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Carpenter ants are about 6-12 mm long (3/8-1/2 inch); the flying queen ants may be nearly 2 cm long (7/8 inch). Carpenter ants make two types of nests. If the queen finds moist, decaying wood, she tunnels into it to begin the main nest. This site must be permanently moist or the eggs and younger larvae cannot survive. Old nests can contain thousands of ants, but it takes several years for a new nest to build up to a few hundred individuals. Main nests are usually outdoors in rotting stumps, trees or in decaying landscape timbers. They can become established in houses where wood in the structure has begun to decay. Although carpenter ants do not eat wood, they do tunnel into it to make their galleries. Once they establish a nest in damp wood they will eventually damage the structure by tunneling from the decaying wood into the sound wood.

Carpenter Ants also make satellite nests where they care for the older larvae and pupae that tolerate drier conditions. These nests are often in wall voids and eaves, ceilings or under insulation in attics or crawl spaces. Most nests in houses are satellite nests that maintain communication with the main nest. For brief periods in the spring and early summer the winged ants swarm into the air on mating flights. Their presence does not mean that your house is infested. Carpenter ants are actually beneficial predators that feed on small insects, honeydew and dead and decaying material.

Carpenter Ants Prevention

The best protection is to maintain dry conditions with proper construction and maintenance, remember that anywhere wood is in contact with soil there is a risk of carpenter Ant infestation.

• Repair wood damaged by moisture, ventilate damp areas, clean gutters to avoid clogging, which leads to water damage to siding or roof.

• Prune trees so branches don’t touch the house.

• Remove all nearby rotted stumps or logs. Check for rotting landscaping wood.

• Ensure that wood of the siding or structure isn’t in contact with soil at any point around the house foundation.

Carpenter Ants Control

The key to control Carpenter ants is finding the main nest, where the queen is laying eggs. This requires thorough inspections and an effort to follow foraging ants back to their nest. If you see more than 10-12 ants in your house in an evening, it is worth investigating whether their nest is in the house. First, make sure the insects in question are carpenter ants. If in doubt, catch some of the largest ones and have them identified. Follow some of the ants until they lead you back to the nest. Sometimes Carpenter Ants are interested in sweet food in the early spring and you may be able to attract some to jam or honey and then follow them homeward. They use the same trails over and over and are most active at night. Thoroughly inspect the crawl spaces and attics as well as under porches. Look for signs of nesting activity, such as mounds of loose shavings or sawdust beneath a crack in a wall or eave space. Also, listen for rustling sounds in the walls (use a rolled up paper tube to amplify the noise). Carpenter ants particularly like to nest in wall cavities, under siding, between floors and where wood is in contact with soil. Satellite nests can also be near roof gutters, downspouts and in the ceiling.

Find and remove the nest material manually or by vacuuming up the ants. You will know it is a nest if you see ants carrying white, oval pupae or larvae. If not structural damage has occurred, prevent ants from re-entering the space by caulking the entry cracks. If structural damage has occurred, repair it and remedy any underlying moisture problems. To kill ants travelling through walls or to prevent them from re-entering a wall or cavity, apply a very fine dusting of the following:

Boric acid is a stomach poison for insects. Wear a dust mask, gloves and eye protection while applying it. Apply it and store it out of the reach of children and pets because it could be harmful if enough is eaten.

Diatomaceous earth (silicon dioxide) is a non-toxic white powder that kills insects by causing them to dehydrate. Wear a dust mask when applying the dust to avoid respiratory irritation.