Getting Rid of Carpenter Ants Correction of conditions conducive to carpenter ant infestation should be the first step. This includes clearing away any decaying or infested wood from around buildings and removing firewood from inside the premises and away from the sides of buildings. If possible, decaying or infested structural wood should be replaced with sound material. Humidity problems in the home should be investigated and corrected. Removal of potential food sources will discourage ants from entering buildings. This can be accomplished by keeping food in sealed containers and by implementing good sanitary practices such as regularly sweeping up all crumbs and other food fragments.
Do You Have Carpenter Ants? The presence of a few foraging ants in the home, or 1 or 2 winged queens during swarming times does not mean you have an infestation. These foragers may merely be scout ants seeking food or nesting sites or queens that have flown in an open door.
Foraging ants have been seen entering homes along telephone wires or along branches touching the roof or even from ground trails that come under a door. In such cases, the house may be a nesting area.
If ants are coming in, there may be a nest outside the house and eventually they may establish satellite colonies in some part of the structure. Be certain they are carpenter ants and not moisture ants, termites or yellowjackets.
Carpenter Ants – Seattle Pest Control Evidence of Infestation Presence of ants (workers or winged reproductives): An occasional ant may be a scout looking for food and may not indicate the presence of a nest, but continuous or numerous ants are a sign of nesting.
Ant Sawdust: Accumulating in piles or caught in spider webbing; has a finely-shredded appearance. Do not confuse with small sawdust from construction.
Sounds: Rustling or tapping noises produced when disturbed ants rasp the substrate with their mandibles or gasters or when excavating wood. (Other insects such as the golden buprestid or yellowjackets nesting in wall voids also produce sounds.)
Parts of House Likely to be Attacked Ant infestations were in houses with these characteristics:
Wood frame Crawl space Cedar or plywood siding Moderately to gently sloping roof 5-25 years of age Vegetation (trees and shrubs) surrounding the house “Structures located near the edge of the forest were more liable to attack than those located further away.” This is because the ants which have well-established nests in trees or stumps can easily move to the nearby house and establish satellite colonies.
Nests Location Most nests of C. modoc which could be found were associated with (in order of frequency):
Outside walls and voids Attic Ceilings Crawl space interior walls, roof, sill plate Porch pillars Support timbers Window framing and sills Roofs Shingles Siding Girders Joists Studs garages Insulation Drawers of dressers and cabinets Behind books In hollow doors Under floors Buried wood, stumps or construction debris Nest Location Outside Structures Live trees excavate heartwood; enter by knotholes, wounds, etc. Dead trees, stumps or logs, buried wood Wood debris Decorative wood in landscape Stacked lumber Firewood Number of Colonies Carpenter ants typically have a parent colony in outside nesting areas, such as live or dead trees, stumps, logs or decorative landscape wood.
When the colony grows larger and needs room to expand or the old nest becomes less suitable, they expand to form satellite colonies. these satellite colonies are placed in nearby structures presumably because the heated, protective structures are more conducive for the older stages.
The parent colony contains the queen, young larvae and workers, while the satellite contains the mature larvae, pupae, workers, and/or winged reproductives.
The ants move back and forth from parent nest to satellite nest to feeding areas (in nearby evergreen trees and shrubs such as Douglas fir, true fir and cedar). Sometimes they can be seen carrying mature larvae (white and grub-like) or pupae (papery cocoons).
If the parent nest is not found, it can reestablish satellite colonies after the pesticides have become inactive or establish new colonies in untreated areas of the house.
If several nests are found, it is important to determine if they are from the same colony (therefore one parent nest) or 2 or more different colonies (therefore several parent nests). Place 2 ants, one from each trail or nest, in a jar:
Ants from the same parent colony coexist peacefully. Ants from different colonies fight.
Ant Trails Ants move along definite trails by following a chemical scent or visual clues. These trails can be above ground or subterranean and are actually constructed by cutting away vegetation, removing pebbles, excavating soil and even by covering open trails with a roof of needles from nearby trees. Trails can vary in width from 1/8″ to 3/8″.
