Carpenter Ants (Damage) in House

Carpenter Ants Damage in House: Where & What to Look For

One of the largest and most common ant species found in New England, carpenter ants can grow as long as three-fourths of an inch, depending on the type. Typically black or reddish in color, the body of a carpenter ant features three distinct sections consisting of the head, thorax, and abdomen. The thorax and abdomen are visibly divided by a pinched waist, which helps distinguish carpenter ants from termites.

Carpenter ants also have six legs and a pair of elbowed, or bent, antennae (opposed to termites which have straight antenna). Certain types of carpenter ants, called swarmers (reproductive caste), boast wings that are unequal in size and enable the insects to fly.

Ants in house

Hideouts in the Home

When carpenter ants gain entry to houses, they generally prefer to inhabit wood structures damaged by moisture. Consequently, the insects often reside:

  • Behind bathroom walls or tiles.
  • In crawlspaces near leaking chimneys.
  • In frames around leaky windows and doors.
  • Underneath sinks, windows, and dishwashers.
Carpenter ants also sometimes establish satellite colonies, which are made up of only workers, in dryer wood away from the parent nest. As nocturnal insects, carpenter ants are usually most active at night, when they emerge from the nest to forage for food.

Household Items that Attract Carpenter Ants

Attracted to wet and damaged wood, carpenter ants often gravitate to homes with leaks that allow excess moisture to permeate the structure. Once inside, the pests are frequently drawn to human food sources, such as fats, meats, and sweets.

Common pantry items like sugar, honey, and syrup are highly attractive to carpenter ants. The insects are also drawn to grease spills and overripe fruit. Despite their attraction to damaged wood, carpenter ants use wood structures solely to build nests and not as a food source.

Flight

Do Carpenter Ants Fly Indoors?
Only certain types of carpenter ants possess wings and flying capabilities. Known as swarmers, winged carpenter ants appear in the spring exclusively to mate and reproduce. Female swarmers also use their wings to fly away with the fertilized eggs and establish new colonies elsewhere.

Swarmers typically only emerge from mature colonies (in existence for at least three years and containing roughly 2,000 members). As such, the presence of winged carpenter ants inside a structure generally indicates a severe and longstanding infestation.

Damage to the Home

What Does Carpenter Ant Damage Look Like?
Carpenter ants cause damage by tunneling through wood to either create a nest or get to another, more ideal nesting site. Because carpenter ants refrain from eating the wood they remove from structures, the damage caused by the excavating insects is often revealed in the form of small sawdust piles that accumulate below the tunnel entryway or beneath cracks in ceilings.

Carpenter ants keep the tunnels, known as galleries, clean and free of debris, resulting in smooth and remarkably clear pathways. The tunnels typically follow the grain of the wood.

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