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Carpenter Ants

Biology and Identification

Carpenter ants vary in length from 6 to 25 mm. Workers are generally 6 to 13 mm long. The reproductive forms are distinct in size, with males ranging from 9 to 10 mm while females are the largest, varying in length from 12 to 25 mm. The body is divided into three segments, with a very slim waist separating the thorax and abdomen. Their elbowed antennae are segmented. Male and female adults have wings at mating time, and the front wings, if present, are much longer than the hind ones. The red and black carpenter ant has a dark brownish black body, with a reddish brown thorax. The black carpenter ant is uniformly dark brownish black. The red carpenter ant and the black carpenter ant are two of the most common types found in Canada.

When part of an established colony wanders into a nearby structure, it sometimes establishes a smaller satellite colony there. Some experts actually consider this as the main mechanism for house invasions by carpenter ants. Carpenter ants eat both plant and animal matter. Their natural food sources consist of insects and other small invertebrates, and sweet exudates from aphids and other insects. Protein and sweet foods found in and around homes also provide sustenance for foraging workers. Workers will consume food on the spot, and regurgitate it back at the nest to nourish developing larvae, non-foraging workers and the queen.

What can I do to help control these ants?

1. Do not bury stumps or other wood debris in proximity of the house.

2. Pay attention to the state of landscaping elements such as decorative bark, retaining walls and driftwood.

3. The main factor in the success of a Carpenter ant management program is to eliminate as much potential food and water as possible on which ants could feed.

Can I spray the ants when I see them?

No. Do not spray the ants when you see them.

Only about 5% of Pharaoh ant colony’s workers are out foraging for food at any one time. Killing these workers therefore leaves 95% of the colony intact. The loss of these worker ants that were out foraging for food then stresses the colony and the colony splits into two or more new colonies each with new queens.

Spraying will actually increase the number of ants making the problem worse instead of better.

When doing a baiting program you want to get the ants feeding on the bait as soon as possible. If the ants do not start feeding on the bait soon after it has been put out they will probably never feed on it, as all baits start to dry out once they are put out. There several things that the client can do for you to increase the likelihood that the ants will feed on the bait. These are given below. You should go over these with the client. While these are important all the time, you want the client to stress them in the week before you start the baiting program as this will put some stress on the ants to find new food sources, but not stress them enough to cause colony splitting.

Tips to Reduce the Number of Carpenter Ants without using Pesticides

1. To reduce the number of carpenter ants without resorting to pesticides what you want to do is to limit the amount of food and water available to the ants.

2. Do not leave pet food, whether dry or wet out at night, remember Carpenter ants are naturally nocturnal

3. Do not leave water bowls for pets out at night

4. If you need to leave pet food or water bowls out at night, put a band of masking tape around the bottom of the bowl with the sticky side facing out. This will trap the ants and they will no longer come to the bowls to feed and drink

5. Do not leave cookies, candies, etc out at night. Put them in the fridge

6. Clean out the bottom of your toaster, toaster oven, broiler oven, etc.

7. Clean your windowsills, ceiling lights, etc of dead flies, etc.

8. Do not leave fruit such as bananas, apples, and oranges out at night

9. Check to make sure there is not a build up of water in the condensation pan of your refrigerator

10. Put vegetables such as potatoes, onions in sealed containers

11. Check the taps turn off fully and are not dripping

12. Check hot water tank for drips at over flow

13. Clean bread boards, bread canisters, etc.

14. Store chocolates, nuts, candies, etc in sealed containers

15. Clean grease from sides of stoves and ovens and from pots and pans stored in oven storage area

16. Seal area around pipes in kitchen and bathroom or put a strip of masking tape, sticky side out around pipes

17. Clean baby bottles and nipples after use and store in baggies