Carpenter ants are among the biggest ants in Canada. There are numerous species of carpenter ants that may be encountered infesting homes, schools, hospitals, and commercial buildings, but the most common types are the black and red carpenter ants. The red carpenter ant is of a dark brownish-black color on its lower body and reddish-brown on its upper body, while the black ant’s body is dark brownish-black all over. They are typically large insects, measuring from 6 to 25 mm (up to 1 inch) long.
Typically, workers are wingless and can measure between 1/4 and 1/2 inch in length; they are usually the ones venturing inside a house looking for food. Winged reproductive forms (including queens) don’t differ too much from workers in color and shape, but their length can exceed 1 inch. The carpenter ants’ body has a very slim waist and is constricted between the abdomen and thorax; the antennae are elbowed (bent and in sections). The front wing of a swarmer is longer than the other one. Male and female adults will grow wings during mating time.
Inside the house, carpenter ants feed on protein, sugar, meats, pet food, sugary drinks, grease, jelly, and other sweets. Outdoors, they will look for decaying trees, shrubs, plants, and leaves. While they do bite on wood to create galleries and tunnels for their nests, they do not eat it. When left without their food source, the queen and some workers may resort to cannibalism.
During the warm season, most of their foraging is carried out between sunset and midnight. It is not unusual for workers to travel up to 100 yards from their nest in order to find food sources. It is during their quest for food that they may accidentally find themselves inside a house, usually through the following access points:
Because it needs to be permanently moist, the main colony is usually located outside, containing the queen, workers, and immatures. Inside the buildings, ants are likely to build satellite nests in walls, doors, and other hollow spaces that permit the setup, or on the exterior surfaces of the house, such as porches and decks. These are usually comprised of workers, pupae, and mature larvae and don’t need as much moisture as the main nests since they don’t hold too many eggs.
Homeowners are more likely to signal an infestation once they encounter carpenter ant workers and winged ants inside the house. The workers are looking for food and they can be seen forming a trail in areas where food is stored (kitchen, pantry, etc.), while the swarmers are on the lookout for a new nesting site, so they are a sign that the current colony has matured and is ready to establish new colonies. Another sign is the sawdust-like material and other debris they produce from tunneling into the wood, excavated outside by workers; wood shavings and chippings may indicate the presence of a nest nearby. Ant colonies can also be detected by the rustling sound they produce as they chew or move around the nest (the sound may resemble that of rustling cellophane).
Finding carpenters ants inside your home doesn’t necessarily mean that their colony is located inside. Workers may venture inside the house to forage for food and then take it to an outside colony, while queens may find their way inside to look for a good place to set up their nest. Carpenter ants are more likely seek shelter inside your home during part of the year and then move outdoors at other times. Once you make sure you are dealing with a carpenter ant infestation, your next steps should be locating their nest and figuring out the extent of the infestation.
The best control method for carpenter ant infestations is to locate and destroy the nest, while correcting moisture problems and removing food sources. However, removing an ant nest is a challenging task, best performed by licensed pest control professionals who have the knowledge and resources to eliminate the problem at its source. Several methods are likely to be used:
Dust and spray insecticides. For nests hidden behind walls or inside hollow doors and attics, it is required that a pest control professional drill holes inside those surfaces and apply an insecticidal dust. If the nest is exposed, homeowners can use aerosol insecticides containing bifenthrin, cypermethrin, or permethrin to spray as much of the nest as possible.
Ant baits. This method should be used in case the nests cannot be located, by combining a food source with a delayed toxicant. Because workers ingesting the toxic bait will continue to live for days and sometimes weeks, they will share the bait with the rest of the colony, enabling the spreading of the bait through trophallaxis (an ant regurgitates the contents of its stomach to feed another ant).
Residual insecticide. This is a solution that can be applied for outdoor nests that cannot be destroyed through physical control methods. The product should be sprayed in a band surrounding the foundation and right under the lower edge of the siding. Insecticides and any other toxic substances should only be applied and managed by licensed professionals, so make sure to resort to a reputable company whenever facing exterior ant problems.
There are certain ways you can consider for preventing future carpenter ant problems indoors:
In most of the cases, it is preferable for a specialized pest control professional to treat carpenter ant infestations. Aside from their knowledge and expertise in carrying out thorough inspections of properties, locating nests, and baiting the traps properly, they have experience in using toxic substances to kill the ants and not endanger the lives of other inhabitants. They also have access to specialized equipment and substances that will guarantee the complete removal and prevention of carpenter ant infestations.
Articles you may enjoy:
March is the Start of Ant Season! Get rid of those Carpenter Ants