Carpenter ants may be one of the most valuable insects we have on earth. They chew up tons of wood and turn it into fine sawdust that rots, providing compost for new environmental growth. However, when they enter man-made structures they are considered highly destructive.
Carpenter Ant Damage
As is the case with termites, carpenter ant infestations often go unnoticed until it is a costly situation to correct. The damage caused by carpenter ants is distinct although it is often confused with termite damage. While termites feed on the cellulose found in the wood, carpenter ants excavate galleries or tunnels in decaying wood. Contrary to popular belief, carpenter ants do not actually eat the wood. Rather, they hollow it out in order to nest inside, which may result in structural damage. Also unlike termites, carpenter ants generally take years to cause significant damage.
A carpenter ant infestation within a building usually means that there is a moisture problem. For instance, these critters are often found around dishwashers, sinks, laundry areas, and bathrooms – especially where plumbing leaks. Taking care of the source of that moisture makes the structure less attractive to the ants. Carpenter ants can infest building materials such as wood or foam insulation and can occupy cavities like those found in hollow doors or window frames. It’s important to note that since they usually feed on dead foliage and other insects, the ants may be living outside yet foraging indoors for food scraps or moisture.
Resolving A Carpenter Ant Infestation
The first step in resolving a carpenter ant infestation is to locate the nest. The best indicator will be areas where you find the sawdust that is created when the ants dig out their tunnels. Depending on where the nest is located, you may simply be able to remove it. If not, you can still remove the ants from the nest with a vacuum cleaner. Afterwards, make sure to dispose of the bag in order to prevent the ants from getting loose and returning. Also, keep in mind that a mature nest may have satellite nests located nearby, which will need to be found and destroyed as well in order to properly resolve the infestation.
Tips for preventing carpenter ant infestations:
You can help prevent a carpenter ant infestation by applying some of these simple tactics around your home or building structure:
Caulk any cracks you find to eliminate entrance paths
Caulk around electrical and water lines where carpenter ants could enter the building
Trim branches near your home or office so that they aren’t touching it. This keeps ants from using the branches as a pathway
Consider installing a gravel or stone strip around your home
Store firewood away from your house and up off the ground
Check for signs of ants before bringing firewood inside
Store food in tightly sealed containers and clean the kitchen regularly
Clean clogged gutters in order to prevent water damage
Remove logs, stumps, and wood near or under the structure
Make sure crawl spaces and attics are well ventilated
The wooden parts of porches and decks should not be in contact with the ground. Use concrete pier blocks underneath these to eliminate other possible entrance paths
Immediately fix any leaks in the roof or plumbing pipes
Treating For Carpenter Ants
Pest management professionals will often routinely treat the exterior perimeter of the building in order to control a nest or protect the structure from carpenter ant foraging. This process of drilling and treating can be highly effective if nests are able to be pinpointed. Keep in mind that the materials used can only be applied by a trained pest management professional. To properly resolve a carpenter ant infestation requires residual insecticides and void injections of insecticide. This treatment typically requires all occupants and pets to vacate the building for a given period of time.
Contact A Pest Management Professional
When a carpenter ant infestation is suspected, it’s always best to employ a licensed pest management professional, especially when nests are difficult to find. The company should conduct a thorough and complete inspection that provides you with the location of the nest(s) or at least a probable nest site prior to treatment. Locating the nest is not always easy, so practice patience. However, as long as all nests are found and treated, it is unlikely that additional services for carpenter ant control will be needed.