Carpenter ants can cause dramatic damage to organic materials, such as carving deep "galleries" in wood.
Carpenter ants are wood-destroying insects. There are eight carpenter ant species of different sizes and colors found throughout New Jersey. The most common and largest of these ants is the black carpenter ant (Camponotus pennsylvanius). Carpenter ants cause damage by excavating wood – burrowing into it to make room for their growing colony. While carpenter ants don’t cause as much structural damage as termites, if left untreated year after year, carpenter ant damage in New Jersey can be extensive. Once a carpenter ant colony is established, they do not simply “go away.” You may not see foraging ants because their trailing habits change as their season progresses and the temperature and food availability may allow for external foraging, but once a colony is established, it will continue to expand as long as food and moisture are present – and, for ants, once they are inside a home, those items are easy to find. The only long-term solution to a carpenter ant infestation problem is removing or destroying the nest.
In New Jersey, carpenter ants become active in May and slow down in October with July is the month of peak activity. If carpenter ants emerge during the winter or early spring, an interior nest is likely. Otherwise, during peak season, the ants may only be scouts from an outside nest. Homes built in wooded lots are prime targets for carpenter ant infestations. Carpenter ants are found in most urban shade trees and they can forage up to 100 yards to search for food – and that can include a home that offers food and moisture. These foraging worker ants often establish satellite colonies apart from the parent colony around or inside a home. Homeowners should not only monitor the inside of their house for carpenter ant activity, but also the surrounding trees and other wood sources around the house to keep track of potential problems. The objective is to not get carpenter ants off your property. The outside trees are their natural habitat. The pest control objective is to keep the carpenter ants outside of your home.
Carpenter ants are exceptionally large ants with a uniform dull black color. The worker ants can range in size up to a half-inch. Like all insects, carpenter ants have six legs and three body segments, a head, trunk (thorax), and abdomen. Their trunk is “hunchback”-shaped when viewed from the side. Its body is covered with a tough, shell-like exoskeleton. All six legs are connected to the trunk. The antennae, or feelers, are used for communication, smell, touch, and taste. Carpenter ants have strong jaws with pinchers enabling them to chew on wood. The larger workers can deliver a nasty bite, but unlike other types of ants such as fire ants, they don’t carry a poison sack and stinger. Also, unlike ticks or mosquitoes, carpenter ants are not vectors or carriers of any disease.
An important distinction for homeowners is whether the insect spotted inside their house is a winged carpenter ant or a winged termite. Having carpenter ants is a problem. But having termites is certainly a bigger problem. We don’t think of ants or termites as winged insects – and that is true when it comes to the workers. However, female and male reproductive ants and termites (“swarmers”) that leave the colony to start their own nests do have wings.
Eliminating a carpenter ant infestation can be a difficult and challenging task. Often, the nests are often concealed in wall voids, ceilings, subfloors, attics or hollow doors. The top pest control services implement Integrated Pest Management (IPM) protocols that emphasize prevention and the judicious and selective use of chemical applications as part of an overall cost-effective long-term treatment plan.
The pest control professional must inspect the structure to determine where there are nests inside the structure as well as the points of entry from outside nests. It is important to identify the species of carpenter ants causing the problem, to find the nests – both inside the structure as well outside. The nest must be located and removed. Anything else is ineffective. Although it may “feel good” to kill a few of the pesky ants, spraying a home-use insecticide on surfaces where ants travel or congregate such as along baseboards or in holes or cracks in the walls and floors has little long-term effect. It may reduce the frequency and number of ants that you see, but is completely ineffective in eliminating the nest.
Carpenter ants live in large, complex colonies. There is one queen who does the egg-laying and thousands of workers with special functions. Some care for the eggs, larvae, and pupae in the nest, others guard the nest, some dig out the nest, and others forage for food to bring back to the nest. The workers are sterile – they can’t mate and lay eggs. The ants are so closely related and interdependent that an ant colony, from the perspective of a pest control professional, is the equivalent of a single creature. No one ant or group of ants matter. There are literally thousands of them. A carpenter ant infestation can only be eradicated if the colony is destroyed and the queen is killed. Simply killing the foraging ants is an ineffective short-term solution. Also, once the nest is located and destroyed, the environment for possible re-infestation must be removed. That means replacing the damaged or decayed wood that served as their nest and eliminating moisture problems.
A pest control professional who follows Integrated Pest Management (IPM) protocols can cost-effectively remove the infestation and, more importantly, minimize the chances of a subsequent re-infestation. Nonchemical techniques, such as exclusion and habitat modification, that are combined with strategic applications is the most effective way to rid a home of carpenter ants.
The particular treatments vary depending on the nature and severity of the infestation. A full application consists of applications to wall voids as well as a perimeter spray. A spot treatment may be used for a new or localized infestation. Satellite nests must be eliminated as well because the workers can survive even if their parent colony is destroyed. Dusts are effective for wall voids. Baits can be an effective carpenter ants control measure for carpenter ants because of the ants’ food-sharing behaviors. Other controls must be implemented as well.
Damage repair due to carpenter ants includes removing moisture damage by providing proper ventilation, installing effective vapor barriers, and repair broken or leaky pipes and gutters, replacing seriously damaged wood, caulking or sealing all potential entry points, trimming away vegetation that is surrounding the house including tree branches, shrubs, and vines, removing buried wood such as tree stumps. Grinding stumps isn’t enough. If the wood is not removed, you are giving the ants a perfect nesting environment.
If you suspect a carpenter ant infestation in your home, call the pest control specialists at Cowleys Pest Services. They'll inspect the problem at hand and provide you with long-term solutions. Cowleys Pest Services proudly serves homeowners in Mercer, Ocean, Monmouth, Middlesex County, including Woodbridge, Edison, Lakewood and the surrounding area.