Ants at a picnic are one thing, but ants biting into the structure of your home? Not necessarily the carpenters you had in mind. Carpenter ants, while seemingly harmless in size and stature, can cause an impressive amount of damage.
What Do Carpenter Ants Look Like?
Carpenter ants are large ants with six legs and segmented bodies measuring approximately five-eighths of an inch, or a little smaller than the length of a penny. In color, carpenter ants are usually red, black, brown or a combination. Carpenter ants are most common in the northern parts of the U.S.
While many assume carpenter ants feed on wood, they are mistaken. They will feed on a variety of food people eat, like sweets and meats, as well as other insects. Carpenter ants do not eat wood as termites do, but instead remove wood and deposit the debris outside of their nests in small piles.
In fact, carpenter ants earned their name from how they build their nests. To make their nests, carpenter ants carve tunnels into wood, chewing, but not ingesting, wood to make their home. Carpenter ants accomplish this work with their noticeably large mandibles, or oral appendages, that they use as tools to carve through the wood.
A nest typically houses a colony of carpenter ants, which can house up to 50,000 ants. Colonies consist of worker ants and swarmer ants. Worker ants, as their name implies, work through wood to extend the colony’s nest. Swarmer ants appear when the colony matures, as they leave the colony to produce satellite colonies. Swarmer ants have wings to enable them to travel the distance needed to start a new colony.
Carpenter Ant Damage
Carpenter ants prefer to nest in moist wood. Therefore, nests are more likely to be found in wood near water or leaks, such as around sinks, bathtubs, windows or doors. Leaks in roofs and chimneys also serve as prime hotspots for carpenter ants.
Once nesting in wood in your home, carpenter ants can cause a tremendous amount of otherwise unnoticed damage. For instance, when they build nests, their carving into the wood weakens it from the inside. The longer the ants inhabit that nest, the greater the structural damage. When carpenter ants extend their stay, they leave debris, which can also result in unsightly cosmetic damage. These ants produce this debris, made of wood shavings and the remainder of dead ants, when they tunnel.
Signs of Carpenter Ants
Debris is one of the signs of carpenter ants affecting your home. Besides debris, the only other external sign of carpenter ants is a sighting of either the ants themselves or the small openings they leave along the outside of the wood they contaminate. If you notice holes in wood and can see any of the sawdust-like debris in or around this damage, there’s a good chance you have an infestation on your hands. The debris is a sign of an active infestation, since carpenter ants like to keep their tunnels smooth and clear. Another telltale sign of carpenter ants is a rustling sound. This sound, though faint, is the sound of the ants hard at work, carving their home into yours.
Once you spot one or more of these signs, consider calling a professional. Oftentimes, while the evidence may be clear, the internal damage carpenter ants have caused cannot be seen or addressed by the average homeowner. In these cases, we recommend you hire a professional, such as Waltham, to take care of the carpenter ants, their colony and their nest.