Name: Carpenter Ant
Latin Name: Camponotus spp
Carpenter ants are usually an indicator of wood decay and are most active at night when they feed on insects, fruit and garbage. Although indigenous to many forested parts of the world, Carpenter ants commonly infest wood structures and are a frequent cause of structural damage in human habitations in Southern Ontario. Carpenter ants are the most common ant species to enter homes while foraging for food.
How do you get rid of Carpenter ants?
Control involves the application of insecticides in various forms including dust and liquids. Dust is injected directly into voids where the carpenter ants live, and liquids are applied where workers are likely to pick the material up and spread the poison to the colony upon returning.
Identifying Carpenter ants
Carpenter ants are the largest ants that you will encounter in Ontario, ranging anywhere from 0.3-1 inches in length. They are typically black in colour although some species have a red, or yellowish colouration. Carpenter ants are identified by the presence of one spike-like, upward protruding node at the “waist” attachment between the thorax and abdomen (petiole).
Life stages & anatomy
Colonies only contain one queen who can live for around 25 years and lay relatively few eggs a year. It typically takes 3-6 years to establish a successful colony, and depending on the weather, the life cycle of a carpenter ant may take up to 10 months to complete. Queens will typically only begin producing winged reproductive females and males after 2 or 3 years; queens will move on to establish new colonies and males will die after nuptial flight insemination in the spring and summer.
Signs of a Carpenter Ant Infestation
The presence of several actual ants will typically indicate an infestation of carpenter ants somewhere in or around your property. Carpenter ants damage wood used in the construction of buildings and produce a combination dead ant body and sawdust-like waste material called ‘frass’ from their stringent excavation and nest cleaning practices. Carpenter ant galleries have a smooth, sanded wood finish that differs significantly from mud-packed termite harbourages. Frass provides clues to nesting location and can be used to root out Carpenter ant infestations; piles of it accumulate at entryways into the colony.
Where did they come from / how did I get them?
Carpenter ants build elaborate nests inside dead and damp wood by chewing out galleries in wood grain with their mandibles. Unlike termites, they do not consume wood but are known to construct extensive underground tunnelling and nesting systems within it, often connecting a central colony to smaller, satellite colonies. Around and under windows, decks and porches, dilapidated structures on your property that are exposed and soften by moisture, are likely sites for carpenter ant harbourages. Nests often contain excavated passageways leading to a stable food source, be it an aphid colony, or discarded jar of honey.
What do Carpenter ants eat?
At times collectively, although more frequently on their own, Carpenter ants forage at night. Omnivorous eaters, they collect and consume dead insect bodies in addition to sweat and greasy, protein and carbohydrate-rich substances. When discovered, carpenter ant workers will surround a nutrient rich insect body, extract its bodily fluids, and often its head for return to the nest, where internal tissue may be removed and fed to colony members.
Like all ants, when Carpenter ant workers find food sources, pheromone trails either above or below ground are established which mark the shortest path to the source. When the number of foragers who use the trail increases, the foraging path becomes stronger; it dissipates when the food source becomes depleted. In this way, insecticidal baits can be used to lure carpenter ants into feeding poison to their kin.
How Serious are Carpenter ants?
Although indigenous to many forested parts of the world, Carpenter ants commonly infest wood structures and are a frequent cause of structural damage in human habitations in Southern Ontario. Although they aren’t known to bite, since ants feed on organic and animal matter they can spread disease bacteria to your food stores if they gain access to your pantry or fruit bowl.
How Addison can help Prevent Carpenter Ant Infestations in the Future
Most active during Southern Ontario’s spring and summer months, Argentine ants will often enter structures in search of food sources when weather conditions are dry and hot, and when escaping flooded nests after rain. Even if the origin of an infestation is rooted out, it is important to be stringent in your implementation of physical controls; fill cracks in building facades, and seal window frames (refit if necessary). Keep outdoor spaces dry and open to sunlight, clear debris that creates humid and moist conditions for ant colony-building, lift firewood off the ground. Establish a perimeter clear of organic matter of at least 1ft around the structure. Shrubs and tree branches should be cut back from your home to limit access points to the structure. Inside, kitchens should be kept clear of spills and crumbs; food should be kept tightly sealed, keep organic waste in the freezer, seal moisture drips and leaks from drains and plumbing, repair cracks and fissures in floors and walls. Most ants who invade homes tend to be ‘budding’ members of larger colonies that are working to establish smaller satellite nests. It is important to inspect moist and decaying wood and wood structures like decks, porches, sheds, playsets on your property and to remove any dilapidated structures or potential harbourages.