Did you know that the carpenter ant is among one of the largest species of ants in the US? They can be as small as 3.4 millimeters long to 13 millimeters! Granted, that isn’t huge, but it is big enough to make a homeowner worry if they discover they have a carpenter ant problem on their hands.
Now, you might be wondering what a carpenter ant is, how can I identify one of these ants, how do I identify carpenter ant damage, and most importantly, the best carpenter ant killer that actually works.
You’ll want to keep reading this article because we are about to discuss these very things! We truly do understand how important it is to you that you keep your home pest free, and we believe that we can provide you with the necessary information that will help you get to spot one of these ants and how to get rid of them.
What Is A Carpenter Ant?
The carpenter ant is quite common in the United States, but that doesn’t mean they are only found there. In fact, there are 24 species of carpenter ants can be found all over the world. With that said, it isn’t all that easy to identify these ants because they are often confused with termite swarmers, especially during the mating season when the male and female ants with wings will fly out of the carpenter ant nest and mate.
The typical carpenter ant will be black, but there are some that have a red or yellow tints, but you don’t want to rely on the size of the worker ant to properly identify if it is a carpenter ant or some other species because the length and overall size of the ant can vary. Perhaps the best way to identify a carpenter ant will be by their:
- Elbowed antennae
- Cinched waist
- Long front wings and short back wings
- 3 body segments
- A ring of hair at the top of the abdomen
How Can I Spot A Carpenter Ant Nest?
When you are trying to find a carpenter ant nest, at first, they may look like a termite nest because they burrow into the wood to create a nest. When you see flying carpenter ants, it’s a sign that the colony is well established and they’ve been there for a while. You’ll find rough wood shavings with some remnants of deceased ants near the nest.
Another sign is that you may be able to hear them inside the wood. The most common places that you’ll find these insects are in trees (both living and dead), stumps, and rotting trees that have fallen. They have been known to set up their nests in houses and other buildings that are made of wood; however, they prefer to nest in an area where the wood has been subject to severe moisture.
The carpenter ant colony will build two types of nests—a parent colony and a satellite colony. Inside the parent colony, you’ll find the queen, the eggs, and worker ants. In the satellite colonies, you’ll find older larvae, pupae, and workers. The workers create these satellite nests whenever the parent colony runs out of the room, or there isn’t enough food or water. So, whenever you think you find one nest, don’t stop—keep looking!
What Sort Of Damage Can Carpenter Ants Cause?
When the carpenter ant is burrowing its way through the wood, it is excavating the wood and pushing the debris out, thus giving their channels a sanded look. Over time an ant colony burrows into any wooden structure, it weakens its integrity, and it could cause severe damage—possible collapse.
It’s safe to say that if you notice these ants around your home or structures, you’ll want to take care of it sooner rather than later because they will expand their colony.
Carpenter Ant Control Options
Now that you know what to search for when trying to spot a carpenter ant, their nest, and the damage they can do to your wooden structures, let’s talk about the options you have in controlling them. Let’s face it, the best and most effective way to control them is to destroy their nest. Unfortunately, that can be easier to suggest than actually doing it.
There have been studies conducted that show a carpenter ant following a scent trail between a parent colony and a satellite colony. They also rely on these scent trails to show other ants where food is. Because of the ant’s scent dependency, it will require some patience, you’ll be able to use their trailing behaviors to locate and destroy all their nests.
When it comes to methods to use for carpenter ant removal, you have several options available:
- Carpenter ant spray
- Drilling into the nest
- Call a professional
Carpenter Ant Spray
Before you do any sort of pest control, you are going to want to locate the nest. Once you locate the nest, you can then spray a carpenter ant spray into the opening to the nest. Also place some bait (ants prefer sweet things, so use boric acid or a liquid ant bait) near the nest. This method only really works if you think the colony is relatively small—maybe you only noticed 15 winged ants flying around in your house in the spring.
The bait and spray should be good enough to take care of the problem. However, carpenter ant nests have the potential to survive for several months without needing food. Also, the aerosol spray may not be able to reach far enough into the nest to kill all the ants.
Drilling Into The Nest
If you notice more than 15 winged carpenter ants flying about your home, you might have a bigger problem on your hand. Your next course of action is going to be more aggressive, and you’re going to want to drill into the wall to get directly at the nest.
