Carpenter Ants: What You Should Know And Why You Should Care

black ant up close

The rising temperatures and beautiful sunshine have many Connecticut residents eager and ready to go out and enjoy the summer. However, while many families may be running outside, one particular pest may be marching inside. June is peak season for carpenter ants, and while these pesky bugs may be small, the damage they cause can be enormous. These insects are unique from other species of ants in appearance and behavior. Some particular characteristics of this insect will aid homeowners in determining whether or not they have a carpenter ant problem. These ants can be elusive and not easily detected, or be confused with other bugs.

Determining whether or not you have carpenter ants is important in addressing, solving, and preventing future carpenter ant problems in your home. If a homeowner suspects that they have carpenter ants living with them, it is imperative that action is taken immediately to prevent these pests from causing any further damage to the home.

Carpenter Ant Appearance

Carpenter Ants are one of the largest of all known species of ants, typically between 6 and 12 millimeters in length. However, male swarmers and queens will measure even larger. Colors range in black, brown, red, yellow, or orange. However, the carpenter ant native to Connecticut - Camponotus pennsylvanicus - is all black. Judging from the black color alone, you may believe that you just have black pavement ants. However, a major difference between carpenter and pavement ants is that carpenter ants are about five times the length of pavement ants, and have a single node between their thorax and abdomen. Besides size and color, other important characteristics to look for are:

  • Elbowed antennae

  • Six legs

  • Pinched waist

  • Front pair of wings longer than the back pair

Carpenter Ant Behavior

Carpenter Ants do things a little differently than other invasive species. Reproduction and building nests are what Carpenter Ants love to do most, but how they go about accomplishing this is what turns out to be their key identifiers. When carpenter ants come into the home in the early damage stage, you may not notice them right away. It’s usually when they start building a nest that their presence starts to become more noticeable. Carpenter ants prefer soft, moist wood to build their nests in. This is why homes with water damage tend to be most vulnerable to these ants. Unlike termites, a bug commonly confused with Carpenter Ants, carpenter ants don’t actually eat the wood; they chew through it to create galleries for themselves to burrow through and build a nest for their colony. The damage caused by carpenter ants also tends to occur over a longer period of time, in comparison to termites. This wood-chewing habit is how the carpenter ant gets its name.

When the ants chew through wood, they produce piles of what looks like sawdust. This sawdust, known as frass, is one of the most obvious signs of a carpenter ant invasion. Frass may also contain dead ants or ant parts. Frass is found beneath where the nest is being built. Frass is most commonly found near door frames, crawl spaces, baseboards, and water lines. Once a nest has been built, worker ants will travel far distances from the nest in search of food, and then return to the colony. Besides building nests, reproduction is also a major priority for these ants. Carpenter Ants will begin to reproduce about two years after building a nest.  Winged “swarmer” Carpenter Ants will go out of the nest to mate while in flight. Satellite colonies will be produced as a result and increase the risk of damage. These ants will then mate while in flight and produce new colonies. The male swarmer will die after mating, and the female will shed her wings and then search for a place to begin the new colony. 

Carpenter Ant Signs

Unfortunately, it is difficult to identify a carpenter ant infestation in the early stages of damage before they have started to build a nest. It isn’t until they have started to nest that they begin to leave telltale signs that the homeowner does have a carpenter ant problem. One of the earliest signs you can identify is worker carpenter ants searching for food inside your home once the nest has been built.  Another well-known sign of carpenter ants is the presence of frass: if you see little piles of sawdust-like wood shavings in your home, carpenter ants are likely to be the culprit.

You may also hear rustling inside of your walls or other hollow structures where the ants have nested. If the wood sounds hollow when you tap it, this could also indicate a carpenter ant problem. Because the swarmer ants shed their wings after they mate, another sign you may see are the shed wings around your house. Common places worth checking are window sills, baseboards, and air vents. In an advanced damage stage, the wood structure infested by carpenter ants will become warped and lopsided, due to the ants’ nest building. The structure may even collapse in on itself under its weight since the ants have chewed through any support the structure would have had. In this stage, you will see smooth, “polished” galleries or channels, that the carpenter ants have chewed through. If the galleries appear smooth, this is a sign of carpenter ant activity. 

Moving Forward

Once the carpenter ants have been removed, it is highly advised that homeowners seal cracks, remove tree stumps, and correct moisture problems to prevent more infestations. However, even with these preventative measures taken, homeowners should still be on the lookout for any familiar signs that may happen later on. Although it may be tempting to take care of the infestation yourself, DIY methods are not recommended. Homeowner methods will only spread the infestation and cause further damage to their equity. Instead of relying on home remedies, calling us at Connecticut Pest Elimination as soon as you notice damage is the best plan of action to resolve and prevent carpenter ant damage in the future.

Complete the form below to get your free quote.