You know those charming little ants who invite themselves to your summer picnic? Okay, maybe not charming, but they’re comparatively benign when you’re brushing them off your picnic blanket.
A carpenter ant infestation is neither charming nor benign. In fact, carpenter ants are the one species of ant that can cause significant damage to your home, comparable to the damage caused by termites.
So if you have a carpenter ant infestation, it’s time to tackle it head-on. Here’s what homeowners can do to wipe out carpenter ants–and when it’s time to call a professional.
Identifying Carpenter Ants
Identifying carpenter ants is more important than many homeowners realize, and not just for spotting an infestation in the first place. Different infestations require different treatments.
Here’s the catch: carpenter ants may look like termites at first glance.
One of the common signs of carpenter ants is wood shavings near infested wood. Unfortunately, that’s also a sign of termites, even though carpenter ants drill through the wood to make their homes rather than eating the wood. Also, termites and carpenter ants are attracted to the same thing: water-damaged wood.
One way to tell if you have carpenter ants or termites is to inspect the holes. Carpenter ants make circular holes with smooth insides.
However, the easiest way to differentiate between carpenter ants and termites is the appearance of the bug. If you see what looks like a white ant, that’s not an ant. That’s a termite. Carpenter ants, on the other hand, are distinctive black ants with segmented bodies.
What About Other Ant Species?
How do you know it’s a carpenter ant and not a harmless species? Carpenter ants are big. Think 1/4 to 1 inch. However, that isn’t gigantic for an ant. The best way to know if you have a carpenter ant is size plus other distinctive features. To do this, trap one in a glass and get a magnifying glass.
Compared to other ants, carpenter ants have two distinct features: a smooth, rounded back without any humps, and a hump-like node with a narrow waist. If you see this type of ant and he also happens to be large, you’ve got yourself a carpenter ant.
Some carpenter ants have wings. You’ll find these in the spring–they acquire wings when it’s time to leave the nest and mate.
So…Is It an Infestation?
Granted, you might have a lone scout and not a colony. There are a few ways to tell the difference.
For one thing, if you have an infestation, you’ll see several carpenter ants appear like a recurrent bad dream over several days or weeks. Also, you’ll hear them inside the walls, especially at night (make that a recurrent nightmare). It will sound a bit like crackling. That’s the sound of your rent-free tenants munching on decaying wood, and you’ll only hear it if a colony has taken up residence.
Carpenter Ant Control for Homeowners
So, you have a carpenter ant infestation. Step one: don’t panic.
Step two: evict your unwanted tenants.
Okay, step two is a bit more complicated than that. If you have an infestation, that means there’s a nest. And in order to wipe out the infestation, you have to find the nest first.
The good news is that the ants make this simple. All you have to do is follow the trails the forager ants leave behind. They follow these trails away from the nest to forage and toward the nest with insect parts as food.
Once you’ve found the nest, you’re ready to tackle the infestation.
Set Ant Bait
One option for minor infestations is ant bait, which laces a sweet substance with ant poison. There are two types of ants: those attracted to sweetness and those attracted to grease. It’s important to know what type of ant infestation you have, as it dictates what ant bait you need.
Carpenter ants love sweetness, so stock yourself up with a sweet-based bait. The foragers are attracted to the sweetness, then carry the food back to the nest, where the poison kills the other ants.
One common type of ant poison is a natural mineral called borax, which interferes with ants’ digestive processes. As worker ants carry borax back to the nest over several weeks, the entire colony gradually starves to death.
Hit the Nest with Boric Acid
For a severe infestation, you can break out the big guns. Or rather, the boric acid, a stronger form of borax. Rather than waiting for the ants to starve (and continue munching their way through your home in the meantime), you can bring the fight straight to the colony.
Once you find the nest, drill 1/8-inch-diameter holes where the colony resides. Grab a bulb duster and squirt puffs of boric acid into the holes. This does the same thing as borax, just faster. In fact, professional exterminators often use this technique.
The tricky thing about this method is that you have to precisely identify where the colony lives. Otherwise, you’ll kill a group of worker ants without smiting the real problem.
When to Call Pest Control
There are plenty of cases where the homeowner’s vendetta against ants can get the job done. But sometimes, you need to call in the pros.
There are two signs that it’s time to call pest control: when DIY methods don’t work, or when you can’t locate the nest. Professional pest control services have access to various pesticides and special equipment that the average homeowner can’t buy.
Your Expert Pest Control Services
Listen, we get it. A carpenter ant infestation is stressful. It’s not just the bugs–it’s everything that comes after.
Our job is to help you get rid of pests fast and get on with your life. Between knowledgeable, friendly technicians and helpful office staff, you know you’re getting high-quality solutions to your pest control problems. So if you’re ready to say goodbye to pests, schedule your free consultation today.