The ants from a colony will follow the same path each year even if grass has grown in it. They will clear the old trail.
Trail Locations Outside Structures Ants follow natural contours. They will cross lawns and flower beds but often prefer the cover afforded by moving along the edges of things.
Edge of driveway or sidewalk, mowing strips Under patio blocks, wood steps in landscape or wood planks Edge of foundation or planters or sidewalk Edge of lawns or flower beds Fence stringers Excavate along tree roots (easy access to crawl space via roots of trees or stumps which extend under the house) Trail Locations Inside Structures Again ants prefer natural, easy and protected routes:
Edges of cabinets, furniture Excavated trails through insulation in wall voids Along wiring or plumbing which cuts through studs Wires or branches coming to the house Root channels from infested trees or stumps which go beneath the house.
Activity Along Ant Trails Ants are generally active along ant trails in western Washington from April to mid-October. Hours of greater activity are from 8 p.m.-4 a.m.; although some ants can be found at all hours. A sudden increase in activity occurs 5-10 minutes after sunset and is greatest from about 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Temperature or rainfall doesn’t seem to influence this activity. Ants returning to nests are either: Larger with full (stretched) stomach so they look somewhat banded Carrying food such as insects. Some ants will be going to the feeding areas (usually trees). They are not stretched or banded. Some will be engaged in trail building (at night mostly).
Following Ant Trails to Locate a Nest Do not disturb any trails until you locate the nests. The ants will just get sneaky and reroute the trail which may take much longer to locate.
Ants will generally be going to and from:
Feeding areas Parent nests Satellite nests Banded ants or ants with insects will be going from feeding grounds to parent (or satellite) nests. The young growing larvae and queen need the most food, so more ants will take food toward the parent colony, with fewer moving toward the satellite. Ants carrying larvae or pupae (papery cocoons) are moving from the parent to satellite colony.
Activity, therefore ease in following a trail, is greatest after sunset (roughly between 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.). A red light disturbs ants less than white light.
Trails may be difficult to locate since they may disappear under boards, sidewalks or go underground.
You have time. Keep watching for clues as you work in your yard or house. Don’t get trigger happy and spray the trail, or you will have to start over if you want to find the nest.
What Carpenter Ants Eat Carpenter ants cannot eat solid food. They have a very long, exceptionally thin esophagus (food pipe) that prevents them from eating solid food.
Mostly they gather aphid honeydew or tree sap. Only about 1% of the ants carry insects or insect parts. Insect prey includes grasshoppers, crickets, leafhoppers, aphids, craneflies, mosquitoes, honey bees, moisture ants, thatching ants, spiders, daddy-long-legs and larvae of moths, bees, flies and earthworms. Human food includes candy, honey syrup, soda pop, apples, raisins and pet food. The ants have been observed taking “solid” food over to water where it becomes soggy. They can eat the dissolved portions. They can masticate (“chew”) insect parts and extract nutritious liquids.
Carpenter Ant Life Cycle
Reproductive ants (winged males and females) leave the nest anytime from early January through June (different colonies leaving at different times). Mating takes place in swarms, with the first mating swarms noted in May (others in June, July, August and September).
Mated queens find a suitable place to live and chew off their wings, excavate a small home and begin laying eggs. Mated queens lay eggs which become workers or queens. Unmated queens or queens which have run out of sperm can produce only males.
By the end of the summer either workers have emerged or the larvae from late eggs become dormant. No feeding occurs during the winter months (November, December, January).
The dormant phase ends about mid-January, when the queen begins laying eggs again.
The rate of growth of a colony from one queen in the first year, or season, is very low (with only 1 or 2 dozen workers).
