Carpenter ants are almost as well known as their wood-destroying counterpart, termites. Like termites, carpenter ants can and will remove wood from a building’s wooden structure. But unlike termites, carpenter ants don’t eat the wood they chew through! This is the crucial difference that can help identify a carpenter ant infestation.
Carpenter ants can cause intense amounts of damage.
Why do carpenter ants chew through wood, anyway?
These ants chew smooth tunnels and “rooms” in wood for nesting and shelter. While carpenter ants prefer decaying wood, they will also nest in man-made materials, like foam insulation boards.
Carpenter ants have to travel outside of their tunnels for food sources, which include both protein and sugary substances. Outdoors, they prefer to eat dead and live insects, as well as “honeydew” from aphids (the sugar substances aphids excrete). Indoors, carpenter ants will scavenge for protein sources, including food crumbs and pet food.
If you have a carpenter ant infestation, you may be able to catch them in their hunt for food. Look for trails of ants going outside, especially around utility openings, door frames, windowsills, and any cracks in external walls.
Carpenter Ant Prevention Tips for Homeowners
The best way to avoid having a carpenter ant problem is simple: prevention! We recommend a variety of prevention techniques, and all of them also work to prevent other pests, too!
1. Inspect your home to spot an ant problem before it begins.
By having your home regularly inspected, the potential beginning of a carpenter ant infestation can be stopped before it spirals.
- Inspect the exterior of your home for any cracks or gaps in walls.
- Look for decaying wood or sources of leaking water, both inside and outside.
- Damp wood is the first place carpenter ants will go to begin an infestation.
2. Modify your landscaping to discourage carpenter ants.
- While carpenter ants won’t typically choose to live in mulch, it can conceal activity or hide a temporary nest.
- Choose inorganic mulch if possible, or choose large chunks of wood–not fine.
- Keep mulch away from the house, and limit it to three inches thick.
- Trim back any shrubs or vegetation from the foundation to allow airflow.
- Sometimes plants can conceal or even encourage damp conditions, especially along the foundation walls, the siding of your home, or near crawlspaces.
- Examine your deck or porch for damp wood.
- If a nest is established, this colony may expand into your home.
- Keep any stacked wood or old logs away from your home.
3. Water sources need to be carefully controlled to prevent carpenter ants.
- Limit or eliminate water collecting plants.
- Remove all standing water sources, like old tires, tarps, or flower pots.
- Limit items like old stumps and old railroad ties in your yard, but especially in shady areas, where they might not dry out entirely.
- Eliminating any decaying wood from your yard is a great way to cut down on carpenter ant risk.
- Fix leaks immediately, whether in the plumbing or in a roof, and properly dry any wood affected by the leak.
- Eliminate dampness in bathrooms and kitchens by controlling humidity.
- If your basement floods, install a sump pump and a de-humidifier to eliminate any lingering water.
4. Use exclusion practices to further prevent pest issues.
- Your home should be properly sealed against water damage and weather–and against pests.
- Seal any foundation cracks.
- Continually restore caulking, especially around doors, windows, and siding. Use weatherstripping around doors and windows.
- Seal or close off utility pipes and entrances.
Use professional pest control resources to further eliminate carpenter ants.
If you see piles of sawdust, small holes in your walls or window sills, trails of larger black ants, or flying ants inside your home, you should call a professional immediately. You may have a carpenter ant or other pest infestation, and the sooner you treat the problem, the less damage you’ll have as a result. Pioneer Pest Management uses Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to get rid of carpenter ants, using our knowledge of their habits and behavior to eliminate them completely. You don’t need to fight carpenter ants alone–give us a call today!