What You Need to Know:
Finding Carpenter Ants
Carpenter ant activity is both seasonal and nocturnal, so these ants can be difficult to find during a home inspection. Carpenter ants are endemic to woodland areas and they perform an important function in the ecosystem, but you do not want them setting up a satellite colony in your house. Carpenter ants do not “eat” wood, as termites do, but they can tunnel in wood and as they excavate wood to build their nests they can damage house structures.
Damaged wood will often look like clean almost polished galleries of wood, especially when they are nesting in otherwise sound wood. The frass that is pushed out looks like sawdust. Sometimes during a home inspection, you find exit holes on wood but no live ants. This can indicate prior carpenter ant activity and could indicate concealed damage to wood.
There are many different species of carpenter ants and they can require a professional pest inspector to identify accurately. The easiest way to identify a carpenter ant is to use a hand lens and look for a convex thoracic dorsum – this is the middle segment on an ant. Some species like Modoc are black and quite large and you are unlikely to find other ants as large. However, there are many smaller species of carpenter ants that cannot be accurately identified by size or color.
Carpenter ants favor wet wood and can be indicative of a moisture problem when they are attracted to a house. However, once carpenter ants get started in nest building they can expand their nests into dry and otherwise sound wood.
Organic and Pesticide Control
Organic control of carpenter ants involves eliminating conducive conditions such as wet wood in and around the house, pruning vegetation away from the building, eliminating wood to soil contact and removing wet and rotted wood around the property such as old stumps and logs. Chemical control of carpenter ants can be effective and should be performed by a licensed pest control operator. Most pest control companies now use chemicals that can knock out a carpenter ant infestation in one treatment, maybe two. If you are being told you need a monthly pest control service for carpenter ants, I would seek an additional opinion.
It is not uncommon to see a few carpenter ants around the house, especially during the springtime. Sometimes the ants are in a winged form. If you see persistent carpenter any activity you should seek additional evaluation by a pest control operator or independent pest inspector.