How to get rid of Carpenter Ants

The presence of ants indoors can be cause for concern for many homeowners. They might be wondering if the ants they saw were carpenter ants, or if a colony has taken up residence in their environment, or worse yet … inside their home’s structure.

Correctly identifying the species of ant in your home and understanding the causes of the infestation are essential to implementing the best response possible. The following is a short guide that will help you to identify the carpenter ant, understand its habits and life cycle, and provide you with suggestions on how to eliminate them from your home.

Carpenter ants in Québec: what do they look like?

There are five species of carpenter ants that are native to Québec. The most abundantly found carpenter ant in Québec is the Camponotus pennsylvanicus. These ants are generally black, with hints of red or brown depending on the species. The queens can grow to 25 mm (1 inch) long, and are the only females to have wings. The males also have wings but measure only from 9 mm to 10 mm long; their legs are more fragile and their jaw is small.

The workers have varying lengths according to their role in the colony; they measure anywhere between 3 mm and 13 mm (1/8 inch to ½ inch). First generation workers are the smallest at only 3 mm in length; they are responsible for food supply and maintenance of the new nest founded by a winged queen. Soldier workers are much larger and protect the colony thanks to their powerful legs and jaws, and their elbowed antennae.

Therefore, the presence of ants of different sizes means that a nest has been forming for quite some time and that it is mature.

Carpenter ant on wood.

Life cycle

Ants are typically social insects who live in colonies for about two or three years. When a colony’s population reaches between 2,000 and 3,000 ants, the queen’s instinct will tell it the colony is stable and that she can leave it to establish a new colony elsewhere. Worker ants live for about 7 years, but the queen can live for up to 17 years!

Did you know? A carpenter ant queen can preserve fertilized eggs in her abdomen for several years, which allows her to lay thousands of eggs without ever needing to mate with a male again.

Habitat and food consumption

When indoors, carpenter ants usually build their nests in places containing damp wood: window sills, door thresholds, but also and often inside walls where water infiltration has occurred (beneath windows for example). They chew on the wood not to eat it, but to excavate numerous tunnels that will be part of their new colony. Some colonies also take root inside urethane-based insulation material used in new constructions.

What do they eat? The same things humans do! Honey, jam, fruit and meat attract them, and they will take advantage of nighttime to go stock up in your pantry to bring supplies to the colony by regurgitating what they’ve eaten.

Outdoors, food sources are plentiful: aphids and other insects, plant sugars and various fruits. They will build their nest in a rotting tree stump, a pile of firewood or in the structure of an outdoor terrace that’s in contact with the ground.

Harmful effects

Carpenter ants don’t sting, but they can bite when feeling threatened.

Once they’re installed in a house or apartment, they cause two kinds of damages:

  • Damage to food. They consume almost everything that humans do, including water. They penetrate inside cupboards, closets, pantries, and behind household appliances. Their sudden appearance in a home could indicate a previously undetected water infiltration.
  • • Damage to structures and wood framing. The countless tunnels excavated by the carpenter ants weaken even the most solid beams. Once the colony has bored through all the damp wood it can find, it will attack dry, sound wood next.

The damage they cause can be so severe it is considered a hidden defect if it is not revealed by the homeowner upon selling the property.

How can I know if I’ve been invaded by carpenter ants?

Here are a few signs you can easily notice:

  • Small piles of wood shavings along window sills, door thresholds or on the floor near walls.
  • In spring time, a swarm of winged ants forms near the surface of the windows. This is a sure sign of a long-lasting infestation, because winged ants are reproductive ants who are born approximately three years after the colony was started.

Exterminator tips

“Any action against a problem with carpenter ants must be taken seriously. When the presence of these ants is confirmed indoors on a regular basis, it means a nest has been established for one, two or even three years. Doing nothing in hopes the ants will somehow disappear on their own is the worse decision you can make, because they most certainly won’t.”

Jacques, exterminator at AJS for 30 years.

