An In-depth Look at Carpenter Ants
What is the most common pest ant species in the United States? You guessed it the carpenter ant. Here in New York we have various species. A colony can live on Long Island, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx or in New York City. A very common question is do carpenter ants consume wood? The answer is No. Carpenter ants use wood to live and build nests and lay eggs in them. The next question is can carpenter ants do damage to my home, garage, or sheds. The answer to all is a big YES. What carpenter ants do is excavate woods for nest sites. While excavating the wood they can and do cause structural damage.
Carpenter ants can be a nuisance pest when workers are spotted inside a home and even outside on patios and decks as well. A telltale sign of carpenter ants is sawdust or frass. Frass is the wood that the carpenter ants excavate from a piece of wood, they look somewhat like pencil sharpening's. Can carpenter ants have wings? The answer is yes again. King and queen carpenter ants or reproductive ants do have wings to help them move away from an existing colony.
What does a carpenter look like? Carpenter ants can be many different colors and sizes within one colony meaning the are polymorphic. They can vary in size from 1/2 inch to as small as 1/4 of an inch. The queen from a colony can measure up to 3/4 of an inch. Smaller carpenter ants can resemble an ant of another species. Carpenter can vary in color from completely black, to brown and black or even have some red coloring. Proper identification of all pests are paramount to obtaining control of any pest population.
Carpenter ants can live almost anywhere. They primarily live in dead limbs in trees, stumps and logs. You can find a principal colony in one nest where the queen lives and lays eggs and is tended by the workers. You may also have secondary colonies you may also have workers and pupae living in this location as well. Many times a carpenter ant colony that lives within a structure is going to be associated with a moisture issue within a structure. Carpenter ants have been found in "hollows" within a building, they have been found inside of hollow doors, within curtain rods as well as within many other voids that we have within our homes.
When carpenter ants hollow out wood it looks like someone sanded the wood it looks smooth inside. The channels they create are generally free of debris and are not caked with sand, soil or dirt. If you see sand, soil or dirt within wood channels most likely you are dealing with termites not carpenter ants. There are several easy ways to tell the difference between a termite and carpenter ants. Termites have straight antenna and carpenter ants have elbow antenna, termites and thick waist and carpenter ants have a pinched waist, termites have equal or the same sized wings carpenter ants do not have the same sized wings.
Carpenter ants can forage for food both day and night they communicate with a chemical known as pheromones. They use these pheromones trails to communicate the location of their nests, food, danger and other information as well. A new colony will only have smaller minor workers within it, as a colony matures it will start to produce major workers as well. Colonies are said to be mature when they start to produce their own winged reproductive.
When treating for carpenter ants it is very important to locate the primary colony as well as the satellite. Magic will commonly follow an ant carrying nourishment back to a colony to help locate it. We will also use various flushing agents to assist in locating a colony as well. A combination of applications can be used for control, a baiting program, residual dusts and liquids as well as flushing materials may be applied. During our inspection and treatment process we will be inspecting for moisture that the ants are associated with as well as frass.
Dealing with conducive conditions will help prevent infestation to an area that had an established colony in the past. Cutting back dead limbs from trees, removing old wood from wood piles, replacing old landscaping wood will help keep ants from nesting near your home. Keeping your home properly painted and sealed with caulk will help keep the moisture content down. Gutters should be cleaned routinely to prevent water from building up and wetting the fascia boards.
Keep in mind that carpenter ants are structural pest that like to live in moist wooded members and given enough time can cause structural damage. By keeping your home as moisture free, keeping foliage away from your home and removing dead wood from around your structure it will make your home less hospitable to carpenter ants.