CARPENTER ANTS


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MEET THE PEST

Carpenter ants are one of the most common structural pests found in and around the home. They are attracted to wood which has been exposed to moisture. Carpenter ants tunnel and make nests in soft wood, however, they do not eat the wood. The largest of the ant family, the carpenter ant ranges from 1/4 to 3/4 inches (3/5-2 cm), has a constricted waist, bent antennae and is black, reddish-black or brownish black in colour.

Any wooden areas (porch, tree, veranda, step, door, etc.) which become moist are vulnerable to carpenter ant attack. This is particularly true of rotting sections of wood. The worker ant finds an entry route by gnawing a clean tunnel parallel to the wood grain wherever a crack or crevice exists. The wood is chewed and discarded outside the tunnel. The discarded shavings, which resemble sawdust, provide an indication of nesting areas. Often, the nest is extended into sound wood.

Carpenter ants must leave their wooden tunnels to search for food. Popular food sources consist of aphid honeydew, other insects (living or dead), plant juices, and food (fats, sugar and other sweets) found in the home.

LIFE CYCLE

Carpenter ants are commonly wingless, non-reproducing adults of the worker caste. All ants live in large groups or colonies consisting of hundreds of workers, a few reproductive males and females as well as at least one queen. Mating takes place in flight by winged ants during late spring and early summer. Shortly after, the male dies and the single fertilized queen ant finds a suitable nesting place to lay eggs and begin a new colony.

The small, white, oval eggs hatch into larvae. The queen continues nourishment until the larvae pupate and adult ants emerge. If warm temperatures exist, the egg to adult cycle can be completed in three months. At first, the colony is small, however, in later years the population can increase to 2000-3000 ants.

CONTROL

Monitoring

In order to control carpenter ants, it is very important to locate the nest. Monitoring may be most effective at night as this is when the ants are most active, leaving the nest to search for food. Some helpful facts to remember when monitoring for carpenter ants are that they tend to follow a definite trail and they make rustling sounds while in their nests which can be heard if the surrounding area is quiet.

Physical

Understanding the habits and life cycle of the carpenter ant can be useful in its control. They are most active and cause most damage during warm summer months. Carpenter ant control may be achieved by the following: reduce or prevent excess moisture in wood; remove possible food sources; avoid storing wood inside or close to the house for long periods of time; remove any decaying wood found around the home and practice good sanitation measures. Remove attractive food sources; store food and garbage in sealed containers to decrease attractions for carpenter ants; caulk openings or install barriers on areas which could act as entrances for ants; and provide good ventilation inside the home.

If a nesting site is found, determine the extent of the damage. If structural damage has occurred, it may be necessary to remove the damaged section and the section containing the nest. If damage is minor or removal of the wood is not possible, use a high suction vacuum to remove the ants. This should greatly reduce the colony, however, it may not totally eliminate the problem. Be sure to destroy the vacuum bag containing the captured ants by burning it. If this is not practical, discard it in a tightly sealed garbage bag. Another physical control measure involves pouring boiling water directly into the nest to kill the ants.

Chemical

If physical control measures are not effective, use a pesticide which will have a minimal impact on both you and the environment. Diatomaceous earth is an insecticidal dust which acts as an abrasive. It cuts the outer layer of the ant's body causing it to dehydrate and then die. Dust formulations may be superior to sprays in controlling ants because they can be directly forced into the tunnels. Ready-to-use liquid baits containing borax are also available for carpenter ant control.

If the above measures are not effective, consult with an expert at a garden center for additional pesticides available. Before using pesticides, consult the Backyard Bug Brigade Brochure which contains information on safe pest control. It may be necessary to seek professional help from a licensed applicator to achieve carpenter ant control.

Always use a registered domestic class pest control product labelled for carpenter ant control and carefully follow the label directions.


[ First Page | Aphids | Biting Flies (Mosquito & Black Fly) | Carpenter Ants | Chinch Bugs | Cockroaches | Cutworms | Earwigs | Eastern Tent Caterpillars | European Marsh Crane Flies | Fleas | Mice & Rats | Silverfish | Wasps (Yellow Jacket) | Turf Weeds | White Grubs | Pesticide Regulations ]