Ants generally have narrow waists and bent (folded) antennae. Carpenter ants can be described as large (6 to 15 mm) black, brown or red ants that damage wood. You can find several species amongst carpenter ants, including the black carpenter ant and the red carpenter ant.
Carpenter ants are social insects. Their physical appearance and tasks vary according to their caste (queen, male or worker). In the wild, carpenter ants live in wet decomposing wood into which the queen lays her eggs; this then becomes the main nest. A larva that looks like a white worm will hatch from the egg, and the larva will then metamorphose (prepupa, pupa) before becoming an adult. The workers dig and maintain tunnels for living quarters in the wood. They defend the colony and feed the young with insects, meat, sweets or fat foodstuffs. When the population grows, tunnels are dug between the main nest and new nests. Some of the workers and young at an advanced stage will move into these satellite nests. After two or more years, the colony will also contain winged reproductive individuals. These males and future queens will in turn establish new colonies. The role of the males ends with mating. The queens rub their wings to get rid of them. They then choose an egg laying site and dedicate themselves to this task for the rest of their lives.
Places where they can be found in the home
During summer, you may find some carpenter ants walking around the floor, and this might be no cause for alarm. They are just looking for food to take back to their outdoor nest. Finding them indoors during the winter is more worrisome. Small piles of saw dust excavated from their tunnels can indicate the presence of these insects that are more active at night. In late spring, you might be amazed to see a swarm of winged ants on your windowpane inside your house. These are males and females that are simply looking for a way to get outside to mate. The presence of these winged individuals indicates that the infestation is not recent.
To prevent carpenter ants from establishing themselves, you are advised to take the following measures:
- Do not leave piles of wood outside your house in direct contact with the earth. Raise them off the ground instead. Make sure that any firewood you bring into your home is not infested with ants.
- Make sure no foodstuffs or crumbs are accessible to ants.
- Do not allow tree limbs or branches to come in direct contact with the house.
- Inspect your gutters.
- Install screens or plug up small openings in your house.
It is important to find the source of the problem. The main nest which contains the queen is often located outdoors in an old damaged tree and, sometimes, on your neighbour’s property. The main nest must be destroyed while making certain that the ants thus disturbed do not migrate further inside the house.
When wood rots – as the result of water damage, for example – it becomes very attractive to carpenter ants and must therefore be replaced. The cause of the rot must also be determined and the moisture problem resolved.
It is advisable to clean up the areas frequented by the ants, since they leave behind chemical substances they can smell and use to return to the same areas.
Carpenter ants can end up damaging the large beams that support your house. Since very few ants leave the nest to look for food and water, it is best to use a poison that will be carried back to the nest and distributed to a number of ants during food exchanges to get rid of the colony.
Carpenter ant damage is similar to that caused by termites, but the latter are not found everywhere in Canada, probably because of our winters. Nevertheless, other insects in our regions can be found in wood. Carpenter ants keep their tunnels clean and remove their excrement and sawdust.
Carpenter ants do not eat wood. They dig tunnels in which to live. Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not live in close harmony with smaller organisms that allow them to digest wood cellulose.