People often freak out when they see Carpenter Ants, and it’s hard to blame them. They assume that the ants are eating the wood of the foundation and that soon a section of the home will be weakened or ruined. That may be partially true, but today we’re going to take a look at what precisely the carpenter ant does and what it means for your home.
The first thing that should be made clear is that Carpenter Ants are not termites. Carpenter Ants don’t feed on wood. Let’s repeat that. Carpenter Ants are not eating the wood! They instead feed on other insects. But what they do is create tunnels through rotting wood to build their nests. While it’s similar, it’s an important distinction to make. Carpenter Ants will build a nest wherever there is wood that is exposed to moisture. This can be in the home, in a tree, or even in firewood.
The Carpenter Ant is not to be confused with the termite. Generally, the Carpenter Ant looks like an oversized black ant. They have a distinct head, thorax, and abdomen, whereas the termite’s body looks like it could be one large thorax.
Carpenter Ants will be identifiable in the spring by their wings, as this is when they leave the nest to colonize elsewhere.
The first thing to do is to identify them. Using our description and picture above, decide if the ants you are seeing are indeed Carpenter Ants.
Second, it’s important to remember that just because you’ve seen a Carpenter Ant, it does not necessarily mean they are nesting in your home. They follow trails that other ants use while foraging for food, so it’s possible they followed them into the home. They’ll do this up to 100 feet from the nest.
If they are nesting in the home, it means that you have wood that is being damaged by water. This is a more significant problem than the ants themselves, as it means that you have a leak somewhere and it could lead to foundational weakness in the home. Check for rotting window sills, rotting wood in the attic where the roof may be leaking, or for rotting wood around tubs and sinks.
If the nest is in the home, you’ll have to destroy it. But more importantly, you’ll have to replace the rotting wood with healthy wood. This will strengthen the home and prevent further Carpenter Ant infestations.
If you find Carpenter Ants in a tree, there are certain actions you can take. If the nest is in a limb, you’ll simply have to prune away the limb where they’re nesting. If they are in the trunk of the tree, options may be limited.
If you find Carpenter Ants in a tree near your home, it doesn’t necessarily mean the tree is rotting or dying. Nests can exist in a tree for years without the tree dying because the ants are only tunneling through dead tissue. This means they’re not harming the movement of water and nutrients through the tree.
Though Carpenter Ants spell bad news if they’re nesting in the home, they are actually quite beneficial to nature, and should only be removed if they’re causing a definite problem.
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