When you think of ants, you probably picture a long line of tiny bugs crawling across your driveway, each carrying a piece of food on its back as they make their way back to the anthill that has popped out of a crack in the sidewalk. However, as intriguing as they can be to watch wandering around your property, ants are often a nuisance at backyard barbecues or family picnics. They can also cause a lot of problems if they infiltrate your house and can be difficult to get rid of. If an infestation of carpenter ants has infested your home, the following carpenter ant facts will tell you how to identify these pesky insects and the best way to eliminate them from your home or back yard.
What is a carpenter ant?
Carpenter ants are one of the largest types of ants, ranging in size from ¼ inch to 3/8 of an inch in length. Although they are most commonly black in color, they can sometimes be found in hues of yellow, tan, orange and reddish brown. Carpenter ants, which belong to the Camponotus genus, earned their name from the type of habitat they prefer: damp or damaged wood. They typically live in large colonies and reside in holes and passageways known as "galleries" that they dig out of the wood that they inhabit. A deposit of sawdust from wood that has been chewed to create these galleries is one of the most obvious signs that a carpenter ant is present. Common dwellings for carpenter ants include both dead and living trees, rotting stumps and decaying logs as well as homes, sheds or other buildings that are comprised of wood. To establsih their colonies, the species generally seeks out wood that has been exposed to moisture.
Carpenter ant colonies consist of several castes, which include a queen and as many as 2,000 worker ants. The queen carpenter ant lays 15-20 eggs during the first year and 30 eggs the second year, which take a period of approximately 60 days to complete the cycle from egg to adult ant. This 60-day period is broken down into an egg phase that lasts 24 days, a 20-day larval phase and a pupa stage that takes 21 days to complete. In order for carpenter ant eggs to develop into adults properly, temperatures during this portion of the lifecycle must stay between 70 and 90 degrees. While queen carpenter ants can live up to 25 years, worker ants only have a lifespan of about seven years.
Treating a carpenter ant infestation
If you've spotted signs of a carpenter ant infestation in your home, you need to take action immediately to treat the problem before the colony has the opportunity to establish itself further. The first step in treating a carpenter an infestation is finding the nest the ants inhabit. Look for small piles or trails of sawdust which can lead you to the source of the infestation. If the nest is located in an object you can remove from your yard or property-such as a stump, tree or decaying piece of wood-remove it immediately.
If you can't remove the source of the infestation, you'll need to treat it with a chemical that kills carpenter ants and then prevent an infestation from reoccurring by eliminating the combination of wood and moisture that carpenter ants are attracted to. A variety of pesticides that promise to kill off carpenter ant colonies can be purchased at local hardware or home improvement stores. If the infestation consists of thousands of ants or you have tried to eliminate the insects with pesticides unsuccessfully, contact a professional exterminator to treat the source of the infestation and prevent more ants from being attracted to your property in the future.