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What Does a Carpenter Ant Nest Look Like?

By Chris Williams on April 12, 2017.

Carpenter ant nests vary greatly in size, location, and structure.  Many factors determine what a nest will look like.  Moisture conditions and rotten wood differ from a nest in a dry location.  Carpenter ants will take advantage of rotten wood, and easy places to start the nest, but as the nest grows, the larvae who feed the colony are susceptible to fungi or desiccation.  Most nests are located in a fairly dry location, maybe near a water source or water damage. Wall voids, insulation, and framing voids are perfect starter homes, and provide ample room to start a nest site.  Like a hollow tree, homes are just a great place to start an ant nest.  Carpenter ants do not actually eat wood!  They are able to remove wood particles and create void chambers within trees or wood construction.  Most carpenter ant nests are relatively localized; however, some nests can be quite large and have many “satellite” areas that they use for feeding and development of the Pupae.  Carpenter ant queens leave the nest and mate with smaller wasp-like males.  Once mating takes place she chews her wings off and seeks out a safe nesting site.  Many animals would love to eat a mated carpenter ant so she quickly finds a safe place. Stumps, under bark, your house, any place she can get into is perfect and away from predators.  Once safe, she begins to lay eggs.  The tiny eggs turn into the larvae that will feed the colony, all food items are brought to the larvae who in-turn secrete a highly nutritious liquid as food for the adult ants.  Worker ants of various sizes do all the chores in the nest; cleaning up dead ants and insect parts not eaten,  removing debris from nest construction, caring for the eggs, cleaning and  protecting the larvae, moving the pupae around for development, and foraging for food.   All ants in the nest are technically females with the exception of the short-lived males.   Carpenter ant colonies are also mobile.   If conditions at one nest site become unfavorable, the ants simply pick up and move to a better location.  Most carpenter ant nests do not get that large.  Sometimes the nest can be enormous.  Think of a hollow pine tree or maple branch.  I have also encountered nest that were living in an entire wall. If you gave an ant nest in the house, you will see workers and dead ants eventually.  If you have a huge nest, there will be lots of activity around the house, usually starting on the first warm days of spring.  Large nests also make a noise in the wall or ceiling that sounds like a light rustling or crackling.   This noise is made by the tiny claws on the ant’s feet, more ants equals more noise.  As carpenter ants build the nest area they remove the soft wood with the grain, and this activity creates thin ribs of wood within the nest.  These thin partitions and chambers create the sound in the nest.  Inside the nest it is clean, with no debris or sawdust where the ants live.  If soil is present inside the wood that could indicate termite activity.   Termites bring soil and moisture into the wood so they can actually feed on it!  Depending on the size of the nest, there may be a little sawdust evident.   Ant frass is fairly uniform in size and is removed from the nest.  Worker ants may carry the frass far from the nest, or make hole and drop it right from the nest.  If the frass is hidden inside a wall there may be little to see.  A living nest is bustling with activity; every ant has a job to do.  The nest is disturbed workers rush collect eggs, larvae, and pupae.  During construction if a local treatment is not made, the colony will move quickly to another location.  Local treatment with aerosol products or residual dust will contaminate the nest, and kill the workers.  Professionals at Colonial Pest Control Inc. rely on safe and effective treatments that are designed to kill the nest wherever it is located and provide lasting protection for your valuable investment.  One-time treatments can be made to solve specific pest issues.  Maintenance treatments are designed to reduce problems over time so you can focus on family and pets.  Let the pros at Colonial Pest Control Inc. handle your pest control needs.  We service a wide area and control pests from ants to wildlife.  If you have an issue or think you might do not wait until you are over run.   Small problems are easier to solve than big ones, so do not wait!

Colonial Pest Control Inc.  1-800-525-8084

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