First, you will want to sprinkle some boric acid into the hole, and then you are going to spray the carpenter ant poison directly into the hole. It’s understandable that you may be a little apprehensive about drilling into your home, but it could be necessary, especially if you have a problem on your hands.
Call A Professional
Maybe drilling into the walls isn’t an option for you, or you simply do not want to do damage to your home. This is where you can call a professional bug exterminator who can give your home a proper walkthrough. This professional exterminator will be able to examine your home and pinpoint carpenter ant holes, and even locate the nest.
Then, they will go through the process of drilling the holes, treat the surrounding wood, and work their way outward from the nest to find satellite colonies. Eventually, when the process is over, the perimeter of your home will be sprayed with a residual insecticide.
Natural Methods For Carpenter Ant Control
When you’ve gone through the entire process of locating and killing all nests, you’re going to want to take some steps to prevent the ants from coming back. There are a couple steps you can do that will prevent the carpenter ant from coming back to your home, and they are:
- Taking care of the lawn
- Using boric acid to create a carpenter ant trap
- Use white gravel as a barrier
- Keeping Firewood Elevated
Taking Care Of The Lawn
Proper lawn care is a huge step in preventing carpenter ants from coming back to your home. You are going to want to check to make sure there aren’t any dead tree stumps in your yard, keep piles of wood far from your house, remove brush, fallen tree branches, and other foliage from your house.
You’ll also want to be mindful that your grass is neatly trimmed and keeping any wooden pieces of your home off of the dirt. Carpenter ants have been known to travel up to 200 yards from their parent colony. Therefore, you will want to keep that in mind if you have a really large property to care for.
Creating An Ant Trap With Boric Acid
Boric acid (or Borax) is a substance that is mild enough for people, but it is a fantastic ant killer. With this, you have the option of sprinkling the stuff directly in the ant holes, or you can make an ant trap with it.
To do that, combine 3 tablespoons of boric acid with ½ of sugar and 1 cup of warm water. You can either pour the solution in a shallow dish and place it near the ant hole, or you can soak a cotton ball in the solution and then put them on plastic and lay that around the nest.
White Gravel as a Barrier
You may have seen homes with white gravel being used to line the sides of the foundation, walkway, or even around their sheds. You might think they are just being used as decoration, but the white gravel is a natural method of carpenter ant control.
Ants typically prefer places with plenty of moisture, and that is definitely not a characteristic with white gravel. The gravel is dry, and it offers plenty of drainage around the home, making the home less desirable for an ant (or any other pest that thrives in dark and moist areas) to nest.
Keep Firewood Elevated Off the Ground
It’s understandable that during the colder months you’ll want to keep your firewood close by for easy access. If you have to have your firewood nearby, keep it elevated and away from the foundation. Also, you don’t want to put the firewood inside your garage, because the wood could already have the ants inside. At least if the wood is outside, elevated, and away from the foundation, they will get burnt once you throw the wood into the fire.
Carpenter Ant Round-Up
If you notice some flying ants around your house, you may have a reason for concern as there could be a carpenter ant problem in the midst of your walls. Before you panic, you are going to want to survey your home and look for any holes in the wood parts of your home.
If you can’t find the holes because they are up high or they are in dark wood, look for what look like sawdust laying on the ground. This is the refuse that the ants will throw out while they are making their nest.
Carpenter ants are a lot like termites because they will burrow into the wood of your home and make a nest. They’ll leave a mess outside of the entry way to their nest, thus giving you a big indication of where you can start looking for them.
If you happen to see a winged bug flying about and you don’t know if it is a termite or a carpenter ant, look for ant-specific characteristics such as a cinched waist, hair on its abdomen, bent antennas and a large set of wings in the front and small ones in the back.
As alarming as it may be to realize that you have carpenter ants living in your home, that doesn’t mean you have to pack your bags and move away. With a little bit of patience, you can take care of the problem on your own. Of course, if you aren’t comfortable with the chemicals and possible drilling into the walls, you can always hand over the baton to professional exterminators who can handle the situation for you.
Regardless of which course of action you do choose, you do want to get the infestation taken care of right away and then start employing simple the simple tips we mentioned to keep those ants from ever returning!