How To Handle Carpenter Ant Problems In Maryland The Right Way

05/08/2020


Carpenter Ants   
carpenter ant on wood

One of the greatest challenges with preventing carpenter ant damage is public awareness. People know far too little about how carpenter ants infest structures, how they can be detected, and how much damage they can do, over time. The first thing you can do to address carpenter ant problems the right way is to recognize the threat they can present to your property. Let's start by taking a look at how bad a carpenter ant infestation can be, and some of the pitfalls to dealing with an infestation.

Reality Check

Over time, carpenter ants can destroy your property. While they don't feed on wood like termites do, they still excavate tunnels within wood, achieving the same results. This tunneling can compromise structural timbers and lead to widespread damage. It doesn't happen overnight. It doesn't happen in a few weeks. It is a slow process. But given enough time, the damage can be catastrophic. Most of the time, carpenter ants aren't given enough time to do the kind of damage termites do. But under the right circumstances, these little homewreckers can actually do more damage than termites.

Three Ways Carpenter Ants Might Be Worse Than Termites

Hidden Signs — When the signs of a carpenter ant infestation are in hidden locations, such as wall voids, crawl spaces, cellars, basements, and unfinished attic spaces, damage can go on for years without detection. It is the detection of carpenter ant warning signs that helps to prevent extensive damage, and what tends to make termites more of a threat to properties. Subterranean termites consume wood and leave their feces inside their tunnels. You will rarely see evidence of these insects in your structure. Carpenter ants push frass (sawdust mixed with feces) out of tiny kickout holes. This material can be noticeable. But, when it is pushed out into areas where it cannot be seen, the infestation can persist. Frass may also be pushed out into areas where it can be seen, but conditions within these locations can conceal the frass, such as clutter, or the presence of sawdust from building projects or interior firewood storage.

Wood Preferences — Subterranean termites feed on softwood. They prefer wood that is rotting or in decay. When they get into sound timbers, they tend to feed on the soft grain within the wood. While carpenter ants prefer rotting or decaying wood as well, they can get into sound timbers and tunnel across the grain. This can make the damage within each timber more substantial. While they might not spread as readily through an entire structure, they have the potential to do more damage in a targeted area.

Exterior Food Sources — While carpenter ants can get into the food you have stored in your pantry, kitchen, or storage rooms, they may not alert you to their presence in this way. One of the preferred food sources of carpenter ants is honeydew. This is produced by plant-damaging aphids, scales, whiteflies, and more. If they find an abundance of this food source outside, they don't need to raid your cabinets. This can allow an infestation to grow to a significant level without you knowing that your property is being destroyed.

Reacting To The Warning Signs

When warning signs of carpenter ants appear, the response is often not appropriate to the level of threat. This is because property owners don't understand what they're observing. Let's take a look at a few examples.

What do you think it means when you see a big black ant in your property every once in a while?

  • Carpenter ant workers are the largest ants you'll see in your Maryland property. They can be quite noticeable. But you might be tempted to think that a random ant every once in a while is not anything to worry about. If your property were infested, you'd see lots and lots of ants, right? Not with carpenter ants. There are a few reasons why.

  • Carpenter ants are nocturnal. If they come out in large numbers, it is likely to be at night while you're sleeping.

  • Carpenter ant workers are scouts. If they don't find an appropriate food source, they aren't going to mobilize the rest of the colony to come out and gather the food source.

  • Carpenter ants, as we mentioned above, can find all the food they need on the outside of your property. If a scout finds a source inside, it might not be tempting enough to attract the attention of a colony. The vast majority of the workers might be actively gathering honeydew, or some other food source, from your landscaping, and may not want to be bothered to go into your property and pick up a few crumbs.

What do you think it means when you see a few tiny holes and little sawdust?

If you go into your basement and find a little sawdust material, you may not realize what you're looking at. This is often true inside a crawl space under a home. Frass can seem like a naturally occurring phenomenon. It can almost look like piles of sand or dirt. But closer examination will reveal that you're looking at tiny pieces of sawdust material. It might be piled on the ground or floor, or it may be clinging to a wall. Don't mistake this for a natural material. Take a closer look.

