Carpenter Ant Control

Close-up of a carpenter ant

Carpenter ants are big, black or dark-colored ants that excavate galleries in wood in which they lay their eggs and raise their young.

The carpenter ants most often encountered in Dayton and the rest of Ohio are Camponotus pennsylvanicus, the Pennsylvania carpenter ant, which are black in color. When people call us and tell us they have "big, black ants," we know they have a carpenter ant problem.

Like ants in general, carpenter ants are social insects with a well-defined division of labor and a pheromone-based system of communication. In nature, they usually nest in hollow trees or dead tree branches.

In and around homes and other buildings, carpenter ants will nest in almost any hollow, protected area they can find; but they prefer nesting in wood that has been water damaged or that has a high moisture level. They're frequently found in wall voids in kitchens and bathrooms, in the spaces around door and window frames, along sill plates, and in roof soffits.

Carpenter Ant Damage

Carpenter ant damage to wood

Unlike termites and some wood-boring beetles, carpenter ants don't actually eat wood. In fact, they are incapable of digesting it and derive no nutritional benefit at all from it. Carpenter ants excavate galleries in wood in which they lay their eggs and raise their young.

It's pretty easy to tell carpenter ant damage from termite damage because carpenter ant galleries tend to be clean and sanded smooth, whereas termite galleries are rough and usually contain mud. Carpenter ant galleries also have "windows" through which the ants enter and exit and which they use to sweep out the sawdust and excreta, which together are referred to as frass.

Carpenter ants are not as destructive as termites, but over time, they can do serious damage that can require costly repairs. In addition, carpenter ant problems are often clues that a moisture or humidity problem exists because carpenter ants prefer moisture-damaged wood. In short, a carpenter ant infestation is not something that should be ignored.

How to Tell Carpenter Ants from Termites

Illustration of the differences between termites' and ants' bodies

A lot of folks get nervous when they discover carpenter ants in their homes because they mistake them for termites, but the two can easily be told apart if you know what to look for.

The first thing to look for to tell carpenter ants from termites is their size. Carpenter ants usually are at least 3/8 inch long, whereas termites are usually 1/4 inch long or less.

The second and most obvious difference between termites and carpenter ants is their body shapes. Termites' bodies are cigar-shaped, but carpenter ants' bodies are hourglass-shaped, with a narrow constriction between the thorax and the abdomen.

Another difference that's a little harder to see with the naked eye is that termites' antennae are clubbed and have a gradual curve, but carpenter ants' antennae are jointed. You can see this difference with a strong magnifying glass.

Finally, if you're doing some home repairs or renovation and you find what look like big black ants inside the wood, then you have carpenter ants, not termites. The termites you would find inside wood would be workers, which are cream-colored and are smaller than carpenter ants.

Carpenter Ant Control

Carpenter ant extermination can be challenging because they're hardy insects with well-hidden nests. In most cases, finding the nest is the hardest part of the job. Once we know where the nest is and where they're feeding, there are several methods we can use to eliminate the carpenter ant colony.

Depending on the situation, we may use sprays, baits, dusts, pressurized insecticides that are injected directly into the wood, or some combination of these methods. Every carpenter ant treatment is different, so we carry a lot of tools in our toolboxes.

Preventing Carpenter Ant Problems

One thing that's pretty much the same from job to job is that your chances of preventing carpenter ant problems, or achieving long-lasting carpenter ant control after a treatment, are much better if you take steps to eliminate conditions conducive to carpenter ants. These non-chemical measures include:

Fixing leaky rain gutters, downspouts, or roof flashing.

Caulking and sealing around door and windows frames to keep the rain out of the walls.

Replacing water-damaged wood anywhere in the home.

Trimming tree branches back so they don't touch or overhang the home.

Stacking firewood well away from the home.

Finally, once your carpenter ant problem has been taken care of, we strongly advise you to consider taking out a seasonal home pest control plan. In most cases, the exterior treatments we perform as a routine part of seasonal pest control plans will significantly reduce the chances of subsequent carpenter ant re-infestation.

If you're in the Greater Dayton area and have a problem with carpenter ants, please contact us for a prompt, professional consultation.