By Stephanie Larkin–
Termites are every homeowner’s nightmare, but there’s another insect that should also strike terror into the heart of the homeowner. Carpenter ants cause millions of dollars a year in damage to houses throughout the country, but they’re not as well known as termites. If you live in an area that often has wet or damp conditions, or if there is a damp spot in your home, your house could be at risk from carpenter ants.
What Are Carpenter Ants?
Carpenter ants are insects that live in hives. Their life cycle is similar to that of any other type of ant – they have queens that lay eggs. When the eggs hatch, some of the ants will be drones, some will workers and some will be queens. What makes them a danger to your house?
Despite popular belief, carpenter ants do not eat wood, but the do tunnel through it. They move through wood and create tunnels and galleries in their search for food and to create nests. In the process, they weaken and eventually destroy the wood in which they are nesting. If that wood happens to be a part of your house, your house is being destroyed. It’s not unheard of for nests of carpenter ants to destroy structural support beams on which your house depends. The longer a carpenter ant colony remains in your house, the worse the damage they can do to your house.
How do you tell if you have carpenter ants in your house?
The most obvious signal that you have carpenter ants, of course, is seeing them, but it’s not always a reliable sign that you have nests of carpenter ants in your house. Since the damage to your house is caused in tunneling to build nests, your biggest concern is whether or not there is a nest in the house. Carpenter ants nest both inside and outside a house, and they’ll travel as much as 100 yards from their nest in their search for food. If you’re only seeing the occasional carpenter ant in your house, particularly if it’d during the late Spring or Summer, there’s a good chance that it’s just a worker wandering far from his nest.
On the other hand, if you’re seeing carpenter ants inside during the winter or early Spring, it’s an almost sure bet that you have at least one nest indoors. Carpenter ants typically go dormant during the winter. If the nest is indoors, it may be warm enough to wake up the ants, or prevent them from going into dormancy at all. Since ants are most active at night, it’s not uncommon for a homeowner to enter a room, turn on a light and see ants scurrying for cover. The most common places to find carpenter ants are places that are moist – cabinets, sinks, rolled up towels, tubs and areas around the toilets.
How to Keep Ants Out of Your House
Prevention is always better than trying to cure a problem that has set in. The best ways to keep carpenter ants from setting up shop in your house are:
-Eliminate high moisture conditions that attract them. That means fans in bathrooms, and dehumidifiers in rooms that have a high moisture quotient, especially in regions that are moist to begin with.
-Replace moisture-damaged and rotted wood before ants are attracted to it.
-If you store wood or lumber near the house or in a garage, be sure that you keep it dry.
-Stack firewood away from the house outside to prevent ants from migrating from the woodpile to the house.
-Remove tree stumps and roots.
-Keep trees and bushes near the house pruned and trimmed to eliminate ‘highways’ that invite carpenter ants into your home.
Where are they nesting?
Before you can eliminate a nest of carpenter ants, you have to find it. The easiest way to find the nest is to follow an ant home. One way to make it easier to follow the ants home is to give them food. They’re particularly fond of tuna packed in water. Set out little flakes of tuna, and then watch for ants. The tuna will actually make it easier for you to follow the ant back to its nest.
Controlling Carpenter Ants
While it’s possible for a homeowner to control carpenter ants on their own, it’s not an easy task. It’s better to contact a professional. A homeowner can still play a vital role in eliminating carpenter ants by providing as much information about the infestation as possible.
About the Author: Stephanie Larkin is a freelance writer who writes about large businesses for home owners such as Orkin and