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Carpenter Ants

Carpenter Ants (Camponotus Modoc)

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Carpenter Ant Facts

Carpenter ants are one of natures most aggressive wood destroyers. Similar to termites, carpenter ants damage wood. Unlike termites however, carpenter ants do not eat wood for food. Carpenter ants only bore into wood to establish and/or enlarge their nest. They can do lots of damage to wood. Because of their ability to excavate wood and cause moderate amounts of localized damage,, they are of economic importance to the pest control industry and to homeowners alike.

Carpenter ants do not eat wood. Carpenter ants eat aphid and other sweet sugary insects. Aphids are their #1 choice of food. Carpenter ants will care for, groom, raise and nurture aphids within their colony in special "aphid" chambers. Carpenter ants do this to derive "honeydew" from the Aphids. Aphids secret honeydew which is the Carpenter ants favorite food. Carpenter ants take care of Aphids to get their honeydew. Its nature's way of allowing ants and aphids to live in harmony with each other. What happens when the Aphids stop secreting honeydew? They become carpenter ant bait!

It has often been thought that in order to get rid of Carpenter ants, all one has to do is to get rid of the Aphids. Aphids will attack all kinds of outdoor plants, so by spraying the plants you get rid of the Aphids. Unfortunately, this often provides poor control since Carpenter ants can forage several hundred yards looking for Aphids.

Carpenter Ant Damage

Big Black Carpenter Ants

Big Black Carpenter Ants Excavating A Nest

Carpenter Ant Damage

Carpenter Ant Damage To Pole

Carpenter ants can be considered wood destroying pests because of their ability to cause damage to wood. The amount of damage carpenter ants cause is usually far less in comparison to that of subterranean termites, however, if carpenter ant nests are left untreated and undisturbed, the shear numbers of ants can be enormous and the resulting damage caused by "mining" of wood to increase the nest can be substantial.

Carpenter ants cause damages to wood primarily due to nest construction. In other words, damages are only a result of their nest building efforts. As a general rule, carpenter ants do not damage wood as heavily as subterranean termites, but given enough time and a large enough nest, damages can be severe. Carpenter ants have a habit of cleaning and polishing the galleries in the wood. The galleries are smooth in appearance and do not resemble the rough jagged appearance of subterranean termite galleries.

During the mining or excavation phase of nest building, Carpenter ants make small "kick-out holes" out of which all the trash and debris accumulated within the nest are tossed out. The tossing's which consist primarily of wood chips, insect particles, dead ants, etc, often form small scattered piles. These small scattered piles are often referred to by professionals as "frass". If frass is found, then it should be carefully inspected with a magnifying glass to determine that it is carpenter ant frass and not the frass of drywood termites. Drywood termites (only found in southern coastal regions) will toss frass out of small kick out holes too. The difference is that drywood termite frass is made up of their excrement and does not contain any insect particles, wood shavings, etc. Drywood termite frass only contains drywood termite fecal pellets which if viewed under a magnifying glass resemble a small football with 6 concave sides.

Any wood destroying insect damage should be a cause for concern and should be carefully evaluated. If you discover that carpenter ants are the problem then the appropriate action needs to begin immediately - and preferably during the early stages of colony development. If you let the carpenter ants continue to populate and the nest to grow, then control becomes much more difficult and in some severe cases almost impossible to achieve.

Click here for more information on how to tell ants from termites

Types of Carpenter Ants

Florida carpenter ant

Florida Carpenter Ant
(also referred to as the red and
black carpenter ant)

Signs of Carpenter Ants

In order to effectively eliminate carpenter ants, you have to be absolutely sure that it is carpenter ants to begin with. Look for the following signs:

* Presence of ants (workers or winged reproductives) - An occasional ant may be a scout looking for food and may not indicate the presence of a nest, but continuous or numerous ants are a sign of nesting.

* Frass - Accumulating in piles or caught in spider webbing; has a finely-shredded appearance. Do not confuse with small sawdust from construction, doors or cabinets rubbing on one another, or drywood termite fecal pellets.

