If you have a property that is entirely or partially constructed of wood near a forest, you might be wondering if surrounding wildlife could do some damage to it. Would carpenter ants or similar insects be able to wreck your house?
Carpenter ants can destroy sections of a house when a carpenter ant infestation is left untreated for too long. This is caused by the complete breakdown of support structures like the wall or ceiling.
If you want to learn to identify whether and what happens when carpenter ants are making a nest in your home, how to get rid of them, and preventive measures to avert a potential nest from taking root in your house, keep reading.
What Are Carpenter Ants?
Carpenter ants are ants that tunnel and chew through wood to create nests. This wood is then excreted in the form of frass, or solid insect excrete that looks like wood shavings. While termites consume wood to obtain the cellulose within as food, carpenter ants consume the wood as a means to an end, with the ultimate goal of creating a nest.
These ants are large, from ½” to ⅝” (1.27 – 1.5875 cm) in length. They don’t necessarily have to be black – they can be red-brown or completely red instead. They are indigenous to mostly forested areas, so you should only need to worry about ants if you live in a more rural part of the States, unlike termites, which are everywhere.
Once inside your house, a carpenter ant will set up camp in wet or moldy wood. You’re likely to find them in the dampest areas of the house – near the air-conditioning unit, by the dishwasher or sink, at the bathtub. A mature ant colony can contain anywhere from 10 to 20,000 workers, so you really don’t want these ants making a nest in your house!
What Happens When Carpenter Ants Destroy a House?
Carpenter ants are not as much of a problem as termites. Despite this, they can still cost thousands of dollars of property damage to your house. Wooden supports will weaken, and framings can get warped. When infestations go untreated, you could potentially be faced with stuck doors and windows, uneven floors, sinking ceilings, and bulging walls.
The structural integrity of these supports can be compromised to such a large extent that they collapse. This can cause physical harm or even death, so if you spot signs of a carpenter ant infestation, you need to take quick action.
There will be no signs of exterior damage besides a hole in the wood to allow the ants to enter and leave the nest and wood shavings. However, the interior will contain a complicated network of tunnels to let the ants reproduce and move from one place to another easily.
You could also have multiple carpenter ant colonies within your house – a parent colony and a number of other satellite colonies spread throughout your house and yard. One easy way to detect the presence of a mature ant colony in your house is if you see winged carpenter ants against your windows. These only make an appearance once the colony is completely established.
How Do You Get Rid of Carpenter Ants?
If you see some ants out and about, kill them, and think you’ve destroyed all of them, you’re dead wrong. The ants that you see are probably worker ants scouting for food or a good place in your house to set up shop.
Instead, you need to find the carpenter ant nest and destroy it. Here are some purposeful steps that you can take:
- Use bait to find the nest. Set some jam or sugar in the region where you have seen carpenter ants prior. This will attract the ants, and finding the nest is only a matter of waiting for them to lead you back to it.
- Recheck to ensure that it is the nest. As you will need to drill and remove the wooden section concealing the ants’ nest, you need to be sure that you’re not wasting your time or money for no reason. Look for frass in the surrounding area, or listen to see if you can hear the ants’ faint rustling noises from their movements within the nest.
- Destroy the nest. Once you have ensured that you have the correct place, you need to destroy the nest. This is done by drilling ⅛” holes every 6 inches of the nest and then puffing boric acid within using a bulb duster. If you don’t have either boric acid or a bulb duster, you can use this HAARIS Powder Duster and a 6oz. Humco Boric Acid Powder bottle.
If this sounds like too much work to you, you can call local pest control to take care of it.
How To Prevent Carpenter Ant Infestations
Homeowners should try to keep wood in their homes as dry and moisture-free as possible. Sometimes, carpenter ants might set up in your yard and create secondary satellite nests in your house, so you should also maintain your yard well.
Here are some tips to decrease your chances of a carpenter ant infestation:
- Fix obstructed or broken gutters near your house. These cause water to run down the side of your home, damaging the wood and creating an ideal environment for carpenter ants.
- Loosen compacted ground. When the ground gets very hard and bunches together, rainwater forms little pools near your foundation walls instead of dispersing naturally into the soil. Drag a garden fork through the soil in different directions to aerate the soil.
- Trim trees and bushes. Overgrown bushes and trees reduce the amount of sunlight that certain locations get. Trimming them makes it easier for moisture-ridden wood in these areas and reduces or prevents rotting.
- Move firewood or construction material away from foundation walls. If an infestation does occur in this material, it will be located far away from your house and decrease the possibility of an infestation occurring in your home.
- Eliminate scent trails. Ants rely on pheromones to find food sources and travel from one location to another. If you wipe down your home regularly with essential oils or soap, you will be interrupting these trails, and ants will be less likely to approach your house as it is more unfamiliar to them.
- Make it harder for ants to enter your house. Keep tree branches and other plants cut back away from the house so that ants cannot crawl inside from these branches. You should also plug up cracks in your house around doors, windows, or on the floor with caulk. If you don’t have any, use this Gorilla White 10 ounce Cartridge Caulk or get some from your local store.
- Keep your house clean. Carpenter ants are attracted to sugar sources. If you frequently consume soft drinks and spill them on the floor, or if there are always food crumbs on the ground, you might be inadvertently attracting these pests. Vacuum and mop your house a few times a week.
If you suspect you have a carpenter ant infestation in your house caused by holes in the wall or sections changing texture, be sure before taking any action. A variety of other wood-destroying insects could be causing this, like termites or carpenter bees.
See to it if you can spot this pest in action. If you do, you can take the steps detailed above in this article to get rid of your pest problem. For those unsure of their abilities to eradicate all the nests in their house, try calling pest control because you could be dealing with multiple nests.
- Rottler Pest Solutions: Carpenter Ants: Are They Bad? How Much Damage Do They Cause?
- Country Living: How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants — Best Ways to Kill Carpenter Ants