Head of a Black Carpenter Ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus) (Photo credit: Thomas Shahan)
There is much confusion out there when it comes to Carpenter ants. Carpenter ants are frequently confused with termites, because they both nest in wood. The following article is intended for pest control professionals and homeowners alike, who are in need of some answers when it comes to identifying, and treating Carpenter ants.
Knowing a little more about these Carpenter ants can help homeowners and pest management professionals take some preventative measures to minimize damage to homes. If it’s too late, and you fear that you may have a Carpenter ant infestation, please enlist the help of a licensed ant control professional who can administer the proper insecticides.
The 3 Most Common Types of Carpenter Ants
Across the lower 48 states, some 14 different species of Carpenter ant can be found in all their variety. Most share similar characteristics, like nesting in wood, but there are a few slight differences in appearance, geography, and habits. Here are the three most common species that threaten US homes:
Simply called the Carpenter ant (Camponotus vicinus), it is found primarily in the Pacific Northwest; but is also found in California, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, and Oklahoma. These ants have a black head, red thorax, and black abdomen. Like other Carpenter ants, this ant can be a serious structural pest.
Western Carpenter Ant
The Western Carpenter ant (Camponotus modoc) is a foraging ant that is commonly found in the states west of the Mississippi River. They have a dull black body with reddish legs. One easy way to distinguish the Western Carpenter ant from other ant pests is that this ant has a circular ring of gold colored hairs on its abdomen.
Black Carpenter Ant
The Black Carpenter ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus), is the most common Carpenter ant pest in the United States. Found primarily in the Eastern United States, the ant is sometimes referred to as the Pennsylvania Carpenter ant. The Black Carpenter ant is distinguishable from other Carpenter ant species by the dull black color of the head and body; as well as white-yellow hairs on the abdomen.
Pest Control For Carpenter Ants: 5 Steps
When it comes to eliminating Carpenter ants, it’s not as easy as spraying them with a can of over-the-counter insecticide. These ants are tremendously resilient. While you may kill a few of the surface ants, a hundred thousand more may be hiding deep inside the nest. There are five basic steps that need to be taken to successfully eliminate Carpenter ants.
Carpenter ant damage under the front window sill (Photo credit: 123yvo)
Step 1: Inspection. The first step in controlling a Carpenter ant infestation is to thoroughly inspect the suspect property. It is best to determine the nest’s location as specifically as possible. Look for the signs of Carpenter ants, including sawdust piles around dead or rotting wood. The nest may be located by careful and patient observations of worker ants, especially between sunset and midnight during spring and summer months when carpenter ants are most active. You can increase your chances of following workers to their nest by setting out cat food that is attractive to carpenter ants. Place the food in areas where you find workers. Sometimes sound detection methods are equally as effective. Listen for the chewing of wood. Carpenter ants tend to be noisy within their nest, so listening devices may be needed to help pinpoint the exact location of the colony.
Step 2: Identification. Once you have discovered the ants, and/or the nest, you can now determine what type of ant is infesting your property. Different species of ant may require different treatment techniques. Specimens may need to be taken for positive identification. If the ants are found nesting in wood, you almost certainly have a Carpenter ant problem.
Step 3: Recommendation. After inspecting your property, and identifying the type of ant pest, you will need a plan of action. Multiple treatments may be necessary to completely control or eliminate a Carpenter ant colony. Sometimes, Carpenter ant nests are hidden in wall voids, ceilings, attics, or hollow doors. It is usually necessary for an ant control professional to drill small holes inside your home to apply insecticide into the nest area. Occasionally, the answer may be as simple as removing a nest that is found in some decaying wood around the property. Another common recommendation is to remove conditions that are supporting the Carpenter ants (i.e. unused wood, tree stumps, etc.)
Carpenter ant damage (Photo credit: Dave Bonta)
Step 4: Treatment. Treat Carpenter ant nests with a residual insecticide applied either as a dust or spray. You may need to drill small holes into wall voids, window and door sills, baseboards and other areas to reach the nest or major part of the colony. Pesticide dusts are particularly effective, as ant activity tends to spread the dust throughout the colony. For colonies in wall voids, inject an insecticide dust, such as Drione or Tempo, or inject voids with Premise Foam.
When choosing an insecticide, opt for those containing active ingredients like chlorfenapyr, fipronil, or any of the pyrethroids (permethrin, cypermethrin, cyfluthrin, deltamethrin). For effective perimeter treatments, apply Temprid SC, Tempo, Suspend or DeltaGard G.
Baits with active ingredients such as hydramethylnon, fipronil, and abamectin, are labeled for Carpenter ants. The colony can be controlled successfully if foraging ants take the bait to the queen. Place Maxforce Carpenter Ant Bait Gel on foraging trails, near suspected nest locations.
Step 5: Evaluation. The key to long-term success in controlling and eliminating Carpenter ants is to follow up and assess the effectiveness of the measures taken. Additional treatments may be necessary to ensure the ants never come back.
As previously mentioned; if you are a property owner who is battling Carpenter ants, please seek the assistance of an ant control professional before attempting to exterminate these dangerous ants.