According to the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC), carpenter ants are called carpenter ants because they make nests by chewing through wood. These ants mine the wood and form steady tunnels within it. However, they do not eat the wood. Instead, they only chew through it to make nests.
The most common type of carpenter ants in the U.S and many other parts of the world are the big black carpenter ants; these ants have colonies comprising of more than fifty thousand ants including ten to twenty thousand worker ants.
We will take a more detailed look at the big black carpenters in the section on the different types of carpenter ants. However, before that, we will look at some facts related to carpenter ants, how to identify them, the differences between carpenter ants and termites, and signs of carpenter ant infestation in your home.
We will end the complete guide to carpenter ants with sections on what carpenter ants eat, the damage caused by carpenter ants, and how to kill and get rid of the carpenter ants in your home. Let’s begin.
Some facts related to carpenter ants
When someone mentions wood destroyers in nature, then the first names that come in mind are termites and carpenter ants. Like the former, carpenter ants also tend to chew through wood. Needless to say, this damages the wood.
However, what makes carpenter ants different from termites is that they do not eat the wood; they only chew through it to set up or enlarge their nest. Nevertheless, since this can cause significant damage to the wood, it is critical to get rid of the carpenter ants in your home as soon as possible.
So, if carpenter ants do not eat wood, then what is it that they eat? They eat aphid and other insects with a sugary taste. However, their preferred food are aphids. Within chambers created specially for them, carpenter ants will look after, raise, and feed the aphids; these chambers are presented within carpenter ant colonies.
Aphids are the preferred food of carpenter ants because they provide the ‘honeydew’ that carpenter ants want and love. In other words, carpenter ants find and look after aphids to get their honeydew. This is how nature allows aphids and ants to live in peace with each other. But what if the aphids no longer produce honeydew? Then this may help to get rid of or minimize the number of carpenter ants in the area or at least this is the popular belief.
For long, people have thought that simply getting rid of aphids in and around their homes will automatically eliminate the carpenter ants infesting their place. One of the most commonly used ways to get rid of the aphids is spraying the outdoor plants that they attack. Contrary to popular belief, this is a poor way on controlling the carpenter ants in your home as these pests can travel many yards to find aphids.
How to identify carpenter ants
Ants that can vary in size, carpenter ants can be anywhere from 3 mm to 12 mm long. They are said to be one of the largest species of ants in the U.S. As mentioned earlier, the most common type of carpenter ants are the big black carpenter ants.
While their name may suggest otherwise, the black carpenter ants do not exist only in shades of black; they can also have a color that is combination of black and red or completely brown or red. Also, some other types of carpenter ants have a yellow, red, or orange-colored body.
One of the best ways to differentiate carpenter ants from other types of ants or similar-looking pests is by taking a close look at the area between the abdomen and the thorax. If you find a single node at the insect’s waist, then it is a carpenter ant that you are looking at. Other ants that look similar to carpenter ants, such as pavement ants, acrobat ants, pharaoh ants, and little black ants have two nodes at their waist.
While there are some other ants with a single node, such as crazy ants, odorous house ants, large yellow ants, and field ants, they do not look anything like carpenter ants. Therefore, it is easy to distinguish carpenter ants with other types of insects with a single node. If you’re still not able to differentiate carpenter ants from the other pests, then you may want to look at the insect’s thorax to get an idea.
Unlike the thorax of above-mentioned insects that is unevenly shaped, the thorax of carpenter ants is rounded. While they come in other shades as well, most people will come across the black-colored carpenter ants. So, if you find black ants in your house, start looking for the above signs to confirm or invalidate a carpenter ant infestation in your home.
Also, since they are large mandibles ants on worker carpenter ants, look for mandibles on the pests infesting your home. One of the biggest species of ants found in the U.S, carpenter ants are active mostly during the summer and spring seasons; this is the time of the year when they venture out at night in search for food.
