Why Carpenter Ants Are Often Underestimated

November 1, 2020
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When you think of ants, what comes to mind? You’re probably not scared of them like you might be of spiders or snakes. You probably don’t worry about encountering one, like you might with a wasp or hornet (although you should watch out for fire ants!). Instead, if you’re like most people, your reaction is probably one of mild disinterest. You see them around sometimes, but they don’t leave much of a lasting impression.

While most species of ants fit the profile of unassuming, not-to-be-worried-about insects, there is one type of ant that can cause some very serious problems for you and your house if they find their way inside. It’s not the previously mentioned fire ant, although those can also cause some serious problems if you encounter them. Instead, it’s an ant that you probably don’t know very much about: the carpenter ant!

Carpenter ants are definitely a cause for concern if you have them on your property, or worse, inside your home. However, they are often underestimated because they keep a pretty low profile. You don’t see them out and about as often as you do other species of ants, and as the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.” In fact, oftentimes you might not even know that they’re around until you discover the damage they’ve done.

What Carpenter Ants Look Like

Carpenter ants don’t always remain hidden, so it’s important to know what they look like so you can identify them, should you come across one. Carpenter ants are large ants that grow up to ½” long and range in color from reddish-orange to black. The carpenter ants you’re most likely to see are the swarmers. These ants typically come out in the spring in order to mate and establish new ant colonies. The biggest difference between swarmer carpenter ants and other carpenter ants is that the swarmers have wings and are even larger than other carpenter ants at almost ¾ of an inch! Therefore, they are quite easy to distinguish from other ant species if you know what you’re looking for.

You may also see carpenter ants when they come out to eat. Contrary to popular belief, these wood-destroying ants don’t actually feed on the wood they nest in, so it’s necessary for them to find food sources. They don’t always search for food close to home, however. They’ll sometimes travel quite a distance to forage for food, so it’s possible to have an infestation in your home, even if you don’t see any ants in your house.

Carpenter ants look very similar to termites and are often mistaken for one another. While it’s important to get a proper identification in order to treat your problem in the appropriate manner, understand that both pests are extremely destructive and should be dealt with as quickly as possible.

What Damages Carpenter Ants Cause

For a pest so small, carpenter ants can cause some big problems. They build their nests in wooden structures and are especially fond of areas of structural wood that have pre-existing water damage or wood decay.

Part of the reason carpenter ants are so destructive is that they can work 365 days a year, under the right circumstances. Your home’s climate-controlled environment, as well as the fact that Florida remains mild all winter long, means that carpenter ants never need to slow down. They can continue to build their nests no matter the season, causing your home a lot of damage in the process.

Although they won’t actually consume the wood, they will build tunnels all through it as they create a larger more extensive area in which to live. While having one or two carpenter ants in your home would take a long time to lead to serious damages, the big problem occurs when larger populations move in or the carpenter ants begin to repopulate and grow their populations. If you are seeing carpenter ant swarmers inside your house, that’s a sure sign that there is a colony nearby, possibly even in your own home. Furthermore, when these swarmers emerge, it means that there are new colonies about to be formed.

The job of these swarmers is to reproduce. Once these swarmers emerge, the males and female reproductives mate and search for an area to establish their new nests. The males then die and while the females become the queens of their newly-established colonies. With multiple colonies in your home, the damage can grow at a fast rate, leaving your home vulnerable to serious structural damages.

Signs of a Carpenter Ant Infestation

As mentioned previously, it’s possible that you’ll see swarmers in the spring. Unfortunately, this is a sign that a colony is already well-established somewhere nearby. In addition, these swarmers typically only emerge for a short period of time, so it’s easy to miss this sign altogether.

You may also see carpenter ant scouts in your home looking for food. Seeing one lone ant doesn’t necessarily mean you have an infestation, but isn’t something you want to ignore either. And while it is possible that these ants will choose to search for food sources in your home, they often choose to feed outside instead.

Another sign that carpenter ants have found their way into your home is the little piles of sawdust they leave behind. Unlike termites, carpenter ants like to maintain the cleanliness of their nests and tunnels, so they’ll remove the sawdust they create as well as other debris and even dead ants by pushing them out of tiny kick-out holes. If you find small holes in the wooden beams of your home with little piles of a sawdust-like material called frass below, you may be dealing with a carpenter ant infestation.

It’s also sometimes possible to hear carpenter ants as they work. It will sound like a faint rustling within your walls or woodwork of your home.

How to Prevent Carpenter Ants From Invading Your Home

Because carpenter ants are attracted to moist, water-damaged or decaying wood, the best thing you can do to deter these destructive pests is to ensure that you don’t have any of this wood on your property. Check both the inside and outside of your home for leaky pipes and wood that has sustained damage. This includes areas like your deck or porch and wooden fences. Any area of wood-to-soil contact is more susceptible to water damage and more likely to be targeted by carpenter ants.

Seal any gaps, cracks, and holes found around your foundation and walls. Closing up these entry points will make finding a way inside more difficult and make it less likely that those carpenter ants will be able to get inside your home.

Inside, store food in the refrigerator or in sealed containers when not in use and make sure to clean up spills and messes immediately. The fewer potential food sources available to them, the less likely carpenter ants will come hunting around your house.

What to Do If You Think You Have Carpenter Ants in Your Home

If you’ve seen any of these signs of carpenter ant activity, or if you’d just like to know for sure whether or not carpenter ants have invaded your property, the professionals at Nozzle Nolen can help! When you partner with us, we can identify whether or not you are dealing with a carpenter ant infestation and if so, we will determine where those carpenter ants are nesting and create a plan to eliminate them completely. Our home pest control packages offer year-round protection so you won’t have to spend any more time wondering and worrying about if carpenter ants damaging your home. Give us a call to learn more about our services and for a free quote!

Social: There are a lot of species of ants out there, but the one you don’t pay much attention to might be the one that’s doing the most damage!

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