The sight of large, winged, ant like insects inside your home can provoke fears of termites and crumbling construction. But there's a good chance the culprits are carpenter ants, not termites. Though more common and less feared, carpenter ants can still wreak havoc on your home if left unchecked. If you find yourself beset with these pests, don't panic; take charge instead.
Making the Right ID
Carpenter ant species vary in size and color, but large, black ants are often carpenters. The worker ants are wingless, but reproductive carpenter ants have wings. When mating in spring, the winged ants swarm. If a swarm occurs inside your home, a long-standing infestation is highly likely. But if you find only a few indoors, others are probably nesting outside instead.
Winged carpenter ants are often mistaken for termites at first glance, but telling the difference between the two is fairly simple and critical to treating infestations effectively. The following I.D. tips can help you make the right call:
Carpenter ant antennae have elbow-like angles. Termite antennae are straight.
Carpenter ant bodies are dark, often black. Termites are brown or lighter in color.
Carpenter ants have two sets of wings — the first pair, in the front, are much longer than the second pair. Termites have two sets of wings, but both are the same length.
Carpenter ants have narrow, defined waists. Termites have cigar-like bodies with undefined waists.
Recognizing the Damage
When carpenter ants infest a home, they work more slowly than termites. Colonies can take several years to cause structural damage, but the damage can be severe. Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood. Outdoors, they feed on other insects; indoors, they may seek out meats and sweets. Even though wood isn't on their menu, carpenter ants harm it in other ways.
Carpenter ants usually target moist, decaying wood for nesting. They hollow out large, elongated holes and tunnels, known as galleries. The wood is removed, not eaten, and the galleries are left free from all debris. The sides of the holes are smooth, almost as though they've been professionally sanded. When infestations are severe, piles of coarse sawdust may be found nearby, and your home's structural integrity may be compromised.
Stopping the Destruction
Treating a carpenter ant infestation successfully requires getting to the ants you can see and those you can't. When they're nestled in hidden galleries, that's a challenge – and randomly cutting into walls isn't wise. Powerful, effective bait products are ideal solutions. Carpenter ants feed on bait, then take it back to their colony and share it with the rest of the crew. That puts an end to their excavations and keeps your walls intact.
Without damp, decaying wood to tempt them, carpenter ants aren't likely to stick around and nest. These simple preventive tasks can help you avoid future problems:
Replace all moisture-damaged, decaying wood in your home.
Eliminate moisture sources, such as bad gutters or leaky pipes, that impact exterior or interior wood.
Caulk any openings where you suspect carpenter ants might enter.
Watch for signs of indoor activity, and use indoor bait promptly.
Clear your yard of old lumber and tree stumps, favorite carpenter ant hangouts. Colorado State University recommends a wood-free perimeter of 50 feet around your home.
Stack outdoor firewood far away from wooden structures, and check wood carefully before bringing it indoors.
Keep foundation plantings pruned so they don't touch your house and become ant bridges to the inside.
Carpenter ants can disrupt your life and threaten your home investment when they take up residence inside. With the help of premium, ant-fighting products from the AMDRO® line of ant controls, you can protect your home and end the destruction.
Amdro®, Amdro® Ant Block®, and Amdro® Kills Ants are trademarks of Central Garden & Pet Company. Always read product labels thoroughly, and follow instructions carefully.
All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.
By Natalie Carmolli, Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs
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