April marks the beginning of the dreaded carpenter ant
season, and this year pest control professionals warm homeowners that it’s about to get uglier. The harsh winter followed by a late spring, on one hand, and the decline in the use of long-lasting chemical insecticides, on the other, may cause a rise in the carpenter ant populations across Canada.
According to news reports, this is the time of year when pest control companies based in Windsor
, Winnipeg, and several other regions start noticing an increase in the number of calls involving carpenter ants. Compared to an average of 20-25 customers per day this time of year, many professionals in these regions are dealing with 50 or more daily. All across the country, pest control professionals are preparing themselves for the high volume of callers asking for help to eliminate the pesky insects.
Why Are They So Feared?
Aside from being repulsive by their presence alone, carpenter ants are feared by homeowners due to the damage they cause to wood structures by hollowing it out for nesting. As a general rule, the damage caused by carpenter ants is not as severe as that caused by subterranean termites, since they do not eat the wood, but only dig into it to excavate their nests, giving it a polished, sandpapered appearance. This is also the reason why wood infested by carpenter ants doesn’t contain mud-like materials (as in the case of termite-infested materials), but only shredded fragments of wood, similar to sawdust.
As a result, wood that is found or stored in the following locations is more likely to be infested by carpenter ants:
- Around sinks
- Near bathtubs
- Around poorly sealed windows or door frames
- In the wall void behind the dishwasher
- Near poorly flashed chimneys and leaky roofs
There are two different types of nests carpenter ants build: parent colonies
, which contain the egg-laying queen, brood, and approximately 2,000 workers, and satellite colonies
, which may grow up to thousands of workers
, but will hold no queen, eggs, or larvae. While the parent colony is typically located outside the structure in a damp wood environment to facilitate brood development, satellite nests are built in warmer, drier areas typically inside the structure, such attics, crawlspaces, subfloor spaces, and voids that allow ants to maintain contact with the outside.
Initially, all ant workers come from the parent colony, but will take residence for long periods in the satellite colonies, especially during the warm season. Ants will travel between the parent colony and the satellite nests
in order to receive worker reinforcements; the death of the parent colony will soon result in the death of the satellite nests due to the lack of a reproductive queen.
Sanitation Is the Best Prevention
To limit the potential for ant infestation
, there are certain preventative practices you can employ, including:
- Seal cracks and holes in the foundation to deny ants’ access inside the building, especially where pipes, drains, and wires enter from the outside
- Correct roof, wall, and plumbing leaks and other moisture problems that may attract carpenter ants inside the structure
- Remove all scrap wood and lumber that comes in direct contact with the ground; stack firewood away from the foundation and elevate it by at least 18”
- Remove vegetation, tree limbs, and mulch that touch the roof or siding of the house as they may serve as bridges between outside nests and the structure
- Schedule annual inspections from a licensed pest control professional to detect and eliminate insect activity
The potential damage carpenter ants can cause inside a home depends mainly on how many nests are located inside the structure, and how long the infestation has been active. Although the damage is not as serious as that caused by termites, the presence of large carpenter ant colonies can lead to structural damage over long periods, so it’s important to locate and expose all nest areas early. Give your local pest control company
a call to eliminate current infestations and decrease the potential for future carpenter ant problems.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid gardener.