What do you do if you see ants
that look like Carpenter Ants?
What to do now?
- Identify the insect. If you are certain that
you have found a carpenter ant, read on. If you aren't sure, see"Carpenter
ant or termite" later on this page.
- Don't panic. Carpenter ants differ from termites,
which use wood as a food source and will eat sound wood. Carpenter ants
do not eat wood; they nest in wet or water-damaged wood. Sometimes they
find a void to serve as a nesting area.
Most carpenter ant damage occurs during the summer
months. Large numbers of ants can be destructive, yet most times they
are more of a nuisance than a serious threat to the structure. In most
circumstances, they can coexist with humans until managed with IPM methods.
Inspect your home for the ants, as shown inside.
Remember that a few ants does not always mean that an infestation is present.
Early in the spring, before their regular food is present, workers often
wander inside homes looking for sweets. They will scavenge for fats and
How to Inspect for Carpenter Ants
Outside the house at night, use a flashlight (preferably
with a red cellophane filter) to find live ants. Examine the foundation,
stairs, deck, porch, landscaping timbers, utility wires, and branches
of trees and shrubs touching the house. Carpenter ants are nocturnal and
will move in and out of your house at night to feed.
Inside the house, look for small piles of sawdust and moisture-damaged
wood. Check corners near walls, inside walls from attic to basement, windows,
skylights. Piles of sawdust are from excavations.
Search for nests in
wall voids beneath window sills, inside doors, under fiberglass insulation.
Void areas are good nesting sites (because carpenter ants are considered
too "lazy" to excavate sound wood). Check hollow staircase railings,
even inside wooden curtain rods.
Carpenter ants first create a main colony (nest).
As the colony grows, the ants form satellite nests. In managing carpenter
ants, it is important to locate all the nests. The main colony and satellite
nest, if present, can exist inside the house or outside, near the house.
Look along the chimney, where it joins the house, especially if covered
Try to find distinct piles of debris that contain
insect parts, and pieces of pupal cases discarded by worker ants. Look
under sills, insulation; near openings in secluded walls (cupboards, closets).
During the winter, locate winged adults inside,
near windows. Ants will be no more than 30 feet from the nest. Their presence
indicates an indoor nest, because normal outdoor emergence time would
not be winter!
Look for live ants outside during the day. Remember
that ants avoid sunlight. Search the shady sides of linear objects (garden
hoses, picket fences, under logs). Also check branches touching ground
and look for shallow ant tunnels in the ground.
Inspect for ants following trails inside, along
pipes and electrical wires. Carpenter ants sometimes follow straight routes
and leave scent trails.
How to Rid Your Home
of Carpenter Ants
Find the Source
Locate the nest (see "How to Inspect"),
vacuum it, and destroy the vacuumed debris. Nearly all carpenter ant damage
inside of houses is caused by these nests, which consist of a few dozen
to thousands of ants. You may need professional help for this step.
To keep ants from climbing onto your house, prune
nearby tree limbs, bushes, and other vegetation. Leave a 2-ft. strip of
gravel around the house to allow for inspection.
Store firewood away from the house and, when possible,
off the ground. It serves as a nesting place.
Seal cracks and pipe and electrical chases with
caulk or use sticky barriers.
Use a Low-Toxic Insecticide
If you have followed the suggestions on this page
and still need increased management, you might want to check out Antbuster
OK Ant Killer ant bait solution which guarantees a long-term
Eliminate excess moisture and wet wood to make
the environment less hospitable to ants. Fix leaks in the roof, pipes,
and sinks.Insulate sweating pipes. Promote ventilation. Use vapor barriers
when insulating outside walls.
Clean gutters regularly; adjust drainspouts so
that water flows away from building.
Replace water-damaged wood. Carpenter ants seek
water-damaged wood because it is easier to excavate than sound wood. Furthermore,
immature ants require high humidity for development.
Don't place wood in contact with the soil; use
a water-proofing compound where wood is in contact with concrete or asphalt.
Place a Bait
Purchase a containerized or liquid insecticide
bait after you have tried non-chemical methods.
Be sure to keep your house free from any sweets
or grease that might distract the ants. Place containerized bait near
a suspected ant trail; put liquid bait in cracks and void areas where
ants have been seen. The first sign that the bait is working is an increase
in the number of ants.
Do not kill any ants, as they must bring the bait
back to the colony where it can be effective. The entire population should
Do not spray any insecticides once you have placed
a bait. Doing so could make the bait ineffective or kill the worker ants
that must transport the bait.
Be patient. Baits might require up to 60 days to
eliminate a colony. Replace the bait if it becomes depleted and ants are
Check out Antbuster
OK Ant Killer ant bait solution.
Carpenter Ant, Termite, or ??
The black carpenter ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus)
is often the species that damages houses in the Northeast. It has a single
node (waist segment) and is 0.25 to more than 0.5 inch long. It does not
have a stinger, but it can bite. A frequently asked question about these
ants is, "Is it an ant or termite?" If you are still unsure
after reading the information below, consult Cornell Cooperative Extension.
||Top pair larger than bottom; both are clear;
no piles of wings can be found after swarming.
||Both pairs similar size and opaque (milky);
piles of wings found after swarming.
Ant appetites and
Carpenter ants eat
insects and the honeydew excreted by aphids, but they do not eat wood.
Scientists are using their knowledge of ants' preferences
to develop ant baits (containing low-toxic insecticides) that are more
specific than traditional chemical controls. A recent formulation is the
"dual ant bait," which provides ants with a choice of both sweet
and greasy, and may increase the chance of the ants accepting it. More
research is needed to verify the efficacy of these baits, but results
to date are encouraging.
Ants are social insects, living in groups called
nests or colonies. They undergo complete metamorphosis, developing into
egg, larva, pupa, then adult. Colony members can be separated into groups
called "castes" by the roles that they play in the colony's
survival, such as reproductive or worker.
The reproductives consist of the queen and the
male ants. The male ants fertilize the queen during the ant's nuptial
flight, then die. The queen finds a secluded site, chews off her wings,
and starts to build a colony. The queen cares for her first group of offspring
through the egg, larval, and pupal stages by herself. After the members
of this group have metamorphosed into adults, they take on the care of
the young. The queen's job then becomes laying eggs and regulating the
activities of the colony. The queen and colony may survive for 10-15 years,
producing hundreds of thousands of offspring.
The carpenter ant colony may be located outside
of the house in a tree stump or in a hollow of a living tree. It could
also be located in your house.
The worker caste ants are devoted to a variety
of activities such as nest construction, repair and defense, foraging
for food, and feeding and caring for larvae and the queen. Workers vary
in size and appearance within a species, so size is usually not a good
characteristic for identification. They live for approximately one year.
When the colony has matured, carpenter ants
establish new colonies by producing swarms of winged male and female reproductives.
Many people first become aware that they have ants when the ants initiate
the reproductive flight.