Carpenter ant is one of the most common structural pests found in and around the home. They are attracted to wood which has been exposed to moisture. Carpenter ants tunnel and make nests in soft wood, however, they do not eat the wood.
The largest of the ant family, the carpenter ant ranges from 1/4 to 3/4 inches (3/5-2 cm), has a constricted waist, bent antennae and is black, reddish-black or brownish black in color. Any wooden areas (porch, tree, veranda, step, door, etc.) which become moist are vulnerable to carpenter ant attack.
This is particularly true of rotting sections of wood. The worker ant finds an entry route by gnawing a clean tunnel parallel to the wood grain wherever a crack or crevice exists. The wood is chewed and discarded outside the tunnel.
The discarded shavings, which resemble sawdust, provide an indication of nesting areas. Often, the nest is extended into sound wood. Carpenter ants must leave their wooden tunnels to search for food. Popular food sources consist of aphid honeydew, other insects (living or dead), plant juices, and food (fats, sugar and other sweets) found in the home.
Carpenter ants are commonly wingless, non-reproducing adults of the worker caste. All ants live in large groups or colonies consisting of hundreds of workers, a few reproductive males and females as well as at least one queen. Mating takes place in flight by winged ants during late spring and early summer. Shortly after, the male dies and the single fertilized queen ant finds a suitable nesting place to lay eggs and begin a new colony. The small, white, oval eggs hatch into larvae. The queen continues nourishment until the larvae pupate and adult ants emerge. If warm temperatures exist, the egg to adult cycle can be completed in three months. At first, the colony is small, however, in later years the population can increase to 2000-3000 ants.
Carpenter Ants Control
Monitoring: Since Carpenter Ants are most active in the night, you are likely to notice their pathways – where the emerge from and where they vanish into. These ants may be looking for food or searching for new pathways to or from the Nest.
Also, Carpenter Ants make a rustling sounds in their nests which can be heard in the absence of ambient noise.
Understanding the habits and life cycle of the carpenter ant can be useful in its control. They are most active and cause most damage during warm summer months. Carpenter ant control may be achieved by the following: reduce or prevent excess moisture in wood; remove possible food sources; avoid storing wood inside or close to the house for long periods of time; remove any decaying wood found around the home and practice good sanitation measures.
Remove attractive food sources; store food and garbage in sealed containers to decrease attractions for carpenter ants; caulk openings or install barriers on areas which could act as entrances for ants; and provide good ventilation inside the home. If a nesting site is found, determine the extent of the damage. If structural damage has occurred, it may be necessary to remove the damaged section and the section containing the nest.
If damage is minor or removal of the wood is not possible, use a high suction vacuum to remove the ants. This should greatly reduce the colony, however, it may not totally eliminate the problem. Be sure to discard the vacuum bag in a tightly sealed garbage bag.