(1/4″ – 1/2″ long) Nesting in damp locations, carpenter ants prefer to excavate wood that has been damaged by water. From their nests in the beams, floors or walls, they scavenge the house for food crumbs and insects. Carpenter ants may occur in several colors, although the most important species are black.
One of the largest members of the ant family, carpenter ants take their name from their habit of chewing passageways (called “galleries”) inside wood. They live in these galleries and make excursions, most often at night, to hunt for food and water. These ants often set up satellite colonies inside homes from parent colonies located outside in a tree or landscape timber.
Carpenter ants love damp climates and moist areas – damp wood, any dark void, a few morsels of food. Places that get a lot of rain are especially susceptible. So are homes built in heavily wooded areas or in low, shady places where the ground stays damp. In your home, you’re likely to find carpenter ants nesting around a sink in the kitchen or bathroom. Maybe even around plumbing leaks, clogged gutters and downspouts.
A clean house is no guarantee. When carpenter ants move in, the first thing they do is look for food. Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood. They search for syrup, honey, jelly, meat, fruit, grease, fat, and other domestic foods. If these favorites are not available in your home, the ants will feed on dead or living insects or any other type of organic matter.
To construct their galleries, carpenter ants tear bits of wood and place them outside the nest. These sawdust-looking piles, called frass, may be the first visible sign that carpenter ants are present. Left unchecked for a period of time, these galleries can become quite large. While the primary nest is found in damp wood, carpenter ants establish many satellite colonies. This makes them difficult to control, especially since colonies may be found in any dark void- hollow curtain rods, hollow-core doors, ceilings, dead wall space, etc.
Carpenter ants mature in about two months and immediately start enlarging the nest. First year broods are small, with only 10 to 20 workers. But in a few years, when the colony has thousands of workers, small tunnels become major expressways connecting many hidden galleries. You may not be aware that a strong colony is firmly entrenched in your home until it is too late.
Trails of workers around the kitchen, pantry, and other areas where food is stored. Sawdust-like material that workers kick out of their nests during excavation. Listen for ant sounds in the quiet of the night. When the ants are chewing, or simply moving around in the nest, they make a sound like rustling cellophane. If you see or hear any of these signs, you may have carpenter ants.
The experts tell us you need to have a well-constructed plan for dealing with carpenter ants. If you suspect carpenter ants have invaded your home, it’s best to seek immediate treatment. Professionals make a thorough inspection of your home, inside and out. Depending on your home’s construction and the location of the main nest and satellite colonies, these professionals will use a variety of methods to treat the problem. These might include crack and crevice treatment, inner wall treatments, or even fumigation.
Reinfestation by carpenter ants is a constant threat. Only regular inspections and preventive service can keep them out.
Nesting Sites of Carpenter Ants
Dead limbs of living trees
Under attic insulation.
Interior wall voids
Hollow core doors
Under exterior siding
Supports in crawl space
Exterior wall voids
Between insulation and subfloors
Roots of dead trees
Points of Entry for Carpenter Ants
Clogged drains and gutters
Fencing next to home
Edges of fireplace brick
Vines and plants touching home
Edges of siding
Mulch around home
Crawl space vent
Wood in contact with soil
Dr. Laurel Hansen is one of the world’s leading expert on carpenter ant biology. Click here to visit her website.