There are more than 12,000 species of ants worldwide, but locally we only encounter a few of them, including odorous house ants, pavement ants, and carpenter ants. Many species behave similarly, and are treated similarly, so some exterminators don’t bother to identify them, but carpenter ants are a different matter; they excavate wood and can be just as destructive as termites.
These wood-destroying insects are up to one-half inch long, and are usually black, though coloration can vary slightly in different regions. Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood. Like carpenter bees, they excavate wood and nest in it. They’re often found in leaky window frames, firewood, tree stumps, rotting logs, and old lumber. From there, an established colony might expand into sound wood, so that no wood is truly safe.
Like termites, carpenter ant colonies produce winged swarmers in the spring and summer, which might be the homeowner’s first sign that there is an infestation.
Homeowners concerned about possible carpenter ant activity should look for signs at night, when the ants tend to be most active. Check that firewood that was brought in at the end of March, only to be left in the corner when temperatures rose; ants and other pests often hitchhike on firewood. Check for moist wood, especially around windows and doors. A moisture might be helpful; beware of readings of 20% or higher. Exposed wood can be tested with a small screwdriver. Listen to the walls, with a stethoscope if possible; active colonies sound similar to the crinkling of cellophane.
When in doubt, feel free to call our office at 302-436-8140. We’ll identify carpenter ants and other pests, and recommend treatment options, free of charge.