While the size of carpenter ants is bigger than most other ants and similar-looking pests, it will be very difficult for you to differentiate carpenter ants from other insects on the basis of their size. This is because carpenter ants themselves vary in size.
In addition to size, carpenter ants can be classified on the basis of the job they do. The largest ants in the carpenter ant colony are the soldier ants. The other, smaller types of ants are the minor or mid-sized ants called media carpenter ants. These carpenter ants are responsible for constructing the colony and gathering food.
Another category of carpenter ant are the swarmers, often referred to as winger carpenter ants; these are the carpenter ants that are often confused with termites. All of the above-mentioned carpenter ants survive on living and dead insects as well as on several things that humans consume.
The differences between carpenter ants and termites
Since termite infestation is common in many states, homeowners in the U.S want to be sure they the pest infestation in their home is a carpenter ant infestation and not a termite infestation. To distinguish carpenter ants from termites, you need to look for the following:
- Hind wings that are shorter than the wings at the front
- A bent antenna
- Narrow waists
- Dark-colored bodies
If you find these signs on the pests infesting your home, then it is likely that you are dealing with a carpenter ant infestation and not a termite infestation in your home. However, to be sure, you should know the key physical attributes of termites. Following are some of the key physical attributes of termites:
- Worker termites have a straight antenna, a broad waist, and a light-colored body
- Termites rarely venture outside of their colony; this is to avoid exposure to light
- The body/skin of kings and queen termite as well as of winged termites is dark-colored; additionally, their wings are of equal length
It is likely that you are dealing with a termite infestation and not a carpenter ant infestation in your home if you find the above-mentioned physical attributes on the pests infesting your home.
While not many people pay attention to this, one of the most important steps in getting rid of the carpenter ants in your home is ensuring that the tiny pests in your home are indeed carpenter ants and not termites.
Yes, it is important to find out the type of ant infestation you’re dealing with in your home. However, more important than that is knowing the difference between a termite swarmer and a carpenter ant swarmer. This way you’ll know what pest you’re dealing with if you find the insect chewing through the wood in your home.
The swarmers produced by the majority of termite species have a black body. Therefore, it can sometimes get difficult to differentiate termites from carpenter ants since the most common types of carpenter ants have a black-colored body. The good news is that there are some other ways to differentiate between the two types of wood destroyers. One of these indicators is size.
Compared to carpenter ants swarmers, termite swarmers will generally be much smaller. Regardless of the type, termites will fit onto a dime’s face, but carpenter ants won’t. You can also look for the following signs to ensure which wood destroyer you’re dealing with:
- From a distance, carpenter ant swarmers appear to have wings. Termites also have wings, but it is not as evident on them
- While termite ants and carpenter ants both have wings, there are differently colored and aligned. The color of carpenter ants’ wings is yellow while termites have white-colored wings. Additionally, while there is cleft between the wings of a carpenter ant, the wings of a termite are stacked on top of each other
- By taking a close look at the insect, you can distinguish a termite from a carpenter ant based on its antennae. While the antennae of termites are straight or has a slight curve, an elbow is present in the antennae of carpenter ants
By referring to the information in this section, you should be able to distinguish between termites and carpenter ants which will allow you to conform or invalidate the presence of carpenter ants in your home.
Signs of carpenter ant infestation in your home
In addition to ensuring that you’re dealing with carpenter ants and not termites in your home, another important in getting rid of the carpenter ants is looking for signs of them in your home. What are the signs of carpenter ant infestation in your home?
One of the first things that you need to look for the small openings that appear on the wood’s surface. This is the most common way to identify carpenter ant infestation in a home other than the presence of carpenter ant swarmers and/or workers.
Debris is expelled by the carpenter ants through the small openings on the wood’s surface; this debris comprises of body parts of insects, insulation fragments, and shaving that look like sawdust. One of the biggest signs of an active carpenter ant infestation is this debris accumulating underneath the holes. Carpenter ants create smooth gallery walls that have the appearance of a sand-paper. There is no sign of debris in the active galleries.