Why have they invaded my home?

Several factors might have played a key role:

  • The presence of dead, rotting or decomposing wood placed outdoors, near your home: the stump of a tree you cut down last year, the remains of an old wooden fence, firewood piled up against the shed or house.
  • The presence of damp wood inside your house, resulting from water leaking in through the roof or chimney, or from water damage following plumbing repairs or flooding.
  • Trees whose branches are in contact with buildings are ideal highways for ants, who will use them to travel directly onto your building.
  • Finally, some points of entry make your home vulnerable to an exploration by carpenter ants: cracks in door and window frames, defective caulking or even a fissure in the foundation.

Tips to prevent a carpenter ant infestation

Carpenter ants play an important and beneficial role … in nature. For example, they eliminate from 60 to 90% of the small carcasses found in their natural outdoor environment. They truly don’t belong with us humans.

Here are a few tips to stop them from entering and colonizing your home:

  • Don’t set piles of wood or other materials up against or near the walls of your house.
  • Place all household refuse outdoors in a strong container with a well-fitting lid.
  • Keep outdoor wood structures in good repair and inspect them every year: balconies, swings, fences, stairs.
  • Cut tree branches that come in contact with your house or even come too close to it.
  • In the spring and fall, inspect and repair any tears in window screens and any fissures in door and window frames.
  • Inspect the roof and ceiling strips of your doors and windows to make sure there hasn’t been any water infiltration.

What treatment does AJS offer to exterminate carpenter ants?

Despite our best efforts and vigilance, carpenter ants might still succeed in making inroads in your home. At this stage, the assistance of your pest control expert at AJS Extermination will be of great help. AJS offers two possibilities:

Treat the infestation yourself with specialized products sold at the AJS store.

At our store located at 4174 Grande Allée Boulevard in Greenfield Park, AJS Extermination offers pest control products that are licensed and approved for domestic use. You can talk with a certified technician who will be able to recommend appropriate and efficient products to help you eliminate carpenter ants from your home.

Call on the services of a certified technician at AJS Extermination to inspect, locate and treat the infestation of carpenter ants.

AJS has acoustic detection equipment that will detect, if necessary, the presence of a nest or a colony located behind a wall or ceiling, or under a floor. Our experienced technicians know where and how the ants build their colonies.
Additionally, the certified technicians at AJS are licensed by the provincial government to use commercial grade insecticides to exterminate any infestation of carpenter ants in a building.

Here’s how to prepare the premises that will be treated against carpenter ants:

  • Before and after the treatment, do not use aerosol insecticides (bug sprays) in the zones affected by the ants and do not clean these zones with chemical agents. These products can lessen the efficiency of bait treatment.
  • Empty all kitchen cupboards of dishes and food, including all drawers. Store the food in the refrigerator and the remainder of items on the kitchen table.
  • If carpenter ants have been seen in the washroom, clean the vanity.
  • Because a general treatment might be applied in your entire home, thoroughly clean the inside of your house, including inside cabinets and drawers.
  • Expect that the AJS specialist could set up special areas to install bait in your home. These bait zones must not be moved or disturbed.
  • Be prepared to vacate your home while the treatment is being applied and to return 4 hours after the treatment has been completed. If possible, open the windows for 20 minutes when you return. It is also important not to walk barefoot on the treated zones for 48 hours after the treatment.

The presence of ants in a house must not be taken lightly, for there can be considerable damage after a few years. Treating against carpenter ants is one of our specialties. Don’t hesitate to contact our specialists for advice or to enquire about the pest control products available for sale to the public.

Why trust our pest control services?

Choosing an exterminator isn’t something you can do lightly! Offers abound in the extermination sector, but a few important factors should be part of your research before you contact an exterminator: Do they offer a guarantee on their work? Does the company have sufficient experience? Is it possible to talk with a technician to obtain advice on prevention in order to avoid another infestation?

Don’t hesitate to call us — we’ll be glad to explain why thousands of customers value our service!

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