Carpenter ants are important decomposers of forest trees, burrowing within it to nest and feeding on insects, plants and fruit juices. However, they do move from their native woods to the structures of homes looking for water and human or pet food. Although they are slow to cause harm, carpenter ants can do serious damage to a home if they are not adequately controlled.
Fortunately there are several least-toxic options to control carpenter ants once they have been properly identified.
What Do Carpenter Ants Look Like?
Carpenter ants have humped backs, are about ½ inch long and are black with gray, yellow or red hairs on their body and legs. As these ants are commonly misidentified, consult your local university entomologist or Cooperative Extension Service agent if you are unsure whether carpenter ants are infesting your home and yard.
Where Will I Find Them?Frame houses without basements and any building near a forest are likely locations for a carpenter ant nest. These nomadic ants love areas of high moisture so inspect bathrooms and kitchens and anywhere water leaks are occurring, for wood dust or shavings.
Outdoors, tap on evergreen trees and hollow stumps within 300 feet of your home. Use a stethoscope or empty glass to listen for rustling sounds. Gently tap joists and rafters with a hammer, listening for rustling or for the hollow sound of excavated wood. Insert a pocketknife blade into wood to confirm your suspicions.
How Do I Get Rid Of Them?
Boric acid is used to destroy indoor nests and if kept dry, can be effective up to 30 years. Although it is non-toxic to human and pet skin, a one-micron dust mask, neoprene gloves and safety goggles should be worn to avoid inhaling or ingesting the fine dust.
Desiccating dusts, such as Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.), and Silica Gel, destroy insects by absorbing their waxy outer coating, causing them to die from dehydration. D.E. should be blown with a bulb duster behind electrical switch plates and into wall voids. Silica gel combined with the natural pesticide, pyrethrin, is available in aerosol cans and should be sprayed into the same areas as D.E.
Alternative, but not readily available controls, include microwave radiation, heat treatment and electrocution. Check your telephone book or the Internet for contractors in your area.
How Do I Keep Them Away?
Borate treated lumber must be used in any home construction or remodeling. All siding and foundation holes must be sealed and rotted wood replaced, especially next to drains and gutters. Cap with metal any wood that contacts soil and store firewood outdoors.