It’s spring! Flowers are blooming, and animals of every sort are having babies after the long winter. This includes the carpenter ants that may have been nesting in your home’s walls all winter or decided to move in this spring.
As the weather warms, you may notice swarms of flying ants in your home, especially in your kitchen or bathroom, they are most likely carpenter ants. The flying ants are female reproductives, and they are busy establishing world domination — well, at least the domination of your home — for their future generations.
There are 12,000 species of ants in the world, but only a few of them are household pests. The notorious carpenter ant is one of these problematic ant species, and their presence is on the rise in the United States.
Here at Environmental Pest Management, we are seeing an uptick of calls about possible carpenter ants. We’ve compiled some tips for what to look for and what to do if you suspect carpenter ants are building an empire in your home’s walls or foundation.
What Do Carpenter Ants Look Like?
You’ve probably seen a lot of ants in your lifetime, but you won’t likely forget seeing a carpenter ant. By “ant” standards, they are big — between ¼” and ½” inch in size. They are also typically a solid black color, though some have a reddish brown abdomen. In the spring, they will swarm, so they’ll be hard not to notice. Swarming carpenter ants is a sure sign there is a colony nearby.
How Do Carpenter Ants Get In My House?
Carpenter ants get into your home the same way all critters and pests do: they find an opening and exploit it. Carpenter ants have the added bonus of being able to tunnel their way through wood so once they are inside and have some soft wood to chew on, they can make long highways through your walls and floors.
Top contenders for how carpenter ants got into your home include dampened wood from water leaks, poorly flashed windows, chimneys, vents, leaky windows or doors, or through your porch or deck timbers. They can also come inside from firewood your bring in from outside, especially if it was stacked in a pile that became moist and soft at the bottom.
But why do carpenter ants come in your home? First and foremost, for food. Carpenter ants will eat your pet food, dropped crumbs, and the carcasses of other insects. However, carpenter ants have a mandate to build and expand. Especially in the spring, carpenter ants are looking to grow their numbers and care for their young.
Your home may be attractive to start a new parent colony, which will contain an egg-laying queen, her brood, and an army of worker ants numbering 2000 or more. Also, if a successful parent colony is nearby — say in your woodpile, landscape timber, or that old stump — your home is prime for establishing a satellite colony, composed entirely of worker ants.
Also Read: How to Help Bees
Carpenter ants love to make their nests in moistened wood, such as from a water leak. Consequently, places like inside the wall behind your dishwasher, toilet, sink, or tub, or in a porch column are prime places. You won’t see the nests or any exterior signs. You might find some chewed up wood debris that resembles sawdust. You might even see the ants themselves disappear into one of their tunnel entrances.
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What Damage Do Carpenter Ants Do?
Like termites, carpenter ants can cause structural damage to your home as they hollow out the wood for their tunnels and nests. Unlike termites, however, carpenter ants usually take years to do significant damage.
The presence of carpenter ants typically means there is a moisture problem somewhere in your home. You’ll want to check for roof leaks, especially in your attic, or plumbing leaks. Since some leaks can be inside your walls, pay close attention to any staining or soft spots.
Because carpenter ants cause structural damage, you’ll want to get them out of your home as soon as possible.
Preventing Carpenter Ants
- Fix water leaks, check under all your sinks, check your dishwasher, washer, and laundry room. Check faucets and behind your tub, if you can get to it.
- Repair faulty flashing. Roof leaks are often caused by poorly flashed vents, chimneys, or trim.
- Rubber seals around vents can also fail, so check those for possible replacement.
- Clean your gutters to avoid water leaks.
- Seal windows and doors. Weatherstripping and caulk are your friends.
- Remove their sources of food. Store your food in tightly closed containers
- Clean up any debris against your home’s foundation.
- Store firewood away from your home and check for signs of ants before bringing wood inside.
- Trim trees and shrubs so they can’t form a bridge.
- Check to see if your home’s porch or deck post are in direct contact with the ground. These should sit on concrete piers or footers.
Getting Rid of Carpenter Ants
It can be easier said than done to get rid of carpenter ants because it is often quite difficult to locate their nests. If you can spot an ant trail and see where they are entering your walls, you might be able to use your vacuum’s nozzle attachment to pull many from the nest. That likely won’t solve the problem entirely though, as the nest may be deep within your walls.
Treating carpenter ants requires a combination of bait and insecticides, often injected into your walls. It also requires patience, strategy, and typically repeated treatments as well as plans to prevent reinfestation. While some home pest problems can be taken care of yourself, a carpenter ant infestation requires the services of a professional.
Also Read: Natural Home Remedies to Get Rid of Ants
Environmental Pest Management Can Help
If carpenter ants have infiltrated your home, give us a call. We have years of experience dealing with pests, including carpenter ants. We will pinpoint areas that carpenter ants find delicious and delightful and offer ways to make them less appealing. Our pros will locate the nest and eradicate the colony. We’ll treat your perimeter and create a plan for preventing their return.
Carpenter ants are incredibly important to our ecosystem as they help turn fallen branches and trees into fertile soil. They belong in the woods, not in your walls. Contact us to send carpenter ants packing and to keep your home pest-free.