*Trails - Carpenter ants will often form tight closely associated trails that can be traced to the area of the nest. Many times trails can be tracing along carpet edges, door frames, outside eaves, fence tops, telephone and power lines, etc..

* Sounds - Rustling or tapping noises produced when disturbed ants rasp the substrate with their mandibles or gasters or when excavating wood. If you put your ear up to a hollow door and then scratch your fingers on the other side, the scratching sound will give you a good idea of what carpenter ants sound like.

Finding Carpenter Ant Colonies

Carpenter ant control begins with a search for the colony or nest. Before any efforts are made to eradicate carpenter ants, a program or strategy needs to be implemented. Do not simply spray "something" on the carpenter ants without considering the consequences. Simply spraying an "over the counter poison" on the ants without any other consideration will greatly complicate your control and sometimes make the infestation much worse.

#1 Reason you do not want to spray for carpenter ants:

Sprays will only kill the exposed worker ants. Spraying will have no effect on the queens. Therefore if large numbers of worker ants begin to die - guess what happens ? The queens will lay more eggs, and since the queens will not be killed by sprays, the number of eggs will grow and multiply and eventually outnumber by many times the numbers of the original workers. That means your carpenter ant colony is now several times larger - all because the ants have a "natural tendency to survive".

#2 Reason you do not want to spray for carpenter ants:

Most chemical pesticide sprays tend to be very repellent to the ants. Chemical or pesticide repellency simply means that the ants can sense the presence of pesticides and will avoid them. That's right - the worker ants will simply avoid the chemical that you sprayed and travel or trail around it. If the chemical is sprayed too close to the nest, the queens will instruct the workers to pick up the eggs and move the nest farther away from the pesticide! Usually, as a result of moving, the queens will also instruct the workers to divide or "split" into several new nests. This splitting of dividing of the carpenter ant nest is also called "satelliting" or "budding". After the new nests are established, the new queens begin to lay more eggs and the entire carpenter ant system is divided and now instead of a single nest there are several nests to deal with, making control much more difficult.

Some pest control technicians as a result of using repellent sprays or dusts actually create more problems than they solve! Yes, they use repellent sprays thinking they are "doing a good job", but create more problems - as a result of not following rule #2.

Their are no non-repellent pesticide sprays labeled for indoor spraying. The only product that comes close to being non-repellent is Phantom a liquid spray product that also has an indoor ant label. Termidor also has an ant label for outdoor barrier use only.

The only non-repellent dusts for carpenter ant control are Timbor and Nibor . The ants will contact these dusts by crawling or trailing through them not realizing the presence of the dust. The ants will die within 7-14 days after being exposed these products. Nibor can be mixed with water and sprayed like a liquid pesticides. When the water evaporates it leaves a thin film of Nibor on surfaces sprayed.

The bottom line is, you have to find or make an attempt to find the carpenter ant nest and not use repellent sprays or dusts!

How To Kill And Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants:

Carpenter Ant

Carpenter Ant

Once the carpenter ant colonies have been located, they need to be treated with baits or non-repellent insecticides. Only use non-repellent pesticides to kill carpenter ants. Non-repellent means that the Ants will not detect its presence and will not avoid it. In the case of baits, they will be attracted to it, and hopefully feed on it. In the case of dusts, foams or sprays, they will not detect their presence and will not be repelled.

Many carpenter ant infestations are made much worse with the random application of sprays purchased at hardware stores. Carpenter ants, as with most ants are repelled by stinky smelly chemicals. If you spray a stinky smell chemical near them, they will simply avoid it and move away from it. Sometimes, the ants will actually "split" their colony into several new colonies in order to survive. This is called "satelliting" or "budding". The point is that if you spray something random, without a good carpenter ant control strategy, you could be making the problem much worse and much more costly.

Outside Carpenter Ant Control

Inside Carpenter Ant Control

Continual Carpenter Ant Protection

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