Carpenter Ants, What You Need to Know…
In the Portland Metro Area, there are three common species of Carpenter Ants: Modoc, Essigi, and Vicinus. The Modoc is the largest – most commonly ranging from 1/4″ to 1/2″ long but on rare occasions, to over 3/4″. They are always a dark black color and their nests have a single queen. Modoc Carpenter Ants generally begin their infestation usually by entering at ground level.
Essigi are the smallest, typically measuring from 1/8″ to 1/4″. Their middle section is usually a reddish brown color. Of all local species, this one is occasionally not recognized as a Carpenter Ant due to its size. Essigis will typically be found in attic and roof areas as they often enter homes via power lines or branches touching the home.
The Vicinus species is 1/4″ to 1/2″+ in length and has a reddish brown midsection. Vicinus will commonly gain access through bushes that are contacting the structure. Both Essigi and Vicinus are capable of having multiple queens in their colonies.
Regardless of the specific species, they can cause thousands of dollars of damage in just a few short years.
Carpenter Ants will always start nesting in decayed wood. However, once they have completely colonized, other wood becomes fair game as their population continues to grow. The parent colony is where the queen resides but satellites (sub-colonies) can be populated with workers as well as more mature larvae, pupae and eventually, some swarmers (flying reproductive ants.) If you see more than one or two winged ants, chances are high that you have a mature colony, as Carpenter Ants typically do not produce winged swarmers until the colony is 4-6 years old.
Unknown to many is that Carpenter Ants are nocturnal. When you do see a few during the day, it is rarely more than just a tiny percentage of the entire population. This helps to explain why colonies go unnoticed for so long.
Carpenter Ants like to feed on other insects and the honeydew nectar of plants as well as protein and sugar laden food scraps. One common misunderstanding about these ants is that they eat the wood. They do not. Rather, they chew and bore through it to make living room for nests.
How To Tell if You Have Carpenter Ants
Start by looking for small, micro piles of sawdust below fixtures, cracks or holes. If there are insect body parts mixed with the sawdust, this is a sure sign of infestation. Also look for trails of ants that run from your house’s siding or foundation out into wooded areas or to dead wood (railroad ties, dead tree stumps, etc.)
Our Approach to Exterminating Carpenter Ants
Since there often might not be a queen ant within your structure, a less than thorough treatment can unwittingly visually suppress the infestation for months or a year or so until it pops back up. If the queen ant is not located within your structure, the colony will not be successfully destroyed, even though the infestation may not be seen for months or a year or so until the colony repopulates.
The level of desired certainty is the key issue when treating for them. The more thorough we can be with our treatment approach, the greater and longer certainty we can confidently provide. Generally speaking, the need for drilling and injecting is drastically less these days due to new generations of treatments.