Picture you’re preparing dinner and suddenly a giant black ant runs across the counter. It’s a terrifying experience because this ant is four times bigger than the small ants you usually see in your home. If this has happened, chances are it was a carpenter ant; and that one ant may indicate a bigger problem than you realize.

Carpenter Ant on back legsCarpenter Ants are more than just a nuisance because they wreak havoc on the structures of homes. In extreme cases, they can make your home unsafe to live in and reduce its value.

Typically, they’re large, measuring between ¼ - ½ inch and can vary in color from black to red to brown. In the Northeast, we typically encounter Camponotus Pennsylvanicus, which are entirely black. A typical black carpenter ant colony has about 3,000 workers, who work tirelessly to build extensive tunnels, called galleries, through wood. Thankfully for the homeowner, most of those 3,000 workers will probably never enter your home. Carpenter ant colonies are similar to banks. The main branch, or parent colony, is typically established outside in rotting fence posts, stumps, firewood, dead trees, etc. Then, in mid-summer, the workers leave and establish satellite branches. This is when carpenter ants usually begin to establish a presence in homes.

Contrary to popular belief, carpenter ants don’t eat wood, like termites. Their diet consists of insect honeydew, plant and fruit juices and insects. Inside homes, they may feed on other things such as sweets, eggs and meats. Instead of feeding on wood, carpenters ants make their nests in the wood, chewing through it only to spit it out through small openings on the surface of the wood. This leaves a stringy substance called frass (sawdust-like shavings and fragments of other substances such as insulation and dead insect parts), outside the entrance to a nest. If gone unchecked, piles of frass can become enormous, signaling extensive damage. Carpenter ants prefer to target wood that has been softened by fungus. Often, the appearance of carpenter ants signals a home has moisture issues (hot spots include; basement rafters and attics because fiberglass insulation often holds moisture). However, this doesn’t mean that carpenter ants won’t also infest wood that shows no signs of water damage. Over time, a nest started in decayed wood will make its way into sound wood nearby. This allows for a carpenter ant colony to make its way throughout a home.

Carpenter ants like to keep their nests hidden. Often times you won’t even know you have a problem until the ants are crawling around your kitchen! In summer, workers, as well as winged males and females, emerge from their nests. These winged ants are called Carpenter Ant Swarmers. Swarmers are sexually developed ants that search for other ants to mate with. Before a swarm, you may observe an occasional winged male as he tests the environment to see if it’s right. This process may happen several times if they’re inside your home because conditions inside are so different from the outside. If those winged males decide that conditions are ideal, they release a pheromone that will signal the females to leave the nests. Once this happens, watch out! Carpenter ant swarms can occur in dramatic numbers.

IF YOU SEE A CARPENTER ANT IN YOUR HOME, call Accurate Termite & Pest Control immediately. Don’t tackle the nest yourself! Why? Store-bought insecticides typically are ineffective because they can’t penetrate the wood to drive the ants out. We have extensive programs to deal with carpenter ants to eliminate the ants inside your home and keep the parent nest from branching out into your home. Professional inspection is key when it comes to carpenter ants since they look similar to termite swarmers to the untrained eye. Help keep your home safe from wood-destroying insects; call Accurate Termite & Pest Control today!

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