By PHIL LAMEIRA
You see them almost always as the winter cold begins to give way to a moist spring. They will first appear in your driveway or sidewalk, some will begin to get to work in your yards, and a few will make their way into your home uninvited and unwelcomed.
Ant season is upon us.
These tiny insects are beginning to be active and will soon be nesting throughout our neighbourhoods.
Some, such as the pavement ants and field ants, will likely keep away from the inside of a home.
But one species of ant is notorious for breaching into homes and causing severe structural damage- the carpenter ant.
How can the carpenter ant be differentiated from all other common ants, you may ask?
I recently quizzed my wife with that question as I wrote a case study on this pest, to which she replied, “do they carry tool belts and hold hammers?” Cute, but unfortunately, they do not.
Carpenter ants can first be identified by their size. They are large ants that grow to approximately 5/8 of an inch in length. They are normally black or reddish black in color and can also be polymorphic.
These ants love to nest in wooden structures, especially if the wood is damp, rotting, or moldy.
When inside a home, they will gravitate to areas of high humidity or where leaky pipes my be present. The queen will nest in cavities in any wood structure such as rafters, wall studs, and subflooring.
The carpenter ant does not eat the wood when creating these wooden galleries, instead they chip away at the wood and create mounts of sawdust-like shavings.
Depending on the size of the colony and how long they have been present, the damage to the wood structure can be as extreme as that of a termite infestation.
Once a colony is established in a home, it is common to find worker ants foraging for food. Their diet consists of other dead insects, foods high on protein and sugars. They are usually most active at nighttime.
After a few years and once conditions are perfect, the colony will release a large number of winged male and female queen ants called alates.
These ants will participate in what is know as a “nuptial flight”- an annual event in which the ants will take to the skies and, as the queens release pheromones, mate in mid-flight. Once this somewhat ritualistic event comes to an end, the males will die while the queens will find a small crevice and initialize their new colony.
Carpenter ants pose no health risks to humans, but their destructive behaviour is enough for people to take steps in preventing an infestation in their home.
The primary line of defence against a carpenter ant infestation is keeping all wooden structures dry.
Fix any plumbing pipes that may be leaking, wipe any spilled water immediately, invest in a dehumidifier and run it through the humid summer months, ensure there are no entry points into the home through widow or door frame gaps – these are just some suggestions to keep these insects out.
If you do find evidence of carpenter ant activity in your home, then you have a couple of options.
If the infestation is just starting, you may be able to use insecticide to control its growth and hopefully eliminate the queen.
If a colony is well established and damage is present, the best option would be to hire a professional, licensed extermination company that will be able to attack the pest using multiple methods. This is the quickest and most efficient way to get rid of these pesky ants.
Phil Lameira is with The Exterminators Inc. at https://www.theexterminators.ca/