When it comes to Carpenter Ants, the biggest question many people have is, “Are they in the house or are they coming from the outside?” This is a great question, and there are some ways to try and figure it out. Carpenter Ants can be a real problem if they are nesting in the house. Before you start spraying everything you can find under the kitchen sink on these ants, let us make sure they are Carpenter Ants, and not some other species. If you have black (not dark brown) ants that can be different sizes when found, you probably have Carpenter Ants. The same colony can have small and big members. Size is not a real factor in determining if you have them, so do not spend a lot of time analyzing this variable. A better idea is to determine where they are coming from (we will talk about this later).
One the sure way of knowing that you have an infestation inside the home is if you find “flying ants” or “swarmers”, as we in the pest control industry prefer to call them. Flying ants inside are never a good sign. But before you get all worked up, make sure they are not termites. You will be thankful when you determine it is just ants if that is what it is! If you do determine that they are termites, call a professional company and consider having a professional treatment before you try to tackle them yourself. Mistreating a termite colony could cost you thousands of dollars in the long run. The easiest way to determine if you have ants (whether Carpenter Ants or other) is to look for three distinct body parts. With ants, the head, thorax and abdomen are all visible to the naked eye. Termites appear to only have two segments. However if in doubt, call in a pest control company to make sure. Most companies have a “free inspection policy” and will not charge to tell you what kind of bugs you have.
Another way to determine if the ants are nesting in the home is to note the time of year. If you have Carpenter Ants roaming around the house in the middle of the winter and it is cold outside, they are definitely not coming from the outside! This is also possibly something you will see in the late winter-spring. “Ok, what do I do now?” you ask, itching to kill these things. Well hold on, before we get into that, let’s talk about some habits these home-wreckers have.
The biggest thing you need to know about Carpenter Ants is that they need water to survive. Although their primary diet is dead insects, they will always need a water source. It is usually outside–such as a bird bath, a clogged gutter, poor landscaping or some other drainage issue. Worse yet, the water source may be inside. “What?” you may ask. It is true, it can be inside your home. Many times homeowners have told me horror stories about that tiny leak under the bathtub or kitchen sink they never knew about under one day… Carpenter Ants started showing up and someone suggested a leak. Or, it could condensation on pipes in a crawl space. And what about improperly sealed shower stalls? All these things contribute to attracting Carpenter Ants. They say to themselves, “Why live outside in the elements when we can live can live here with our primary staple (water).” They certainly are not stupid creatures, as King Solomon noted and encouraged lazy people to go and learn from them.
Another habit worth noting is that they are primarily nocturnal. Most of the ones you see during the day are just scouting the situation out. A lot of people report to me that they see them only in the early morning. This is the graveyard shift getting ready to clock out. They most likely found a gold mine in the sink from last night’s dishes that were washed.
Now let us talk about control. First, you must determine where the colony is hiding. It may be far away from the sightings and you may never find them without help. A good idea is to look outside during the late afternoon on the perimeter of your home for “ant trails”. If you find them going up the side of your home, follow them. Especially if they are carrying something like a dead insect-they are always going back to the nest with it and will lead you to some idea as to where it may be. It could be in the attic, or one of your eaves, a basement sill area, or simply between your walls. If you can find the nest and want to treat it yourself, using a powder or “dust” is one way to kill the colony by using a bulb-duster and pumping the powder into the hole on the outside where they disappear into. Sometimes though, this can make matters worse, you may end chasing them deeper into your house and then they manifest in areas you were not seeing them in before. Using a general spray insecticide can hold them off on the inside, but could end up causing the situation to become more severe with their speading-out in areas where they are not visible.
After treating Carpenter Ants for more than a decade, I do want to encourage you consider calling a professional who has access to professional products that may discourage the ants from moving around and dying right where they are. An example of this would be baits or non-repellents that act like a virus to the colony. If your concern is financial, please consider that mistreating Carpenter Ants could result in serious damage to your home long-term, and translate into repairs that seriously out-way the cost of a professional treatment. You may order ant baits from our pest control products page. To learn more click on the video below.