Let’s Talk Carpenter Ants

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When you think of all the different insects and rodents that can come and lay claim in your home, which is the one that makes you the most squeamish? Is it finding a large web with a large, menacing spider staring down at you? Or opening a cupboard door and finding a feather duster-made bed with a family of mice all snuggled inside? What about when you get up to get a glass of water in the middle of the night, flick on the light switch and hear lots of scampering as your eye catches cockroaches running to their hiding spots.

Actually, all of those situations are pretty off-putting. But on your list of the most unwelcome guests, do carpenter ants make the top of your list? If they don’t, they should, because carpenter ants can infest the wood in your walls, your floors, your ceilings until you seem to have more carpenter ants than wood holding your house together.

Carpenter ants LOVE your home, and they can’t wait to move in. They are not like termites; carpenter ants do not eat wood. Instead, what they do is they lay claim to the wood that makes up your home, and they hollow out areas throughout your wood, creating smooth tunnels that are clear and tidy. They will continue to burrow throughout your wood through like tiny chainsaws, making an intricate series of tunnels for the colony that are actually referred to as ‘galleries.’

So what do carpenter ants look like compared to the normal black ants you may see on the sidewalk? Well, in North America, carpenter ants are at the top of their species in terms of size, ranging from 3/8th an inch to ½ an inch in length. Even though the Queen is rarely ever seen, she can be around an inch long. Carpenter ants come in a variety of colors. For example: they can be red or black, dark brown or yellow (or a combination of the above). There range in colors because the United States is home to several species, currently the count is twenty-four pest varieties.

And speaking of size, carpenter ants vary according to what social strata they are in. From largest to smallest, the rank is: The queen, the winged male, the major worker, and the minor worker. The queens, and the reproductive males, have forewings and hind wings (the forewings are larger). You can start to see the winged carpenter ants around in the springtime or in fall.

When carpenter ants lay eggs, they appear oval-shaped and are a cream hue. In the larvae stage they are legless.  It is in the pupal stage when they turn into adults.

When carpenter ants are looking to create their nests indoors (because sometimes they will choose outdoors), the ideal environment for them is finding wood in your home that is moisture damaged. Remember, unlike beetles or termites, carpenter ants don’t actually eat the wood. They use their mouthparts to dig and excavate galleries to create nesting areas, and wood that is damp or wet is a lot easier to create galleries in than perfect-condition wood. They tend to avoid dry wood.

What it comes down to is the possible damage carpenter ants will inflict on a residence, house, or building when they are in a large group. If your walls have become a carpenter ant metropolitan, there can be more nests, and more residents, staying in that area. Carpenter ants are so clever they make satellite nests as well! Unfortunately, the longer they have held residence in that wood, the more severe the damage will be.

If you are curious, and you suspect you may have a carpenter ant infestation, you can always try this little trick: Tap on the wood surface that is question and listen for a hollowed sound. If you use this method, be prepared, because if you make that noise and there is a nest, the worker ants go into panic mode and will more than likely appear to check out the situation. If you are curious but you don’t want to have to be the actual ‘knocker,’ it is recommended that you call Alliance Pest Services your local pest control carpenter ant expert.

So, we all know carpenter ants are not a species you want to share your living space with. But there’s more. Not only can they damage your structural property, it is good to know that…they bite.

However, carpenter ants don’t have the reputation of coming out of their colonies, tracking you down, and biting you on purpose. Carpenter ants tend to bite in defense, or when their colonies or nests are disturbed. Since they are one of the largest ant species, if one bites you, you are probably going to feel it. Carpenter ants can bite hard enough to break the skin (ouch), and if they choose to, they can spray formic acid, a chemical their bodies produce for defense, that will intensify the bite.

Are you getting a little paranoid in thinking you may have a carpenter ant infestation? Take a deep breath. Let’s discuss the most common signs of carpenter ant infestation.

What to look for is the presence of the carpenter ant workers moving around the inside of your building or dwelling. This sign is not a conclusive ‘YES! I’M INFESTED!’ piece of proof. Carpenter ants feed on sugars and proteins mostly. And they will also forage for food that consists of food scraps, dead animals, and other insects. Anything that has sugar is going to attract carpenter ants, and they will travel long distances to find food. (Hence seeing a few inside your house could be a false positive.)

Some other things to look for is if you are noticing what looks like pencil sharpening remains beneath wooden items. Sometimes you can hear them, they make very faint rustling sounds inside walls. And if you see ants that are large and winged and are coming out of your walls, ceiling, or other places, you most probably have an infestation.

If you are having problems with ants or carpenter ants around your home or building, call Alliance Pest Services today for have your free home or business pest inspection.  Alliance is your New Jersey carpenter ant control and removal professionals.

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