In addition to the above, another thing to watch out for is that wood softened by fungus is typically the wood that carpenter ants prefer to attack. So, if there is any wood in your home collecting fungus and you find tiny insects in and around it, then there is a good chance that you have a carpenter ant infestation in your home.
Looking for the above signs will allow you to get a good idea of whether or not you have a carpenter ant infestation in your home. However, you can confirm or invalidate a carpenter ant infestation in your home by looking for the following:
Presence of ants
Spotting a single ant occasionally should not worry you too much; this is likely to be long ranger looking for food and a carpenter ant nest or colony is unlikely to be present in your home. However, if you spot several ants in your home on a regular basis, then there is a good chance of a carpenter ant infestation in your home.
Often, trails that you can trace back to the nest area will be created by carpenter ants that venture out into your home. On most occasions, the trails created by the carpenter ants will be tracing along telephone and power lines, carpet edges, fence tops, outside eaves, door frames etc.
This will be finally-shredded and it will be caught in spider webbing or accumulated in piles. However, since they can have similar attributes, make sure you’re not dealing with drywood termite fecal pellets or sawdust from cabinets or doors rubbing on one another or from construction instead of frass.
When carpenter ants are disturbed, they use their gasters or mandibles to grate the substrate; this produces tapping or rustling noises. If you want to know what this sounds like, then simply put your ear up to a wooden door that is open and then scratch the other side of the door using your fingers; the scratching sound that you’ll hear is what carpenter ants sound like.
You can confirm or invalidate carpenter ant infestation in your home by looking for these signs. We have now covered a very important section in the complete guide to carpenter ants.
The different types of carpenter ants
There are three main species of carpenter ants in North America. This include the Camponotus Modoc found in the western parts of the U.S, the red and black carpenter ant which is also called the Florida Carpenter Ant, and the Camponotus Pennsylvanicus found mostly in the eastern parts of the U.S; this type of carpenter ant is also referred to as the big black carpenter ant.
While their physical attributes may be different from each other, the three types of carpenter ants have similar patterns for feeding and nesting. Therefore, the best ways to get rid of the carpenter ants in your home will always be the same regardless of which type of carpenter ants are present inside your home.
In addition to the different types, carpenter ants can also be categorized based on the work they do. Based on their work, carpenter ants can be categorized into two types: swarmers, and workers. Winged ants, swarmers come out of their nests to mate and form new colonies. In addition to having wings, swarmers are larger in size than other carpenter ants. If you find ants that fit this description, then it is sign that a carpenter ant colony or nest is nearby.
The other category of carpenter ants that venture out in your home are worker carpenter ants. Most of the carpenter ant colony is made of these ants; the worker ants have several duties including protecting the nest and feeding both the larvae and the queen.
What carpenter ants eat
The nourishment for carpenter ants that reside outdoors comes from living and dead insects. They can also get their nourishments from aphids and scale insects that produce honeydew. As mentioned earlier, the responsibility of feeding both the larvae and the queen ant fall on the worker carpenter ants. Therefore, these ants stay mostly indoors and eat leftover sweet items such as jelly and sweets as well some leftover meats. By eliminating these sources of food, you can minimize the carpenter ant infestation in your home.
For carpenter ants that live outdoors, living and dead insects are sources of protein. Honeydew, that other food item that these outdoor carpenter ants are attracted to, as a sweet liquid extracted from scale insects and aphids.
Just like in the case of carpenter ants that live indoors, you can minimize the number of carpenter ants in your backyard by eliminating what they feed on. To eliminate these food sources of outdoor carpenter ants, you need to eliminate the places where they originate. Generally, shrubs, trees, and other plants are where scale insects and aphids originate. So, make sure there are no shrubs, trees, or other big plants in your backyard.
As for the worker ants that enter your house, you can keep them away by making sure there’s very little quantity of sugars in your house. Also, immunize the amount of meats and pet food in your house. If possible, some of the sugars that you should avoid keeping in your house are jelly, granulated sugar, honey, and syrup.
