Carpenter ants are hard to miss when they’re on your property or in your home. Busy carpenter ants are usually black and measure anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 inch long. Carpenter ants are the largest U.S. pest ants. Here’s a short guide to carpenter ants and how to manage a carpenter-ant infestation.
Carpenter Ant Infestations Start With Swarms
Carpenter ants are wood-nesting insects that live in colonies of up to 10,000 ants. In spring, carpenter ant colonies that have reached capacity send out winged reproductive males and females.
The reproductive ants fly in dense swarms as they seek out suitable locations for new colonies. Separate pairs of male and female ants land, shed their fragile wings, and embark on creating new carpenter ant nesting sites.
Carpenter ant swarms can be confused with termite swarms. You can tell the difference between the two species by looking at the waists of the winged reproductive insects. A swarming carpenter ant has a narrow, well-defined waist, while the swarming termite has a thicker waist with less discernible segmentation.
Carpenter Ants Love Wet Wood and Sweets
In nature, carpenter ants help with the process of decomposing fallen trees and tree stumps. Their incessant tunneling through dead and dying wood breaks down decaying tree mass and adds organic material to the forest floor.
Carpenter ants forage in nature for sweet foods. The ants’ natural diet may consist of ripened fruit juices, berry juice, and aphid-produced honeydew. Carpenter ants also consume dead and living insects.
If your property provides the soft, wet wood and sweet treats they need, carpenter ants will head for your place instead of relying on nature to provide nesting spots and nutrition. Construction waste, wet laundry room sub-floors, and moist basements are prime attractants for carpenter ants.
Carpenter ants eat the following foods in human habitations:
- Meat and fatty foods
- Sweets and sugar
- Fruit and fruit juice
- Kitchen trash
When your home offers the tempting combination of moist soil, decaying wood, and ample food sources, carpenter ants may begin tunneling through your home’s wood framing. If a carpenter ant colony grows large enough, your home can suffer significant structural damage from the carpenter ants’ tunnels.
Carpenter Ants Are Nocturnal
Carpenter ants are like vampires. They don’t appreciate being in direct sunlight. If you want to inspect your home for the presence of carpenter ants, look for the insects at night when they’re most active.
Carpenter ants generally leave their colonies to forage for food in the nearby area around 15 minutes after sundown. The ants don’t dawdle, but move rapidly on their way to and from food sources.
The ants secrete guiding trails of pheromones as they search for available food sources. Other carpenter ants pick up the trails from the pheromones to locate your sugar stash or overflowing trash container. Pheromone trails may be hundreds of feet long and used by generations of carpenter ants.
Carpenter Ants Don’t Cause Rotted Wood
If you discover that your home is hosting a colony of carpenter ants, don’t blame the ants when your home’s floor joists and other wood members become unsafe. The carpenter ants only sped up a process that started long before the insects came to call.
When carpenter ants begin tunneling through wood, the wood is already weakened by disease, fungi, or other rot-causing problems. You can thank the carpenter ants for alerting you to the presence of failing wood framing.
Carpenter ants don’t consume wood for food. They chew through wood only to create their passageways and nurseries. You may find piles of fine wood shavings near areas where carpenter ants are tunneling.
Carpenter ants aren’t picky about the areas of your home they use for their expanding colonies. Some of the places where carpenter ants tunnel, lay eggs, or take up residence include:
- Between roof boards
- Between wall studs
- Behind window framing
- Under showers and tubs
- Near leaking roofs and gutters
- Under and around chimneys
You can prevent carpenter ant entry into your home by performing routine inspections of your home’s wood framing and sub-floors. Repair leaks and seal your roof to reduce your home’s attractiveness to carpenter ants. Caulk and seal openings in crawl spaces, basements, exterior siding, and fascia. Close off any outdoor gaps that could provide entry to ants.
Carpenter Ant Treatment Is Available From Professionals
Hire professionals to destroy the carpenter ant colony in your home and rid the residence of carpenter ants. Spraying pesticides on wood or in spaces where you see ants won’t do much to attack the ants.
Your pest control professional knows how to find and eliminate carpenter ant nests. Walls, doors, or window frames may be drilled to make access for application of dust or injection of insecticides directly into the carpenter ant nest.
One treatment is generally not sufficient to completely eradicate a carpenter ant infestation. Baits and other methods may be used for follow-up carpenter ant elimination.
Do you suspect carpenter ants are creating a vast colony in your Chicago-area home? Contact Chem-Wise Ecological Pest Management right away to schedule a complete pest inspection of your home in the Rolling Meadows, Aurora, and Berwyn, Illinois region.