Carpenter Ants are found throughout North America. These large black ants are called Carpenter Ants because they live in wood. Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood. Carpenter ants are predators that feed mainly on small insects like aphids and inchworms. In temperate regions carpenter ant colonies hibernate in a state called “diapause” during the colder months. As seasonal temperatures decline, carpenter ants produce an alcohol called Glycerol that prevents ice crystals from forming within their bodies. Shortly after the first frost, colonies gather together in the nest area in a tight group, with the queen ant in the center of the cluster. Once “asleep”, the colony does not feed or drink until spring.
Nest locations vary greatly. Dead trees, hollow spaces in living trees, logs, and stumps are places where carpenter ants will make nests. Some nests have galleries (chambers and tunnels) that extend far below the surface of the soil. Carpenter ants also make nests in homes, sometimes causing extensive local damage. Most nests begin in an area of decaying wood that gets wet.
When spring comes, days lengthen and temperatures climb. The nest begins to stir. Winter has been long and fat stores are all but gone. Inside the nest ants are beginning to move about and stretch their legs. There is no food outside yet as temperatures are still low, buds and leaves are still forming. One thing carpenter ants will need when they first wake up is water
One of the first signs that carpenter ants have moved into a structure is the presence of worker ants in spring, before leaves have formed on the trees. The first warm days will wake the ant colony up, and they will remain active until the next fall, although cool nights will reduce activity. Because food is scarce, the first workers usually find water sources like dishwashers, sinks, showers, and pet water. Once scouts find a water source, pheromone trails are laid down that guide other ants to the water.
If the colony has reached maturity, a swarm may take place. This swarming is indicated by large numbers of winged ants either inside or on a structure. Swarming takes place in warm temperatures, and may take place several times if the colony is large. This mass swarming behavior allows males and females from different colonies to exchange genetic material. Large colonies may have several satellite nests where pupae are taken to develop, like in the sunny side of a house or the warm attic.
Control of carpenter ants is best left to the Pros. Do It Yourself treatments can be dangerous and frustrating. With the right training and material, Pest Control Professionals have what it takes to remove carpenter ants. If you begin to see ants inside this spring it is likely that you have an ant nest in the house. Why wait until carpenter ants are everywhere, potentially causing damage? Don’t hesitate; call a Pest Control Professional as soon as you notice carpenter ant activity.