If you do recognize frass and realize that carpenter ants are in the wood, it might not be enough material for you to think it's a big deal. But those ants could be pushing large quantities of frass out inside the voids of your walls or floors where you can't see it. Any amount of frass is too much frass. You should take action as soon as you see any warning sign of carpenter ant activity.

What do you think it means when you find a dozen winged ants on your interior window panes?

You might be tempted to use your vacuum to suck up some winged carpenter ants that have gotten inside, thinking that they accidentally came in from the outside. But those ants have no reason to get into your property. They are attracted to light. That is why they're on your window panes. They aren't going to be drawn to come in from the outside where it is brightly lit. If they came in at night because it is dark outside and bright inside, they won't have their wings by the time you find them. Swarms don't last for more than 30 minutes. After the winged ants mate, they shed their wings.

What do you think it means when you see dozens of flying ants on your exterior walls?

You might see these ants and not think anything of them. Flying carpenter ants can look a little bit like wasps from a distance. If you do recognize them as winged carpenter ants, you may think that they've come from somewhere else and that they won't find a way inside your property. But carpenter ant swarms don't travel far. It is likely that those winged ants came from a mature and active nest inside your property.

What To Do Once You Recognize The Threat

When you detect carpenter ants and recognize the threat they present to your property, the next step is to properly address the infestation. We've talked about how inaction and mistaking the warning signs can allow carpenter ants to damage your property, now let's discuss how inappropriate treatments can leave you exposed to ongoing damage.

There are many treatment strategies for carpenter ants. Some don't work at all. But the ones that do can also fail to get control of your infestation.

Some reasons carpenter ant treatments fail:

  • Topical treatments work to kill some ants but don't address the colony.

  • Baits are used, but the wrong bait is selected and the carpenter ants don't take the bait.

  • The right bait is selected, but it works too quickly and the carpenter ant colony responds defensively and begins to avoid the bait before it can complete the job.

  • Not enough bait is used. When the bait is depleted before the job is done, this also can result in the colony responding defensively.

The Best Way To Handle Carpenter Ants

Our recommendations for home and business owners is preventative carpenter ant control. There are many ways you can prevent carpenter ant infestations.

Quick prevention tips:

  • Store firewood at least 20 feet from your exterior and be sure to elevate it. This will prevent carpenter ants from coming near to your perimeter and getting into your home or business. Refrain from storing firewood inside the structures on your property unless they are smaller structures that can be rebuilt at a low cost.

  • Remove stumps, logs, brush piles, leaf piles, and sources of damp wood or paper from your property.

  • Address any conditions that promote moisture near your exterior, such as damaged or obstructed gutters, leaky plumbing, compacted earth, dense shade, etc.

  • Do a detailed inspection of your exterior and seal any gaps, cracks or holes that might give carpenter ants entry points into a structure.

  • Trim branches away from your exterior to prevent carpenter ants from using them as bridges.

  • Address trees that have heart rot. These can give extensive harborage to carpenter ants. The presence of carpenter ants in these trees can also compromise them and make them a hazard for structures on your property when they give way and fall to the ground.

Carpenter Ant Treatments

Once carpenter ants take root in a structure on your property, the right way to handle the infestation is to contact a licensed ant control professional. Getting control of carpenter ant infestations is a detailed process that is best accomplished by an educated and experienced pest management professional. This will ensure that the right products will be selected and administered correctly.

If you live in Maryland or operate a business here, let the pest control team at American Pest help you resolve your carpenter ant infestation. Our pest professionals use industry-leading methods and EPA approved products to arrest infestations and monitor for ant activity to ensure the protection of your property. The investment you've made in your home or business is one of the largest you'll make. Protect your equity with ant control you can trust.

Questions?

If you have more questions about carpenter ants or you'd like advice for your specific situation, we'd be happy to address your questions. Reach out to us any time. We're here to help you with all your pest control needs.

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