ABOUT CARPENTER ANTS
A carpenter ant infestation can be bad news for residential and commercial property owners in Bucks County. These destructive pests are capable of causing significant structural damage to any buildings that contain wooden components, especially if the infestation is not promptly and effectively treated.
Scientists refer to carpenter ants as being "polymorphic." This means that members of the colony may exhibit varying sizes depending upon their role in the community. Accordingly, these ants may range in size from just over three millimeters up to 13 millimeters. The carpenter ants that are most frequently seen in Pennsylvania are completely black. One queen, which does not have wings, is at the center of every colony. Workers also do not have wings and are distinguished by their larger mandibles. They are the colony members that are most often seen inside buildings. Reproductive males and females have wings. After mating, the males die and the female sheds her wings before establishing a new colony.
Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not feed on wood. They tend to eat other insects in addition to small invertebrates. Carpenter ants are also known to enjoy the honeydew that is secreted by aphids. If they find the opportunity, they will make meals out of human foods. Meat is frequently sought out, as are sugary and fatty foods.
Carpenter ants build nests in wood. They prefer damp, rotting wood with a moisture content of greater than 15 percent. Rotten logs, tree stumps, living trees and dead trees are all natural habitats for this species. However, they can also be found in and around human habitations. They may make a home in a wood pile or within waste wood or a rotting stump found in a yard. If damp, rotting wood forms a part of a manmade structure, then they are likely to establish a colony there. Pest control technicians often find carpenter ant nests in porch pillars, girders, sills and wall studs. Window casings and door jambs may be vulnerable to them, and they are sometimes found lurking in places where leaks are common such as attics, basements and bathrooms.
PROBLEMS WITH CARPENTER ANTS
Carpenter ants, if left to their own devices for long, can become an enormous problem. While a new infestation in a building will not likely produce much damage, any colony allowed to go grow is capable of creating significant structural damage that is expensive and difficult to repair.
Carpenter ants can be equally successful whether their nests are located indoors or outdoors. The colony typically establishes a central nest and a number of satellite nests. Nests are constructed by workers who use their mandibles to cut through damp and rotting wood to create galleries. The queen does not leave the central nest as her sole responsibility is laying eggs. It is the role of the workers to seek out new food and water sources. They also must bring sustenance back to the queen and the larvae in the nest. Carpenter ants are nocturnal, and they will hibernate in winter unless their nest is located in an artificially heated place like a home or business. If people disturb the nest of the carpenter ant, then the ants may bite in defense of their colony.
Carpenter ants are not known to carry or spread any diseases to humans. Still, if a person inadvertently disturbs a colony, then they may be bitten several times. Carpenter ants are large, and the mandibles of the workers of the colony are oversized, making their bites painful with the ability to break the skin. The pain may be exacerbated if the ant sprays formic acid, a defensive chemical, into the bite. The structural damage and potential for bites are reasons to eradicate these pests as soon as an infestation is discovered.
SIGNS OF A CARPENTER ANT INFESTATION
• Seeing workers inside a structure foraging for food
• Piles of "sawdust," which are the remains of carpenter ant tunneling activity
• Rustling sounds in walls or ceilings
• Seeing damaged wood
Follow these tips to help protect against carpenter ants:
• Store food and liquids in tightly sealed containers
• Do not let food and beverage spills remain
• Repair leaks as soon as they are discovered
• Use only sealed or painted wood products
• Immediately replace any wet or rotting wood in structures
• Do not store wood piles near structures
• Dead and rotting trees and stumps should be completely removed from the yard
• Do not let evergreens and shrubs touch structures
• Seal all cracks and crevices to remove entry points
• Quickly repair roofs, flashing and gutters
CARPENTER ANT CONTROL
True carpenter ant control cannot occur until the main nest and all satellite nests have been eradicated. This is an enormously difficult task for the average property owner lacking the training and specialized knowledge required for successful carpenter ant eradication.
A well-trained technician will be able to quickly and accurately diagnose whether the infestation is carpenter ants or termites. It is not unusual for property owners to mistake one pest for the other, which leads to wasted time and resources.