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December 30, 2023

Carpenter Ants

Infestations of this wood-destroying pest are most common in areas with warm temperatures and moist conditions. They nest in hollow areas of logs, stumps, dead trees and in tree limbs. They also tunnel into the heartwood of living trees to create galleries that aid in decomposition. Unlike termites, Carpenter Ants do not consume the wood they excavate. Nevertheless, when they infest homes and other buildings, they can cause damage to the structural timbers.

Carpenter ants are a major pest of residential and commercial structures. They can also be a problem in yards, where they may forage at night and return to a home seeking food or water. They are omnivorous and feed on both plant and animal materials, including a wide range of plant juices, fruits particularly citrus, living or dead insects, other small invertebrates, sweets such as syrup, honey, and jelly and most kinds of meat, grease and fat. They can also digest cellulose, the primary substance in wood.

The ants are black and about half an inch long with a thorax, head and wings. The queen is slightly larger than the worker ants. In the wild, carpenter ants are commonly found in southern forests where they form large colonies and forage together at night.

Typically, black carpenter ants will enter homes and other buildings in search of water or food. When they find a source, they will move a number of workers into the structure and build a satellite colony. Infestations can result in a great deal of wood damage inside and outside the building, although it is rare that they will cause any structural damage.

Carpenter ant wood damage can be expensive to repair, and homeowners should take steps to prevent infestations. Infestations can be prevented by regularly inspecting and promptly repairing leaky faucets, sink drains and roof and window leaks; by removing firewood from contact with a building; by storing wood building materials away from the house; and by keeping food scraps out of the yard, especially pet food.

If a problem occurs, the first step is to locate and treat the outdoor nest site. Outdoor nests can be treated by spraying or drenching with insecticides such as carbaryl, diazinon, or chlorpyrifos. Indoors, a scouting ant trail can be followed to a nest site and tapped along baseboards and other wood surfaces with the blunt end of a screwdriver to hear the hollow sound of the excavated galleries.

A professional pest control company should be consulted to advise and provide effective carpenter ant control programs. A trained pest control technician will examine the property to identify conditions that encourage infestation and develop an appropriate management plan. A trained pest control specialist can also advise about the use of baits, dusts and traditional pesticide applications to effectively treat existing infestations.

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