Are there big black ants crawling on the trees in your backyard? Have you noticed a long line of these carpenter ants crawling out of your kitchen? If so, you should be taking steps to eradicate them as early as possible.
Once the weather gets warmer, your backyard and home will end up hosting a lot of these critters. Although carpenter ants don’t eat wood, they can cause extensive damage as their colony grows.
This is why it is important that you address the problem before it goes beyond your control.
How to Spot Carpenter Ants
While most ants are quite small, you will be able to notice if your trees or home have carpenter ants crawling around. Carpenter ants measure around 3/4th of an inch and are one of the largest ants found in the United States. These ants are usually black in color but they may also be yellow or red.
You need to look for the parent colony and satellite colony while dealing with a carpenter ant infestation.
Parent Colony – It contains the workers, broods, and the egg-laying queen. These are usually found in dying trees, rotten tree stumps, or in the wooden parts of anything that is constantly exposed to moisture.
You need to look everywhere to find the parent colony since foraging ants can be found quite far away from their colony.
Satellite Colony – The workers, mature larvae, and pupae may be in the satellite colony. These are usually found in trees that are injured or dying. They may also be found in old wooden window frames or shingles that are exposed to moisture.
Carpenter ants don’t eat wood but they chew through it and also leave excrements as they make a path inside for their colony.
When you notice any piles similar to wood shavings near your furniture, it is a sign of infestation. Any damaged wood on your doors, walls, or cabinets is a good indicator of an ant colony within.
A few ants around your garden or home are not usually a cause for worry. However, if you spot a lot of carpenter ants around the base of your trees, it means the tree is infested.
They will probably be burrowing through the soil and swarming around the tree. Since the ants tend to nest deep inside the tree, you might not be able to spot them very clearly.
What Carpenter Ant Infestation Means
Carpenter ants won’t eat wood like termites or some other pests. Instead, these ants burrow through any weakened or dead wood. This is why you will notice a carpenter ant infestation in wood that is injured, decaying, or weakened by moisture.
If there is a lot of moisture in any part of your house, carpenter ants are likely to be found there. They love moldy or wet wood.
The health of a tree is affected by many factors like the soil, pest infestations, environment, bad pruning habits, or disease. Once carpenter ants find a tree in declining health, they take advantage and build a colony there.
Any holes, cracks, insect tunnels, or knots give the ants easy access into your trees or your home. They can enter through pipes or wires as well.
Once they make their way into the heartwood of the tree, there will be dieback of the limbs or branches that you will notice. If they set up a colony inside your house, it will be near some water source like a sink or air conditioning unit.
As the ants grow in number, they can build big tunnels inside the trees and this will slowly cause damage. The leaves may wither and the tree will soon go dry and die. Similarly, they can also damage any wooden structure or furniture in your home.
How to Kill Carpenter Ants
So, now you know that you have a carpenter ant infestation. How do you get rid of them? It is actually not as easy as you might have expected.
You have to look for the nest the carpenter ants have built and target them there. The nest usually has thousands of winged ant workers with one wingless queen. You can poke around at the opening or around the base to see if a lot of ants move out.
Once you spot the nest or its opening, you can use insecticides. You can opt for dust insecticides or liquid insecticides. But remember not to disturb the nest before using the insecticides or the ants might leave and build one somewhere else.
Dust Insecticides – These have pyrethroids or carbaryl that is used on landscape trees. You should apply the dust insecticide in and around the opening of the ant nest.
If you see any ants running away, just dust the insecticide over them. This treatment might have to be repeated at least once a year since it is difficult to control ant infestations.
Liquid Insecticides – These have borax and a sugar-based bait. The borax kills the ants and it is one of the best long-term solutions for ant infestations. The liquid should be sprayed directly into the nest cavity and around it.
Check for any satellite colonies or other ant holes and spray there as well. Liquid insecticides act slowly and this allows the poison to travel to the nest with the ants.
Peppermint oil is a DIY remedy that does not involve the use of any harmful chemicals. It is used for controlling bed bug infestations as well.
You have to mix about 30 drops of the concentrated essential oil in one gallon of water. Thoroughly mix the two and use this as a spray on the ants. Spray the diluted peppermint oil all over the area housing the carpenter ants.
Concentrate on the base of your trees since the ants tend to nest there. You can try using the peppermint oil from Majestic Pure.
Carpenter ants hate this potent essential oil and try to flee quickly when it is sprayed. However, it is not a one-time solution. You will need to keep spraying the tree with peppermint oil regularly so that the ants don’t build a nest there again.
Carpenter ants usually build their nest inside the tree. However, they also build satellite colonies that might not be as easy to spot. When you notice any of these ants walking in a line through your garden or home, you could try using ant baits.
It could be anything like sugar or some foods that are rich in protein and will be attractive to the ants. Mealworms or any kind of sweets will work too. You can also use baits that are lined with boric acid. This one from Terro is quite a popular choice.
The ants will fall for the bait and carry it back to their queen or their larvae. If you follow their trail, it will lead you to the main nest.
While using baits that have boric acid, you need to be careful about keeping pets or children away. Most ant baits will have instructions provided and you should follow these carefully. If you use the bait correctly, it will help you get rid of the infestation quite fast.
Pest Control Company
If you don’t want to deal with the infestation yourself, just call some professionals. This is also the best option for widespread infestations since they can be hard to control. They will know exactly what to do and will help you get rid of the carpenter ants completely.
Pest control experts will take a thorough look around your property and check for any possible colonies. They will then mix the right pesticides to get rid of the ants without damaging your trees.
Preventing the Infestation
Prevention is the best way to go when it comes to pest control. It is much easier to take a few precautions to prevent carpenter ants from infesting your trees or home than it is to get rid of them.
Here are some simple ways to prevent an infestation:
- Take the trash out regularly and keep the trash cans clean.
- Any source of extra moisture like sprinklers, faucets, leaky plumbing, etc. should be well-maintained.
- Cut off or move any tree branches that might act as a bridge for the ants to enter your home.
- Spray a mixture of dish soap and water to kill ants and remove their pheromone trails.
- Firewood or lumber should not be stored too close to your home.
- Any possible space that could become a nesting area should be removed. This includes wooden equipment, woodpiles, dead tree stumps, and any other wooden items.
- Use sealants like caulk to seal any cracks or crevices that the ants might enter.
- Keep all the food stored in tightly sealed containers.
- Clean up all surfaces in the kitchen after you cook or have a meal. Don’t leave any residue or crumbs around.
To Sum Up
Carpenter ants should be controlled before they grow in number and cause irreversible damage to your home or your trees. Insecticides are a great way to kill them and peppermint oil will effectively help you keep them away. Always keep an eye out for frass or wood shavings since they are a sign of carpenter ant infestations.