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Dabugman Says: Carpenter Ants
Carpenter ants are not builders of wood but destroyers of wood, so why the name. Let's start with a little biology; there are several species of carpenter ants that may be found infesting in homes and other buildings. Normally workers are black or red and black in color and range in size from 3/8 to 1/2 inch. Winged queen ants may be as large as one inch. However, size is not a reliable characteristic to identify carpenter ants. The best method to separate carpenter ants from other ants is by the following characteristics: 1) a waist with one node (petiole) and 2) a thorax with an evenly rounded upper surface. There are other ants that appear similar and are occasionally mistaken for carpenter ants. They may have one or two nodes. However, they can be distinguished from carpenter ants by the uneven profile of their thorax. These ants are usually not wood-infesting, so it is important to correctly identify the ants before control is attempted as control strategies vary with different ant species.
Carpenter ants feed on sources of protein and sugar. Outdoors, carpenter ants feed on living and dead insects. They are also very attracted to honeydew, a sweet liquid produced by aphids and scale insects. Aphids and scales feed on trees, shrubs, and other plants. Indoors, carpenter ants feed on meats, as well as syrup, honey, sugar, jelly, and other sweets. Carpenter ants DO NOT eat wood. They remove wood as they create galleries and tunnels.
Most foraging is done at night between sunset and midnight during spring and summer months. Sometimes workers travel up to 100 yards from a nest in search of food. Carpenter ants nest in moist wood including rotting trees, tree roots, tree stumps, and logs or boards lying on or buried in the ground. They can also nest in moist or decayed wood inside buildings.
Carpenter ants damage wood by excavating and creating galleries and tunnels. These areas are clean, they do not contain sawdust or other debris, and are smooth, with a well sanded appearance. Now we can understand the name given to this ant (CARPENTER). This is unlike subterranean termites which most of the time leave mud in their galleries to conserve more moisture so that they can survive.
In almost all cases, carpenter ants seen indoors during winter are an indication that there is an inside nest. Workers may become active during winter if the nest receives sufficient warmth from sunlight, mild outdoor temperatures, or from indoor heat. It is not clear whether just a few workers break dormancy or the entire nest becomes active.
The best method to control carpenter ants is to locate and destroy the nest, replace damaged or decayed wood, and, if they exist, eliminate moisture problems. Eliminating a carpenter ant nest is a difficult and challenging task. It is possible for a home dweller to control carpenter ants on their own. However, in most cases, control should be performed by an experienced pest control applicator. They have the experience and a wider array of products to more effectively control a carpenter ant problem. Home dwellers can still play a crucial role in control programs by providing information to a pest control provider, such as when, where, and how many ants were seen.
This article has been provided by Mark Dieter at Enviro-Tech Pest Services. 301-797-5288.
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