What are carpenter ants?
Ants are an incredibly common insect in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. Some estimates state that there are approximately 30,000 unique species of ants in the world.
Of course, not all types of ants can be found in our region, but the carpenter ant is one of the most common invasive pests you’ll find in Oregon City and the surrounding area.
Since these pests can cause property damage, it’s important to address infestations as soon as possible to mitigate any potential destruction they may cause.
Carpenter ants in our neck of the woods typically measure anywhere from one-quarter to one-half inch in length, with the worker ants usually being the much larger members of the colony. Of course, the queen ants will be the largest of all, but you’re much less likely to see them.
Beyond their size, one of their other distinguishing features is their coloring. Carpenter ants will commonly be black and/or reddish-black in color.
Some carpenter ants have wings and can fly, but not all carpenter ants within the colony will have wings. And, conversely, not all ants with wings are carpenter ants, either. The reason certain carpenter ants have wings is because it is their job to seek safe places for reproduction and colonization. These flying ants are sometimes referred to as “swarmers.”
You see, carpenter ants, like most other species of ants, are social insects, meaning they live in colonies and have very specific social orders.
These nocturnal ants have colonies that include queen, male, and worker ants.
The queen is the head of the colony, and gives instructions to the rest of the ants in order to best grow its population. This consists of workers, who are responsible for finding food, building and protecting the nest, as well as its ongoing maintenance. The workers are by far the most abundant in any colony. A well established carpenter ant colony can include as many as 2,000 workers at a time. Males serve a single purpose in the colony, which is mating with the queen. After they’ve mated, they die shortly thereafter.
Are carpenter ants as bad as termites?
This is an incredibly important question. Many people confuse termites with carpenter ants, assuming that they are essentially the same insect and cause the same type of damage to homes and property.
In fact, termites and carpenter ants are distinctly different creatures, and cause different types of damage — the termite on a much larger scale than the carpenter ant. Here are some important differences:
Carpenter ants prefer to build their nests in softened or decaying wood, using their strong jaws to chew through the wood and create what are called “galleries,” which are a system of intricate and interconnected tunnels.
Though some might assume that the carpenter ants do this by eating the wood, they aren’t consuming those materials at all. Carpenter ants, unlike termites, cannot digest wood. They chew through it, leaving small traces of a sawdust-like powder outside of the wood that they’re burrowing through.
This material, called frass, is one of the telltale signs of carpenter ants. Were it termites you were facing, the substance you’d see would be dirtier and more mud-like in appearance.
Sometimes the carpenter ant colony can grow so large that it will include multiple queens. These queens often become territorial over their regions of the colony, though it has been found that not all satellite colonies will contain a queen, and will feature only worker ants.
Will carpenter ants cause damage to my home?
The best answer to this question is yes, especially if the infestation goes unaddressed. While it is more common for carpenter ants to build their colonies outside near their main sources of food, they will build satellite colonies in homes or other buildings if the conditions are right.
A leaky roof or rotting wood may be appealing to carpenter ants, and they can cause additional damage on top of the already established deterioration. The longer these issues are ignored, the larger the colony will grow, leading to even more damage to your home.
Carpenter ants subsist primarily on smaller insects, living or dead, as well as a substance called honeydew, which is an aphid secretion. However, if they should make their way into your home, they’ll seek out food in the forms of sugars, proteins, and fats, potentially contaminating your home’s food supply.
Can carpenter ants cause physical harm?
It is very unusual, but it can happen. Carpenter ants, for their size, have very powerful jaws, and in those situations where they feel that they or their colony is being threatened with harm, they can bite.
In most cases, it is said the carpenter ant bite will result in a low-grade burning sensation, but if you or a loved one experiences more severe symptoms, you should not hesitate to seek assistance from a trusted medical professional.
What should I do about carpenter ants?
We strongly recommend that you seek professional assistance. Aspen Pest Control can help you confirm the nature of your infestation, provide you with hassle-free recommendations for treatment, and apply pet, child, and environmentally friendly commercial-grade products suited for the exact type of infestation you’re facing.