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How Serious Are Carpenter Ants?

By Chris Williams on June 11, 2014.

carpenter ants in New EnglandUnlike termites, carpenter ants don’t eat wood, they excavate it to make their nest. They work inside the wood, hollowing out broad, smooth galleries where they lay eggs and raise their young.

In many parts of the country, carpenter ants are not considered to be as important in causing wood damage as subterranean termites. But in other areas, like the Pacific Northwest and our own New England area, carpenter ants can be just as serious as termites.

Like subterranean termites, carpenter ants prefer to build their nests in wood that has been softened by decay or moisture. Nests often start in such sites but the ants sometimes move from there into dry, sound wood. A carpenter ant’s nest can look quite impressive when you open a piece of wood that is nothing but hollowed-out galleries.

Like termites, carpenter ants are often not noticed until the damage has been going on unseen for some time. Sometimes the first sign that you have either pest is when the colony sends out winged swarmers. When you first see swarmers, a carpenter ant colony is already 3 to 6 years old and contains thousands of ants.

Structural Damage Can Occur Over Time

The longer the colony has been present, the more likely that there will be structural wood damage. Large colonies are capable of weakening studs, joists, and structural timbers. Often, carpenter ants are first discovered when ant-damaged wood gives out due to added stress from high winds or accumulated snow.

Even if you can live with the fact that ants are munching on your wood, you may also have to deal with the nuisance factor of having large ants running around your home. Carpenter ants tend to be much more in your face than termites. They will travel up to 100 feet from the nest site looking for sweets, grease, crumbs, etc. to feed on. Often they forage from the nest to the outside, but they may find your kitchen a better food source.

Sometimes carpenter ant wood damage is old and the ants have moved on, but hopefully not to another part of your house. Only a professional exterminator can answer that question after a complete carpenter ant inspection. If you’re worried about carpenter ants, call Colonial today.

Photo credit: Jean-Jacques Boujot / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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