Carpenter Ants

Jan 1, 2014

Carpenter ants are large black, red and black, solid red or brown ants that vary in length from 6 to 25 mm. The workers generally range from 6 to 13 mm in length. The reproductive males range from 9 to 10 mm in length and the reproductive females, the queens, are the largest, ranging from 12 to 25 mm in length. All carpenter ants have antennas and their bodies are divided into three distinct parts, with a very slim waist separating the thorax and abdomen while  the reproductives have wings at mating time.

Identification & Habits

Carpenter ants are one of the most common insect pest species that invade our residential,  recreational/cottage,  recreational/cottage,, and commercial properties throughout Ontario. They live in colonies that typically consist of non-reproductive female and male workers, young reproductive females and males, and one queen. Mature colonies can consist of thousands of ants with the workers constantly constructing and protecting the nest and foraging for food.

When foraging for food, the workers leave invisible pheromone trails that lead the other worker ants to food sources. Workers will consume food on the spot and regurgitate it back at the nest to nourish developing larvae, non-foraging workers, and the queen. The winged reproductive males mate with the reproductive females and then die soon after. After mating, the reproductive females shed their wings and leave their colonies to start new ones. In the winter, carpenter ants are inactive and hibernate in their nests.

Complaints & Destruction

An infestation of carpenter ants can be extremely difficult to exclude. Carpenter ants do not eat wood, but construct their nests by burrowing into and hollowing out wood. They prefer moist and decayed wood, as it is a favourable environment for reproduction and survival, however, they can burrow into and destroy surrounding sound wood as well. Outside your property, they can be found in decks, porches, dead trunks, stumps, telephone poles, and in any wood structure they are capable of burrowing into.

Inside your property, they are likely to infest certain parts of a house such as kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, garages, and around wooden trim and window sills throughout the house. It is also possible for colonies to nest in houses without attacking structural wood, using hollow spaces such as wall and floor cavities, attic spaces, and hollow doors. If they have moved inside your home, cottage/recreation or commercial property, it could be a very good indication that you have a moisture problem or wooden structures suffering from decay. Over time, their extensive burrowing and excavating is highly likely to cause significantly worse damage.

Major Risks & Damage

Structural damages

Carpenter ants nesting in wooden structures can cause significant and costly damage. They can also cause damage to foam insulation.

Health risks

Carpenter ants do not sting but they can bite. While they  are not poisonous or  carry disease, worker carpenter ants can inject formic acid into the skin, causing pain. They can also contaminate food.

Reproduction & Life Cycle

Mating usually occurs in late spring and early summer between May and June. During a “nuptial flight”, the winged female mates with several winged males, storing sperm so that she can use it to fertilize all of her eggs throughout the rest of her life. Shortly after mating, the male dies, having accomplished its only task. The female sheds its wings and searches for a site to build her colony. The lifecycle from egg to adult is about 60 days; however, can take up to one year.

Carpenter ant colonies can be extensive and extremely long lived, consisting of several thousand ants. Typically, a colony will be complete after 3 to 6 years of existence and will shelter about 2000 labourers. That is when the queen will begin to produce males and future queens to re-start the cycle. A carpenter ant queen can survive up to 20 years and lay several thousands of fertilized eggs during her lifespan. If the queen ant dies, her workers can then produce eggs, however, all of their offspring will be male.

Eating Habits

Carpenter ants are omnivores, foraging for honeydewproduced by aphids, fruits, plant juices, grease and fat, small insects and invertebrates, and any sweet and sticky substances such as jelly and syrup.

Treatment & Prevention

To eliminate and reduce the risk of carpenter ants invading and destroying your residential,  recreational/cottage, or commercial properties, treatment and exclusion is the best prevention.

Both the detection and elimination of carpenter ants can be a difficult and lengthy process and unfortunately, many do not see evidence of an infestation until the colony is already quite advanced. Infestations within your property usually require professional pest control measures with several treatments. If you suspect a carpenter ant infestation within your residential,  recreational/cottage, or commercial properties, it is best to let the professionals do the job of safely removing the insects. Please contact us today or see our Pest Control Services section for further information on the types of services and insect pest solutions we can provide.

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