Carpenter Ants

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Carpenter ants can and will establish a nest inside and outside of any type of structure

In 2 to 5 years, a colony with a good supply of food may form a reproductive or dispersal generation. This generation consists of winged males and females. Males, known as drones, are about 5/8 long; winged females from 5/8 to 7/8 inch long. Most drones, whose only purpose is to fertilize the females eggs, die shortly thereafter. The females shed their wings immediately after mating and become full-fledged queens. In Maine, a 3/4 inch long, wingless ant is probably a queen carpenter ant. They look for wet, rotten wood in which to start new colonies or join an existing one. The queen that starts a new colony lays about 30 eggs and cares for the larvae until they are adult workers. This new generation of workers takes over the various chores in the colony and the queen’s full-time job becomes egg laying.

The forest is the carpenter ant’s natural habitat. Any wet, rotten wood attracts a new queen. Carpenter ants infest live, dead or fallen trees wherever there is some rot and moisture. In nature, they play an important role in recycling wood, but when they attack buildings they are destructive. The closer a forest with rotten logs is to homes or buildings, the more likely is a carpenter ant infestation.

The closer an abundant water and food supply is to the nest, the faster an ant population increases, and the greater the need to enlarge the galleries to accommodate the colony. It is the ants’ excavating that damages or weakens wooden structures. Tunneling can take place inside any piece of wood without outwardly visible signs.

In a house, mobile home or other building, infestations may begin because of a water leak around the chimney, roof valley, gutter, window, door frame, or space under wooden floors when there is no basement. Sill areas invite ants, especially if soil touches the wood. Wood covered with backfill from new construction provides an excellent nesting place. Kitchen and bathrooms are also suspect, as a leak in a water pipe or water heating system provides the moisture the ants love. Always check firewood for ants before taking it indoors.

Because carpenter ants are nocturnal, you probably will not see them unless they are under stress because of lack of water, food or nesting space, or because they are in a reproductive generation.

The ants do not eat wood, but rather tunnel only to increase nesting space. In the forest, carpenter ants feed on sap, pollen, nectar, fruits, and both living and dead insects. Water is an important part of their diet. Honeydew, the sweet excretion of aphids and certain other insects, is also a favorite food.

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