a different story. If you see carpenter ants inside in the winter, it means they have a warm place to grow and thrive, and that warm place is most likely your home.
  • Large groups of ants in moist places. Carpenter ants love moisture. You’ll see them in places like your bathtub, inside piles of wet laundry, or even near the drains in your basement.
  • Sawdust. Severe infestations will leave sawdust behind as the ants drill through the wood. Ants keep their tunnels clean, so they actively push out any debris through little slits they make along the trail.

If you see any of the above signs, you’ll need to call a pest control company for an assessment and treatment. Carpenter ants are not like other species of ants that respond to basic ant poison, and the risk of destruction is too high to use DIY prevention methods.

For more information, contact us at Chem-Wise Ecological Pest Management. We can help you restore your home to a safe, pest-free state.