Carpenter ants are most recognizable because of their size. These large black ants prefer to establish their colonies in moist wood, such as rotting trees or logs. They will head indoors when conditions are favorable and are often found near water leaks or in areas that have poor circulation and excess condensation. Carpenter ants form both parent colonies and satellite colonies. Thus, you may have a thriving parent colony outside your home that gives way to a smaller satellite colony indoors.
Carpenter ants hollow out wood for their nests and may cause extensive damage if a nest is left unchecked within the home. They will excavate long galleries in the wood. You’ll often see shredded wood fragments surrounding the nesting area. Any instance of sawdust mixed with discarded insect parts is a prime indicator of a carpenter ant infestation. You can also detect a nest by probing suspect wood with a screwdriver to reveal the hollow galleries beneath. This is necessary when the ants are nesting in a concealed area, such as behind a wall.
Young carpenter ant nests won’t produce winged reproductive ants. Once the nest is established with between 2,000 and 3,000 workers, however, the winged reproductive ants will swarm in spring or summer. Male reproductive ants die shortly after mating, while females shed their wings and seek out a suitable location for a new nest. If you see swarming carpenter ants, you have a well-established nest nearby and may also face the threat of new queens seeking to establish their nests.
When a carpenter ant’s nest is disturbed, it will bite. The ant’s large mandibles are capable of breaking the skin, resulting in a painful pinch. Their mouths are designed to break through wood, so a bite through the skin is quite sharp. If you suspect an established carpenter ant colony in your home, it’s best to seek professional help from an exterminator.
Prevention is the best approach to carpenter ants. If you live in a wooded area, it’s virtually impossible to eradicate carpenter ants completely. However, you can keep them from building their home inside yours. Stay extremely vigilant about managing damp wood in your home. Immediately remove any wood or insulation damaged by moisture. Keep firewood piles far from your home, and trim back trees so there are no branches in direct contact with the house. These preventive measures will help keep your home free of these unwanted intruders.