Tips on How to Identify Carpenter Ants
Carpenter ants are responsible for the damage of wood used in the structural construction of homes. Significant damage to the wooden structure of homes can cause problems with the structural integrity of the house. Since your house is one of your most valuable investments, damage to it should be prevented or dealt with as soon as possible to mitigate any loss of value. It is useful to note that structural damage to your home is a serious threat to the safety as well.
A brief introduction to carpenter ants can be useful in helping you appreciate how serious a threat these pests pose. Carpenter ants, unlike termites, do not eat wood. These ants use their strong mandibles to chip away small bits of wood and carry them away so as to create space for their nests. Depending on where the ants dispose of these fine wood shavings, you can see them and hence identify the piles of wood shavings. The ants come in different sizes ranging from ¼ to ½ inch length on average. They are mostly black, but some can be seen to be black and red. It is necessary to have these physical characteristics in mind to successfully identify carpenter ants.
The sheer size of carpenter ant colonies means that they require extensive space to house them. A typical carpenter ant colony can have a population of tens of thousands of ants all dispersed in different nests. These main nests can also be divided into different satellite nests connected by multiple tunnels. This population is mainly composed of worker ants whose duties include looking for food and water, protecting their queen and most damaging of all digging tunnels through wood to house their growing population.
During the establishment of a new nest, the queen produces small ants that are commonly mistaken for pavement ants by many home owners as they are similar in terms of size. In a year or two the queen begins laying bigger eggs that produce bigger ants up to the standard ½ inch length. As the nests mature swarmers start to emerge. These swarmers have reproductive abilities.
It normally takes 3-5 years for carpenter nests to mature, at which point swarmers start to emerge. These are larger than normal carpenter ants as the females are nearly an inch long while the males are at half this size. Their long translucent brown wings also distinguish them from the other working ants. When swarmers mate the male dies while the female ant loses her wings and goes on to start a new colony as the queen.
A useful tip in identifying swarmers from other similar winged pests is that they mainly come out in spring, but can continue through summer. The fact that these ants deposit the wood shavings inside house walls makes them hard to find.