How to Spot Early Signs of a Carpenter Ant Infestation

Carpenter ants might often be considered a spring and summer pest but they can start showing up as early as late January in this part of the country.  All it takes is just a few consecutive sunny days and temperatures can warm up enough to create some activity.

When carpenter ants do appear so early it is usually sporadic.

carpenter-ant-infestationYou may not necessarily see constant activity but rather, you may see a few on one day and a few on another.  Nonetheless, just because they appear to go away for a while doesn’t mean that they are gone but rather that they are just not currently visible. During periods when they are not active and visible they generally are tending to their nest.  This is actually like humans – when it is sunny and dry you may paint the outside of your house and when it is cold and rainy, you may paint an interior room.  Such non-visible activities may include making sure that the colonies pupa are stored well where they will continue to grow and be ready to help the colony eventually damage your home!

Regular presence of carpenter ants won’t start to occur until the average daily temperatures begin to rise above 45 to 50 degrees. However, keep in mind that just because you might not see them for a while does not mean that they are not still there and causing damage.  Therefore, take the gift of having seen some as a good early sign and opportunity to address problem properly.

Backing up for a brief moment, let’s look at some causes as to why some carpenter ant activity previously unseen may suddenly be visible. It is important to realize that the odds are that at the time of first seeing them the ants usually have been there for at least a year or more. Sometimes yard work in winter or early spring can be the catalyst for causing the appearance. While IPM (Integrated Pest Management) recommends the removal of branches and foliage that come in contact with the structure as an integral part of the preventative process, doing it at the wrong time can exaggerate the problem.

Branch removal that is done during winter or very early spring can confuse the colony and cause branching out of a sub colony.  If the colony had been relying on the contacting branches as a pathway, the ants will not have access to their previous route to get outside. Because of this, they can possibly spread out to other areas in the structure looking for other perimeter openings for exterior access.  This really acts as a double-edged sword; on the positive side, it might alert you to a colony infestation that you were otherwise unaware of; on the negative side, the problem now may be spreading and on route to getting worse unless fast action is taken.

Avoiding kneejerk attempts to perform your own pest control with the first chemical you find in your cupboard.  Without getting an inspection by a professional or you easily could make problem worst.

Next, realize that carpenter ants are a normal, consistent part of the environment in many parts of country. Don’t always assume you have problem if you see one in yard (as opposed to at your foundation or inside) as that might be normal and expected for the environment surrounding your structure.  As with many creatures they are consistent; you will see then in the same area over and over again.  Applying treatments when not needed is something to be avoided and it most usually is done as a result of either misdiagnosis or lack of familiarity with the cause of the problem.

Since a carpenter ant infestation almost always start as a shoot off from another larger, establish colony, they likely will be travelling outside on a daily basis.  The purpose of the travel is to communicate with that original colony and to forage for food source (commonly other insects.)  Given that you can count on this behavior, pest control providers often are able to use this information to limit treatment to the exterior perimeter of structure and avoid interior treatment.

Carpenter ants are typically territorial.

They usually will have a smaller nest colony population than other common types of ants such as odorous house ants.  This small colony can still cause huge amounts of damage, however.  Carpenters will forage up to 100 yards away from their nest and protect that territory from other colonies (excluding the colony of original origin.)  This means that very likely only one related colony is occupying the structure (even if that specific “extended family” has multiple nests.)

A false sense of security can be derived from a nest that is only partially killed.  Since there is no consistent way of verifying, the colony will become virtually non-visible and won’t show back up again until it has regenerated itself.  It can take months to tell for certain whether a problem is fully eradicated. For this reason, opting for continued periodic service treatment is much wiser plan of attack than a one-time treatment.  Also, money spent on a more thorough treatment process will often pay for itself in as little as 6 months or a year.  Keep in mind the goal of successful carpenter ant extermination; to increase the likelihood of a more through colony kill and then start practicing preventative integrated pest management practices.

This is a lot of information but hopefully it helps you understand your ant problem better.  We find that our happiest customers are those who also have a good understanding of the true nature of the problem.  We would love for you to become one of those happy customers – give us a call today!  503-968-5950.