Springtime always makes things feel fresh and new. As temperatures start warming up and the snow and ice melt, we can see our lawns, trees, and flowers coming to life. We see more people outside taking walks and kids playing in the yard. But, most of all, we begin to see more insects emerging. This is because eggs that have overwintered are now hatching, creating new life.
One particular insect we have been seeing is the carpenter ant. Carpenter ants are active from spring to fall, living outdoors in decaying wood (trees, stumps, and firewood), along wooden fences, or anywhere there’s wood. But, what about during the winter? While most remain outdoors in their nests, many find their way indoors. Nesting in the wall voids of your home. They can be found in siding, behind baseboards, around door or window frames, anywhere there’s wood. You may see small worker ants throughout the year crawling around your home foraging for food. These ants are wingless. Winged carpenter ants emerge only for their mating flights in the spring and fall.
Carpenter ants are often confused with termites. While both are found in wood, carpenter ants build their nest inside the wood and termites eat the wood. Carpenter ants chew a canoe shaped tunnel leaving a sawdust-like material behind. This is called frass. Frass consists of wood shavings, dead insects, and feces. Termites only leave a trail of destruction behind.
Winged carpenter ants and termites have 2 sets of wings. Termite wings are twice the size of their body and the same length. Carpenter ants’ front set of wings are longer than their hind set and are slightly longer than their body.
The carpenter ant body is divided into 3 segments. Head, thorax, and gaster. Between the thorax and gaster (hind end) there are 2 nodes that termites do not possess. These nodes allow the ant to have more flexibility with their hind end in moving and stinging. Nodes also serve the purpose of identifying types of ants or distinguishing carpenter ants from termites.
Each ant serves a purpose for their colony and depending on their size, you can identify their job.
As the colony grows, jobs are split up between worker ants. Smaller ants forage food for the queen and larvae while others tend to the eggs and larvae or continue building their nest by creating more tunnels. A little larger ants become the nest’s protectors. They defend their colony if danger arises. Queens serve one purpose: to lay more eggs. All worker ants are female and male ants’ sole purpose is to fertilize the queen and then die.
Winged male and female carpenter ants take flight in spring and fall for their mating swarm or “nuptial flight”. It is at this time, the future queens become fertilized before shedding her wings and finding moist or soft wood to carve the canoe shaped tunnel and begin creating a new nest for her future colony. Once she has a tunnel and chamber she will lay her first batch of eggs. She will forage for food to provide the new larvae when they hatch and once the new worker ants are mature enough they will tend to future larvae and the nest.
The average worker carpenter ant lives up to 3 months while the queen can live over 20 years in some cases.
Carpenter ants, like other ants, like sugar, protein, and other insects. Aphids secrete what’s called honeydew when they are sap sucking on plants. This is a sweet, sticky sugar substance that ants are attracted to. They eat meat, dead insects, and sweet treats around the house or yard.
- Clean spills. Ants and other insects or animals are attracted to spilled food or sugary drinks.
- Keep the lawn free of debris. Clean any leaf litter, old wood, pet droppings, and clutter. These can attract insects and wildlife.
- Keep wood piles away from structures and off the ground. Insects create nests or hide in wood piles.
- Repair leaks. Insects need water and some insects lay eggs on standing or stagnant water.
- Seal cracks, crevices, and holes so insects and wildlife don’t enter your home.
- Hire a professional. Routine pest control maintenance keeps insects to a minimum.
If you need help identifying whether you have carpenter ants or termites or just need a barrier of protection around your home to keep bugs out, contact Safe Earth Pest Control. We have plans to fit your budget and all your home and lawn pest control needs. 214-321-2847