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Carpenter ants are known to be some of the most problematic insects and indeed pest species that can invade your home.
Probably the most used approach in terms of domestic carpenter ant control is the random spraying of aerosol pesticides. While this may succeed in killing the immediate evidence, it is quite a disservice considering that the pesticide spraying act often serves to randomly scatter the ants’ satellite nests.
With time the presence of the ants becomes more pronounced and one inevitably has to ask for professional services.
Looking for the right technique to get the job done? Read on.
What Does the Carpenter Ant Look Like?
First up, it is important to know what the carpenter ant looks like. An individual ant measure anywhere between one-quarter and three-eighths of an inch and is usually black or dark brown. Sometimes the color may be yellow or red.
Several species of carpenter ants are common in the United States. The variety found in most of the eastern US has an all-black color. Toward the west carpenter ants also have black bodies but their legs have a dark red tone.
In Florida and other southeastern regions, the ants have redheads while the rest of the body remains black.
The Habits and Diets of Carpenter Ants
The carpenter ant is a nocturnal insect which means that its activity is mainly restricted to the night hours. These insects will mostly construct their nests in wood that has been made soft by moisture much like termites but the nests or galleries as they are also known will tend to be smoother and will not contain the mud-like structures synonymous with termites.
In the indoors, you should generally expect the galleries to be in close proximity to areas around which water leakages are most likely for example near sinks, bathtubs, behind dishwashers, etc.
Outdoors, the nests are most likely going to be found in tree stumps, fencing posts, and hollow logs. The damage to the wood courtesy of carpenter ants is less severe as compared to damaged caused by termites.
Carpenter ants build two types of nests i.e. parent colonies and satellite nests. The former type is the one that contains the queen ant, her eggs and larvae, and worker ants. The latter type will only house worker ants. The ants thrive on a variety of both animal and plant foods and they also have a knack for sweet things.
Inspecting Your Home for Carpenter Ants
Under their nocturnal behavior the best time to look for telltale signs of carpenter ants infestation is in the wee morning hours or evenings.
An inspection should be focused on locating nest sites by following forage trails. It is wrong to assume that your inspection is over upon locating just a single nest; it may be just one of the several colonies that litter your home’s compound.
You can start following the ants sometime after sunset and having marked out some trails you can follow up using a flashlight. The main evidence of carpenter ant activity is the deposit of frass which is the fine sawdust produced after galleries are made in the wood.
The frass may sometimes be hard to notice but if you suspect that a piece of woodwork hosts a gallery you can just tap on it using a light rod or screwdriver tip and see if any frass will drop off. Nest activity can be confirmed by listening for a crinkling sound akin to that one made when cellophane is crumpled.
After Your Inspection, It’s Time for Remedial Action
Depending on the results of your inspection you will have established if the ants have a colony within the house, if they merely forage inside, or if they are based on the compound.
When dealing with foraging carpenter ants it is best advised that you use a residual, non-repellent insecticide that is either wettable-powder based or liquid-based. These are specifically intended for outside use only.
Carpenter ants are known to create trails away from chemically treated areas. A non-repellent insecticide will won’t be noticed by the ants and they will walk straight to their doom. The residual benefits imply that you only have to spray the insecticide every three months or so.
Not only will the insecticide be effective against the ants but the population of other insect pests will be kept in check.
When an ant colony is suspected to be within hollows and voids inside the house the nest(s) can be targeted using aerosol pesticides which can be directed to the exact location using a suitable crevice and crack tip.
These tips enable you to hold the spray can upside down when the target location is difficult to access otherwise; a good dispersion of the chemical is also ensured.
Best results are guaranteed when the spraying is directed at the nest’s exact location as this will eliminate the queen ant and by extension the entire population. In the absence of an aerosol, you can use insecticide dust that has a long residual effect.
This option is however quite cumbersome as it may involve some drilling to get access to the wall voids. Liquid preparations are not recommended for this particular scenario as there is always a risk with electrical outlets.
A very suitable alternative to the powder, aerosol, and liquid pesticides is ant bait that can be used both inside and outside the house. When the bait is placed in the path of the foraging ants they will naturally take the ‘food‘ back to the queen(s) whose elimination will sound the death knell for entire colonies.
Carpenter ants mostly feed on proteins and sweets and some baits are made using both of these. Try to use both types of bait to avoid the ants from trying to look for other food sources elsewhere. In placing the bait ensure that there are also no other food alternatives like crumbs which may distract the carpenter ants and prevent them from taking the bait.