If you live in cottage country ( as in Simcoe County, Tay or Tiny Townships, or Muskoka), trees and forests are never too far away, and you are likely not a stranger to a myriad of types of pests.
This also means that you are very likely to encounter the the six legs, smooth/round upper thorax, 1 – 3 inch length, black (with varying hues of red or yellow) colour and “elbow-shaped” antennae of the carpenter ant!
Yes, these ants (which are said to be some of the largest in North America) are true to their name, and do love to chew through wood. But, there’s definitely a catch! They are not interested in actually consuming the wood for sustenance. Rather, they like to hollow out wooden structures, so they can establish their colonies in there. This is one reason you should NEVER leave woodpiles (after “carpentering” ..get it?) anywhere near your home or building structure.
Since they don’t actually eat the wood, carpenter ants will feed on other insects like smaller ants, spiders, cockroaches, dead bees, fleas (yup, they’re predators), and food debris from humans. So, be sure to not leave crumbs lying around!
They rarely actually bite humans (unless they feel that their nest is being threatened and needs to be defended), but in the rare case that they do, they have powerful “jaws” which can tear through human flesh and spray it with formic acid, which gives off a burning sensation.
Carpenter ants do come in various shapes and sizes (some are bigger, smaller… some have little wings, even), but they shouldn’t be mistaken for termites, as carpenter ants not only have narrower waists with front wings that are longer than hind wings, but they are actually much slower when it comes to chewing through the wood.
However, that is not a “better” thing, necessarily. Their slower pace actually means it usually takes a little longer for you to notice that you have them. But, you really SHOULD check for them, regularly, because the amount of damage they are actually capable of doing over time is horrendous and expensive. They will weaken any wooden structure, and – left along long enough, – that can often lead to very dangerous accidents and collapses, resulting in very costly repairs.
If you happen to spot a carpenter ant that is relatively large (regardless of whether it is winged or without wings), you most likely have a well-established colony there. Another tell-tale sign is observing curious-looking little piles of wood shavings. Don’t forget, carpenter ants don’t actually eat wood, they just tunnel through it to make their nest, and so they discard the wood-shavings which usually end up at the entrance to the hole with the tunnel containing their nest! Incidentally, those wood-shavings (called “frass”) also contain their excrement (hey, at least give them some credit for good housekeeping)!
As if that’s not bad enough, once they’ve managed to actually tunnel through into your house or cottage, you can actually hear them in there, if there’s enough of them! Add to that the fact they attract woodpeckers … and yeah, that’s yet another headache you probably would rather not have to deal with.
Besides not leaving food crumbs of any kind lying around indoors, some good precautionary measures would be to prune or trim overhanging trees so that they are not touching your house/cottage.
Also make sure your gutters and always clean.
Since carpenter ants use pheromones to track their own whereabouts away from their nest, these pests have no problem entering people’s homes through cracks and looking for food – usually proteins and carbohydrates, like meat, sugar, honey …etc.
The best thing to do is to call for professional help.
The best thing to do as soon as you’ve spotted any of the aforementioned signs would be to immediately call for professional help, because the longer you put it off, the greater the damage those carpenter ants will do to the structure/house/cottage
So, give us a call, and have Ross come by. Or, just call to get a quote!