We will end by reiterating a very important point which is that carpenter ants do not eat wood; they only chew through it to make tunnels and galleries for nesting.
The damage caused by carpenter ants
Some homeowners are not at all concerned by the presence of carpenter ants in their home. Even if these homeowners spot several ants on a regular basis inside their home, they choose to do nothing about it. This is because they don’t realize the extent of damage that carpenter ants can cause in their home.
The ability of carpenter ants to cause damage to wood is the reason they are categorized as wood destroying pests. However, when compared to subterranean termites, carpenter ants cause far less wood damage. Nevertheless, if you leave the nests of carpenter ants in and just outside your home undisturbed and untreated, the number of ants in the colony will only grow.
This means that the longer you leave the carpenter ant problem in your home untreated, the greater will be the carpenter ant infestation in your home that you will ultimately need to deal with. When carpenter ants start to mine it, the damage cause to your wood can be substantial.
The primary reason carpenter ants damage wood is to make nests. This means that the nest building efforts of carpenter ants result in damaged wood. Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not feed on or have a liking for wood.
While damage caused by carpenter ants to wood is far less than the damage cause by termites, damage to wood can get worse over time if the nest of carpenter ants is left untreated for too long. Therefore, it is in the interest of homeowners to eliminate or get rid of the carpenter ants in their home as quickly as they can.
How to get rid of carpenter ants in your home
Once you’ve confirmed a carpenter ant infestation in your home, the next step would be getting rid of the carpenter ants in your home. You can do that with the following methods:
Eliminating sources of standing water or moisture in your home
In order to survive, carpenter ants will need a water source in your home. Therefore, you can keep the different types of carpenter ants away from your home by eliminating sources of standing water or moisture there.
Cut the tall plants and tree branches in your yard
If you want to prevent carpenter ants from entering your home, then make sure that there are no tall plants or tree branches in your yard that are extremely close to or are touching your house. The carpenter ants outside your home can use these tree branches or plants to get into your home.
Seal all cracks or openings in your house
If you want to stop carpenter ants from entering your home, ensure that there are no cracks or openings in your walls and gaps around your windows or doors. If you find any cracks or opening, use a silicone-based caulk to seal them. Another important thing that you need to do to prevent carpenter ants from entering your home is storing building and firewood materials outside of your home. The reason you need to do this is because stacks of wood are where carpenter ants like to build nests.
Use dust material treatments
If you want to get rid of the carpenter ants inside your home, then one of the best ways to do that is by using pesticidal dust materials.This carpenter ant treatment not only flushes out the nests that are hidden, but it also helps to eliminate the carpenter ants in your home.
Another effective way of getting rid of the carpenter ants in your home is applying a liquid residual material to your home’s perimeter.
Nest and barrier treatment
In addition to dust material and perimeter treatments, another effective treatment for carpenter ant infestation is using barriers and nests that come up with residual insecticides. By applying this treatment to areas in your home infested by carpenter ants, you can quickly get rid of the carpenter ants in your home.
Carpenter ant bait
The use of carpenter ant bait is one of the most common ways of overcoming carpenter ant infestation in homes. Ant baits are a popular choice because they prevent a carpenter ant infestation indoors by destroying the colonies of carpenter ants located outside houses.
After worker carpenter ants come out of their nest in search of food and find the bait, they are likely to take it back to their nest thinking that it is food. When this happens, the bait will poison the entire colony, killing all carpenter ants there and eliminating carpenter ants from your home in the process.
In the complete guide to carpenter ants, you got to know about some facts related to carpenter ants, how to identify them, the differences between carpenter ants and termites, signs of carpenter ant infestation in your home, what carpenter ants eat, and the damage caused by carpenter ants. However, the most important thing that you learned, and which will provide you with the biggest benefit are the different ways of getting rid of the carpenter ants in your home.