What do Carpenter Ants look like?
Carpenter ants is a group term for a wide variety of wood-nesting species, with coloring ranging all the way from black and brown to red and yellow. They are usually around ½ to 1 inch in length, with a round thorax and heart-shaped head.
Carpenter ants are usually the basis for many ant emojis, as their wide-spread habitat range makes them recognizable by almost anyone anywhere in the world. Just like the emoji, they have large mandibles, or antennae, and have six legs.
Habitat of Carpenter Ants
These insects nest inside wood, preferring trees and other shrubbery in the wild. You’ll often find them inside tree stumps or fallen branches. Because they chew into the wood to form their nests, they like to nest inside dead wood. Unlike termites they don’t actually eat the wood, so they can be spotted quite easily by the piles of sawdust they leave behind.
In the urban environment, these critters can be found invading anything constructed out of wood, though they have a strong preference for wood that’s either damp or rotting. This can be anything from fence posts to house supports – if it’s wet wood it’s good, as far as carpenter ants are concerned.
The bad news is that once they’re in, they’ll keep going. They prefer to expand their nest even in the face of dry wood rather than find somewhere else to relocate to, so if they’re in your foundations they get almost anywhere in your house given enough time, causing infestation problems, and requiring residential extermination.
Are Carpenter Ants Dangerous?
These ants do bite, and they can break skin. However, the bites themselves aren’t dangerous due to them lacking any strong kind of venom. This means carpenter ant bites will hurt but won’t pose a serious health risk.
The main danger from these ants comes from the structural damage they cause to your home, leaving cracks in anything wooden that can lead to structural collapse if left untreated for long periods of time. Carpenter ants are one of the most important pests to remove if you don’t want to be paying for all the damage they will cause.
How to Prevent Carpenter Ants
There are various methods to prevent carpenter ants.
- Seal and clean.
Carpenter ants are interested in wood, so keeping an eye on timber supports and cladding is key to preventing their entry. Take extra care during the spring as that is when the ants build new nests. Always make sure to quickly seal off any water leaks around your house, as damp wood is especially enticing to them. You should also seal any cracks in the existing wooden parts of the house, like skirting boards, as these can be ways that new nests pop up in your house. It also helps a lot to keep the house clean, especially any areas near windows and doors, so they aren’t attracted to food inside the house.
- Reinforce and protect.
If you have wooden supports inside your house, it can be helpful to cover them with some kind of cladding, or paint/varnish them. Make sure the cladding and paint is waterproof – keeping moisture away is especially important! These areas are the most critical to protect, as once they’re compromised your entire house might be at risk. If you have the option, placing paving slabs or a layer of sand underneath any outside wooden structures can help protect them from ant infestations too. Varnishing, polishing, or painting will also discourage the ants from using these as nesting places.
- Divide and conquer.
The main way that carpenter ants can get inside your home is by migrating from existing nests in the nearby area, especially during spring when they take flight and build new nests. If you have outside wooden structures like patios or sheds, be sure to keep them some distance away from the house itself, as these pieces of wood are ideal locations for carpenter ants to nest. If you have pieces of dead wood nearby, such as fallen trees, branches, or tree stumps, they should be removed so they don’t run the risk of spreading any colonies to your home. If you have old fencing or wooden telephone poles nearby be sure to check them too – telephone poles can be sorted by calling the company who owns them, they don’t want ants in there any more than you do.
How to Remove Carpenter Ants
Residential and commercial carpenter ant infestations can be controlled but very tricky to remove entirely, because it is unlikely to be able to reach the nest without some serious renovations. The best way to take care of them yourself is with commercial ant bait, or with boric acid and sugar mix which is toxic to them. However, you should be aware that carpenter ant colonies can have multiple queens, so just because the ants appear to be reducing in number does not mean the colony won’t grow again if you get complacent.
You can also try to seal off the colony from water, but they will have multiple entrances and while they can be spotted by the nearby piles of sawdust, you might not be able to get to them all. To seal them off you need to fill any cracks with resin or diatomaceous earth, both of which will easily prevent the ants from using said crack as a passage.
The best way to remove Carpenter ants safely and quickly, is to contact a pest control service or professional ant exterminator near you. They will be able to determine the scope of the infestation, identify the locations of the nests and get rid of carpenter ants.
Contact Provincial Pest Control for a free pest control inspection in the Toronto Area!