You look around your home and see that there is what appears to be sawdust or tiny pieces of wood beneath window ledges or other areas with a lot of wood. If you listen close, you hear something that sounds a little like someone crinkling cellophane.
Uh-oh. That doesn’t sound very good.
There are several different insects that can cause damage to wood like termites and carpenter bees. There are also carpenter ants, so which one do you have? And if you do have carpenter ants, how do you get rid of them?
Find out more about ant behavior and what that trail of ants mean.
What Are Carpenter Ants?
Carpenter ants are a species of ants that cover a wide variety of specific kinds of ants found all over the world. They all prefer to live in wooded areas, moist areas, and use wood for their nests. Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not consume wood to survive. Instead, they like to use damp or rotted wood to build tunnels and create nests.
Carpenter ants commonly found in homes around North America are usually black, or dark in color, and roughly between 6 – 12 mm as adults. Swarmers with wings are usually bigger, as are the queens, and can be between 18 – 20 mm in length.
We have even more information about carpenter ants, what they look like and their behaviors available.
Signs of Carpenter Ants
The sign that you are most likely to see first are the piles of sawdust – known as frass. There might also be ant legs and body parts since the ants can continue to move and work even if they lose a leg or part of their body and swarmers can shed their wings. Mostly, however, it will look like very fine sawdust on the floor near wooden areas around the home.
Since carpenter ants do not eat the wood, they chew it up and deposit it outside the nest. This is why the piles of sawdust are found.
You can also hear carpenter ants at work. Nests can get very big, very fast, and spread to multiple places, and all of those little ant jaws working through the wood to create more tunnels and build more nests makes noise. That’s the crinkling, crunching sound that you’ll often hear.
Finally, you might just see the tunnels and damage done to the wood. Sometimes it can even be evident to the outside, but often you’ll need to pry up wooden planks and look beneath to see the network of tunnels and large, hollowed-out, areas where the ants are laying their eggs
Carpenter Ants vs. Termites
Sometimes termites are called “white ants” although they are very different. Their body shapes are different and their entire method of dealing with wood is different. Termites actually eat the wood, needing the cellulose that is part of the wood, whereas ants do not.
Ants have distinct, separate, body segments. Termites have a rather large head and then one big body. Ants also have antennae, while termites do not.
Termites, in some cases, also leave mud tubes on walls and around the home to use as highways and roads to get around. Carpenter ants may leave trails, but they are scent trails that can only be detected by other ants.
Finally, although not always the case, termites are generally smaller than ants.
How Do You Get Rid of Carpenter Ants?
First, determine that you definitely have carpenter ants and not termites. Once you have done that, you can start going about trying to get rid of the carpenter ants around your home.
Second, find out where they are nesting. Look for ant trails and see where the ants are heading back to their nests with food. Carpenter ants are nocturnal, so you’re going to have to do this at night.
Third, you will likely have to remove the areas of rotten wood that the ants have chewed away. You may need to use the services of an actual carpenter to help with repairs.
Fourth, you will need to use some kind of ant bait and powder or another treatment program to get rid of the infestation. You have to be careful because a large infestation can create nests in multiple places.
Finally – if you have any doubts about your ability to do this, contact your local carpenter ant control specialist.
Preventing Carpenter Ants
Once you get rid of the infestation, you will want to do some things to make sure they don’t come back:
- Make sure that food and water spilled on floors gets cleaned up right away. Leaving food out for them is like ringing the dinner bell for them to come en mass.
- Get rid of damp, rotten wood. Carpenter ants love the moisture and want the wood to be as soft as possible. If you have rotten wood anywhere on your home or structures around your property, get rid of it.
- Keep wood away from the house. This also includes trimming back trees and branches.
- Inspect your property and make sure that cracks and crevices are sealed up tight.
- Clear away debris that can provide a safe haven for carpenter ants like piles of compost, leaves and other vegetation.
- Keep food covered and stored in sealed containers.
Call the Professionals
If you think that you have carpenter ants, it can be a real challenge to find their nests and effectively remove them. That’s why it’s often the best solution to contact the experts and your local carpenter ant professionals to get it done right.