Carpenter ants are exceptionally large ants with a dull back color. The worker ants can range in size up to a half-inch. Like all insects, carpenter ants have six legs and three body segments: a head, trunk (thorax), and abdomen. All six legs are connected to the trunk, which is hunchback-shaped.
Its body is covered with a tough, shell-like exoskeleton. Their elbowed antennae are used for communication, smell, touch, and taste. Carpenter ants have strong jaws with pinchers, which enable them to chew on wood. The larger workers can deliver a painful bite, but they don’t carry a poison sack or stinger.
Do I Have Carpenter Ants or Termites?
Because of their size, people who don’t know pests well may get carpenter ants and termites confused. There are 3 ways to spot a difference between a winged carpenter ant and a winged termite:
- Waist - A carpenter ant has a thin, narrow waist. A termite has a broad waist.
- Antennae - As with all ant species, winged carpenter ants have jointed, elbowed antennae. Winged termites have straight antennae.
- Wings - Carpenter ants have two pairs of membranous wings with the front ones being larger than the hind ones. So, a winged ant will have front and hind wings of different lengths. In contrast, termites have front and hind wings of equal length.
When and Where Carpenter Ants are Active
In Massachusetts, carpenter ants become active in May with peak activity in July, and become dormant in October. An interior nest is the likely cause of carpenter ants emerging during the winter or early spring.
Homes built in wooded lots are prime targets for carpenter ant infestations. Carpenter ants are found in most urban shade trees, and they can forage up to 100 yards searching for food, which homes often readily offer in addition to their favorite moist environments. Homeowners should monitor not only the inside of their homes for carpenter ant activity, but also the surrounding trees and other wood sources.
How to Treat for Carpenter Ants
Eliminating a carpenter ant infestation can be a challenging task. The nests can be concealed in just about any crevice of your home, and sometimes it’s difficult to tell what actions are best to take for your particular infestation.
A trained pest control professional must inspect the structure to determine the location of nests as well as the points of entry. Properly identifying the species of your particular invasive ant colony is also critical to determining the proper treatment plan.
Killing a few ants manually, or spraying a DIY ant control, are both ineffective and potentially dangerous measures for a homeowner to take.
A carpenter ant infestation can only be eradicated if the colony is destroyed and the queen is killed. Once the nest is located and destroyed, the environment for possible re-infestation must be removed—that means replacing the damaged or decayed wood that served as their nest and eliminating moisture problems, which are steps that should be carefully supervised by an experienced pest control professional.
The particular treatments will vary depending on the determined nature and severity of the infestation. A full treatment consists of applications to wall voids as well as a perimeter spray for large or established colonies, while a spot treatment may be used for new or localized infestations. Baits can also be effective carpenter ant control measures because of the ants’ food-sharing behaviors. Our pest control professionals may also communicate with homeowners about additional control measures deemed necessary for the particular situation.
Repairs for carpenter ant damage include:
- Removing moisture damage by providing proper ventilation.
- Installing effective vapor barriers.
- Repairing broken or leaky pipes and gutters.
- Replacing seriously damaged wood.
- Caulking or sealing all potential entry points.
- Trimming away vegetation that is surrounding the house
- Removing buried wood such as tree stumps.