It took about 3 seasons to produce even a few larger workers in Hansen’s studies. The number of years it would take to produce reproductives is estimated to be 3-5 years. Therefore parent nests with larger ants or winged reproductives have been in place for a considerable period of time. Satellite nests could have reproductives in a single year because the pupae are carried from the parent nest to the satellite. Other Facts If the queen dies, workers can produce eggs which become males. Workers must help the new adults emerge from the pupa case; without workers they can’t emerge. At any one time only a small percentage (1%-3%) of the ants are outside the nest foraging for food and water. The queen and workers can eat their own eggs and smaller larvae, if the food supply is low it severely stresses the colony and retards its growth. Managing Carpenter Ants Finding both the parent colony in the surrounding landscape and the satellite colony (or colonies) in the structure is crucial to successful control of carpenter ants.
Many pest control operators feel they can drill and inject the entire house faster and at less cost to the homeowner than it would take to locate and treat the nest areas. Others feel they can starve out the ants by spraying only the perimeter (attic, crawl space, and foundations) at monthly intervals for a year.
Carpenter ant infestations usually involve a parent colony and one or more satellite colonies. The parent colony which houses the queen, workers, and brood requires a moist area and is usually located outside the structure unless a severe moisture problem exists within the building. Satellite colonies house workers, mature broods and may also contain winged forms. These colonies are often found within structures.
The most effective means of control begins with the location of the main colony and the satellite colonies. Clues in the location of nesting sites include extruded sawdust, foraging trails, and the presence of foraging ants.
Electrical plates can be removed and an insecticide applied into the wall void along the outside edge of the electrical box. Ants follow wiring and plumbing routes through the structure. If the colony is inaccessible for direct treatment, a 1/8 inch drill bit can be used to make small holes in the walls so an insecticide applicator wand can be inserted for application of the insecticide. Dust formulations are effective against all Hymenoptera because the dust adheres to the hairy surfaces of their bodies. As they clean themselves and feed other ants and larvae, the insecticide is spread throughout the colony. This formulation is effective as long as it does not become wet, so it is used primarily in wall voids.
Perimeter sprays may be recommended when the parent colony cannot be located or controlled. Examples would include structures built in forested areas where trails in natural areas are difficult to follow, in urban areas where the parent colony is located in the heartwood of a living tree, or when the parent colony is located in wood buried during construction or in landscaping. the frequency of application is dependent upon the choice of insecticides and the concentration. For materials with a shorted residual, application may be needed several times during the season. This can be reduced to an annual application or longer with the synthetic pyrethroids.
Check common nest sites in structures. Check common nest sites in natural areas or landscapes. Locate any trails inside or outside the structure. Observe activity along those trails to determine which way the food is moving (distended abdomens, carrying insects). Observe after sunset with red light. Other Areas to Check Include: Around sink, dishwasher or shower areas. Hit beams and underflooring joists with a hammer, and listen for hollow areas. Look for tiny slits in beams or joists; these are air vents. Check attics and crawl spaces. Check around fireplace or furnace chimneys which may be warm and moist. Remove electrical outlet and light switch plates and look for evidence: pupal skins, sawdust, ants. Check spider webs for evidence (sawdust, etc.). Check firewood or lumber especially if it is stacked against the house (a poor practice). Check areas hidden by vegetation (prune the back side of evergreen shrubs which may provide shelter for trails and access to the house and increase moisture of the walls. Check for evidence of leaking or temporarily plugged (ice, debris) gutters during rainstorms. Remove shrubs that block vents or prune them at the base to allow good air flow. Check for condensation in the crawl space or attic due to inadequate ventilation.
Carpenter ant DAMAGE
Carpenter ants don’t consume wood like termites but excavate it to make their nests, which in large colonies can consist of an extensive network of galleries and tunnels often beginning in an area where there is damage from water or wood decay. From here they can expand the nest into sound wood and compromise structural integrity. They also commonly nest in wall voids, hollow doors, and insulation. Infestations can even occur in new buildings when land clearing in the surrounding area disturbs established colonies, causing them to move into the structure.
In natural settings, they excavate into the heartwood of living trees or into dead trees and stumps. These latter infestations play an important role in the decomposition of wood.
carpenter ant Control measures
There are several nonchemical measures that can help prevent infestations: Trim tree branches and shrubs away from structures to prevent access; Seal off potential entry points such as where utility lines enter a structure;