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Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are quite common in Ontario especially in communities with lots of mature trees and extensive exterior landscaping. Carpenter ants forage and invade homes in search of food, moisture, warmth, and shelter.

Carpenter ants are social insects, nesting in colonies which may be indoors or outdoors. A carpenter ant colony is started when winged reproductives (males and queens) swarm in the late spring or early summer. Mating takes place in flight. Shortly after, the male dies and the single fertilized queen ant finds a suitable  dump nesting place to lay eggs and begin a new colony. The queen's first set of eggs hatch into small workers. These small workers feed the queen and assist in expanding the nest. As more eggs are produced, the worker ants will vary in size from 6 to 13 mm in length. You may have observed different sized ants foraging about your home or yard. The larger (major) workers guard the nest, fight intruders, explore, and forage. The medium and minor workers carry out most of the work inside  the nest including excavating and caring for the eggs, larvae, and pupae and foraging for and bringing food and moisture back to the nest. It may take three to five years for a colony to grow to maturity with a population of 2000 to 4000 ants. As the colony grows it is common for the parent nest  to branch out and establish satellite colonies.  Satellite colonies can be in the same tree or in a nearby structure, such as your house. The queen and the eggs remain in the parent colony. These satellite colonies will contain workers, older larvae, pupae, and when conditions are right, some winged reproductives. The workers of satellite colonies move readily between their nest and the parent colony. The carpenter ants inside a home may have originated from the parent colony or from one or more satellite nests. Carpenter ants are quite rugged and can tolerate severe environmental conditions including our cold winters.

 

Carpenter ants do not eat wood. It has no nutritional value to them. Carpenter ant workers forage outdoors for food such as honeydew (secreted by aphids), juices from ripe fruit, and other insects. Indoors they like sweets and moist kitchen refuse. 

Carpenter ants burrow or tunnel into the wood that has been softened, not to feed, but to expand an area for nesting. The occupied galleries are kept very clean. The excavated wood (called frass) resembles sawdust and is carried outside the nest and deposited (dumped) elsewhere. The discarded frass may be hidden behind a wall or it may appear as piles of wood shavings. 

Carpenter ants nest in voids. They may establish a nest in a naturally occurring void or they will excavate (hollow out) a space in wood that has been softened by moisture . Outside, nests are typically located in old tree stumps, rotting fence posts, landscaping timbers, dead portions of standing trees. Indoors, nests may be found in wall voids, under insulation, inside hollow doors, and in wood that has been softened by a moisture condition.

 The extent and potential damage to a home depends on how many nests are actually present within the structure, and how long the infestation has been active.   Large carpenter ant colonies are capable of causing serious structural damage.

Carpenter ants are known to travel up to 200 meters, even from neighboring properties, in search of food, moisture, warmth, and shelter. Carpenter ant activity may also be evident after a tree has been cut down or damaged as a result of a storm. They reach your home by following power lines, phone cables, fences, decks, trees that overhang or touch your house, or by simply climbing up the side of your house. The critical factor is whether you see carpenter ants inside your home during the colder months. When carpenter ants are found in the house from November through April it is usually a good indication that the source of the problem is inside the house. 

Baiting:  Using  bait is the best and most  effective way to kill the whole colony. Baits work by combining an attractive food source with a slow-acting toxicant. We place the bait only in areas where activity has been seen or is strongly suspected.   Remember that increased ant activity around baits is a good sign. Never apply insecticides or detergents on or around baits because this will prevent feeding and render baits useless. Be patient - baits can take 3 weeks or longer to achieve 100 % control. Baits may be used inside or outside the house.

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