It is important to properly identify the species of ant, because while carpenter ants prefer humid wood as a nesting site, other species prefer dry nests.
- Carpenter ants are the largest ants in our region.
- Carpenter ants can damage house structure in the long run depending on how large the colony is and how long they've been allowed to go untreated. If someone has a house treated for a carpenter ant infection, it's recommended to get an inspector in to look at the structure of the house as well.
- However, it is very common for outdoor colonies in the spring to send out little groups of scouts (also called satelite colonies) to collect food for the colony. These organisations have no queen, and are only set up to collect food from your house to bring back to the colony. These particular types of infestations are very easy to eliminate with conventional ant traps.
- When carpenter ants inhabit a building over a long period of time, it is usually an indication that there is a water leakage somewhere near or on a wooden structure. In fact, carpenter ants seldom if ever infest solid dry wood, as it's very resistant to their attacks. Primarily ants will work their way into wet or rotting wood to get a foothold in the area, at which point they will start destroying solid dry wood.
- Like all ant species, carpenter ants live in colonies comprising workers, 1-2 queens, a few males and several juvenile stages. Queens can live up to 15 years. Workers tend to reach lengths of 6-12 mm. Males will measure about 10 mm while the queens can reach lengths of 12-25 mm. They can be reddish-brown or black depending on the species. Colonies can have over 10,000 individuals, although about 90% of the colony will never leave the nest, so the number you see around your house is not representative of the whole infestation.
- From April to June, males and females will grow wings for their mating season. After mating, the males die while the females fly off to create new colonies. If you're seeing winged ants in your house when there is still snow outside, especially in January, then you have an infestation in your house. Colonies which develop in the year-round warmth of a house reproduce much earlier than their outdoor cousins. However, colonies also require 3-6 years from becoming established to becoming reproductive (releasing winged ants) so if you're seeing winged ants in your house out of season, most likely you've had a colony in your house without your knowing for at least that period of time.
- It is important to properly identify the species of ant, because while carpenter ants prefer humid wood as a nesting site, other species prefer dry nests.
- Carpenter ants do not actually eat wood, they just use it as a home. They prefer other insects, fat, grain, nectar, sugar, jam, fruits and honey.
- They are mostly active at night. In fact in a quiet house, an infestation can actually be heard after 10pm, as this is the time when the ants become the most active in the colony.
“How can I get rid of ants?”
To get rid of ants in the lawn and garden: in the garden, (when dealing with ants other than carpenter ants) pour boiling water or insecticidal soap down the anthills. However, a homemade citrus concoction may be a bit more efficient: the limonoids (found in the peels and pulp of oranges) are poisonous to ants. Make a slurry of peels in a food processor, dilute the mush with some orange juice then pour directly on the anthill. Alternatively, pour liquid pyrethrum.
On trees: ants seen on trees, or living in and eating trees indicate that the tree is dead. Ants do not kill trees. There is no need to kill ants on trees; however, the ants might be indicators that a tree might be about to fall down.
If ants are in the house: ants sometimes wander into houses in the summertime, looking for food. Place a dusting of diatomaceous earth (e.g. InsectigoneŽ) around all the door and windowsills, and along the inside walls of your house. Place a steel wool pad in larger entry holes, and dust this with diatomaceous earth.
How To Control
In the Garden
- Pour boiling water on the nest for two to three days straight. This will kill them instantly.
- In the garden, pour liquid pyrethrum or insecticidal soap down the anthills. However, a homemade citrus concoction may be a bit more efficient: the limonoids (found in the peels and pulp of oranges) are poisonous to ants. Make a slurry of the peels in a food processor, dilute the mush with some orange juice then pour directly on the anthill.
- Sprinkle cream of tartar or chilli powder at the point of entry into the nest.
- Other home-made ant repellents that work both in and outside of the home include: cinnamon, clove spices, coffee grounds, mint tea, tea bags and bay leaves.
- You can also make a killer concoction out of 1 part molasses; 1 part sugar; 1 part baker's yeast. Mix these together, the ants will love it. They will bring it inside the ant-hill and the yeast will expand in their gut, killing part of the colony.
In the Home
- Prevention is the best method: Make sure that all rotting wood is removed from around the building.
- Ensure the dryness of the wood by ventilating the house well. Make sure that there are no water leaks anywhere. Do not plant peonies (pivoines) near the house since it is an attractant. Trim branches so that none are touching the house. Plug any exterior holes.
- Keep the house clean: remove all crumbs and spills. Make sure all food containers are tightly sealed. Pay special attention to hidden areas such as behind appliances and under rugs.
- To find the location of a nest, give an ant a drop of honey. It will return directly to the nest. All the homeowner has to do is follow it home. Also, a sure sign of ant activity are little piles of wood shavings. The ants remove these as they dig around in the wood (carpenter ants mostly). Apply controls to the nest site.
- It is also possible to locate a colony by listening: place a wine or crystal glass against the wall. The sound an ant colony produces is similar to someone shuffling and scrunching a piece of paper. The noise gets louder if the colony is disturbed, i.e. when you hit the wall.
- The following recipe is useful for killing ants: 3 cups of water, 1 cup of sugar, and 4 teaspoons of boric acid. Dip a piece of bread in this mixture along with some peanut butter. Leave the bait in an area where ants are known to frequent. Be very careful: boric acid is toxic. If animals or children also frequent the area do not put this out. Place cotton swabs in a glass jar (with holes in the lids) and soak the swabs with the solution and sugar/peanut butter. This is a safer dispersal method than a piece of bread left out in the open as pets and children cannot access it as easily.
- Sprinkle diatomaceous earth near all entry sites and wait for 1-2 days. Place sticky traps (Catchmaster©) near the same entry points. If the traps fill quickly, the ants have found a way around the diatomaceous earth. Find these areas and sprinkle more powder. The traps will complement the powder.
- For larger entry sites, stuff a steel wool pad in the hole and sprinkle it with diatomaceous earth.
- Chocolate-scented traps are found to be quite effective (Catchmaster). For a medium-sized house, 4-6 traps should be effective.
- Make sure to keep pets and children away from any bait or trap.
- To disinfect any sticky areas that may attract ants, wash with a mixture of soap, water and bleach.
- For more tips go to Ant Controls