What Every Homeowner Needs to Know About Carpenter Ants
It’s spring – and that means insect activity is on the rise – primarily, the Carpenter Ant.
When considering insect pests, it is important to remember how incredibly diverse and regional they are. The indigenous insect pests we encounter locally will not be the same as those encountered in Ontario or Texas, for example. While most pest insects will present as nuisances, there is only one insect in the Lower Mainland that threatens our homes: The Carpenter Ant.
Of course, when most people think about wood destroying pests, they think of termites. However, on the “wet” coast, we have the Pacific Damp-Wood Termite, which can only damage wood that is already wet and rotting. By contrast, two of our local Carpenter Ant species are capable of damaging the healthy wood.
Carpenter Ant colonies consist of up to 20 different nesting sites. The parent nest, where the queen resides, will always have some rot. This provides the right humidity levels for eggs and larvae. This rotting wood may be inside a structure, or in an adjacent, fence, tree, or stump. The “satellite nests,” and portions of the parent nest, however, can be in perfectly sound wood. These nests consist of excavated tunnels in the wood – thereby reducing its structural value. In some cases, this can be disastrous.
The worker Carpenter Ants that affect our homes come in three different sizes but are typically medium to large black ants, and some have a red thorax (middle section). They do not produce their own body heat and are therefore dependent on ambient temperatures providing enough warmth to allow them to be active. These ants are common to our local area, and while some may wander inside coincidentally in the summer months, any number of them seen inside the home during the winter or early spring is a clear indication that they are nesting in the structure.
A common problem in dealing with a known Carpenter Ant infestation is to respond only to known areas of infestation. Unfortunately, this doesn’t take into account that their nesting behavior may not address the full scope of the infestation and is unlikely to remove the infestation.
Carpenter Ants live a hidden life. Research tells us that only 10% of the population ever leaves the colony, primarily to forage for food outside the home in characteristic “trails.” In the summer, they become nocturnal and are even more difficult to track.
Carpenter Ants are generally not active in the winter, so a treatment to eliminate an infestation should allow for warranty into the next calendar year(s). Locally, the most common Carpenter Ant spreads by “swarming.” Often around the May long weekend, winged ants emerge and mate, and then the Queen Ants disperse to establish new nesting sites. A Queen Carpenter Ant can live 25 – 30 years and infestations can become quite severe. Because of this, all structures in the lower mainland are at risk of infestation and would benefit from an annual preventative treatment.
Tri-Cities Pest Detective