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Carpenter Ants: Signs of Infestation
Of all the household bugs commonly seen in New England, carpenter ants are one species that are especially problematic for homeowners. Unlike termites, carpenter ants don’t digest wood. Instead, they tunnel into wood and destroy it in order to hollow out their nests or “galleries.”
In nature, these ants serve a valuable purpose by chewing up old wood, such as fallen trees, into sawdust that easily decomposes, which helps sustain a balanced, self-renewing ecosystem. Unfortunately, they also harm wood components in homes and other man-made structures and cause millions of dollars in property damage across the U.S. every year.
How to Recognize Carpenter Ants
A carpenter ant problem can be difficult to detect if you’re unfamiliar with their life cycle and habits. To identify a developing or existing issue with these destructive household bugs, and help prevent extensive damage to your home, it’s wise to learn more about the ants’ behavior and preferences, such as their:
NESTING HABITS: Nests or parent colonies that house the queen and broods of newly-laid eggs are typically built outdoors in tree stumps or roots, rotted logs, or decaying boards. A large colony can develop smaller satellite colonies composed of worker ants, mature larvae, and pupae. These are the colonies that most often find a home indoors because they can tolerate drier environments.
OPTIMAL CONDITIONS: Carpenter ants often build their nests in wooden building components found in moist and damp areas, like a basement, in a bathroom, or under a kitchen sink or dishwasher. However, satellite colonies can also set up house in drier spots like behind siding, in wall voids, window or door frames, attic or wall insulation, or hollow wooden doors.
INVASION TACTICS: These ants might enter your home through wet and deteriorating wood structural components. Alternately, they can get in through cracks and gaps around the foundation, windows or exterior doors, and penetrations for vents, pipes, or wiring, or even by excavating tunnels through intact wood.
Possible Signs of a Carpenter Ant Infestation
If you see any of the following signs that you may have carpenter ants inside your home, you may want to consider seeking professional help:
Finding piles of sawdust-like wood shavings near wood structural components, and areas like door jambs, windows stills, or baseboards. This is discarded wood that’s been excavated while a nest is being constructed.
Hearing rustling sounds from inside your walls or hollow wood doors. If you suspect that there’s a nest inside, you can try knocking on the item then putting your ear against it and listening for a sound similar to crinkling cellophane.
Seeing winged insects emerge from hidden crevices inside your home in late winter or early spring. This is when young carpenter ants typically swarm to find a new nesting area.
Seeing trails in your yard. Carpenter ants like to use the same routes when foraging for food or traveling between nests, and for ease-of-use, they’ll keep these pathways free from vegetation and debris.
Finding distinctive-looking ants anywhere inside your home in colder weather. The carpenter ants usually found in New England are brown or black and can be up to an inch in length, with elbowed antennae and pinched waists.
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