Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.). This species is installed in wet woods and roofs to live. They need heat, humidity and shelter like any insect, and do not dig galleries to eat the wood but to use them as a home.

Identification

Carpenter ants are common in America, Europe and other parts of the world. As carpenter ants cause damage to the wood areas where they nest, their presence can easily be mistaken for a termite infestation. However, while termites eat wood, carpenter ants only make galleries inside the wood for shelter. All carpenter ant species prefer rotten wood to their nests because these areas provide them with adequate humidity and temperature. Although carpenter ants do not eat wood, the damage of this ant can be severe when its nests remain active for several years.

Over time, the colony may expand to satellite colonies near the mother colony. The workers dig the wood to increase the space of the colony, causing extensive damage to structures and woodwork. In the United States alone there are 18 recognized carpenter ant species.

For this reason, their identification can be difficult. Its size and color may vary between different species and even between different individuals of the same colony. Carpenter ants are between three and 20 millimeters long and can be black, brown, yellow, orange or red. Although they are classified among the largest species of ants in the world, their size is not a key to identify them. Carpenter ants with the most common wings have a thorax and a reddish brown head, and abdomen and black bodies. Carpenter ants are easily confused with termites, particularly during nuptial flights, when the group of males and females with wings leave their colony to mate. The most important feature to identify carpenter ants are their layered antennae, a tiny waist, a uniformly convex thorax and only one node within the thorax and abdomen. The carpinteras ants develop through a complete metamorphosis: from the egg to the larva, from the larva to the chrysalis, from the chrysalis to the adult. Adult carpenter ants have six legs, a narrow waist, three different regions on the body and a ring of hair on the tip of the abdomen. The color of the eggs, larvae and pupae can vary depending on the species of the carpenter ant, to locate the nests of these ants you can follow the path of the worker ants. Look for a clean and soft cavity in the infested area, or also a small indentation in the form of a window on the surface of the damaged wood. Small piles of sawdust can often be found near open surfaces. After identifying a colony it is advisable to hire a pest control professional because several satellite colonies may exist within the same house or building.

Appearance

Carpenter ants are polymorphic. This means that there are diversity of sizes in the workers of the colony. Usually there is only one queen with wings for each colony. The male and the female with wings appear when the colony is mature, usually after three or four years. The workers are of varied colors: black, dark brown, red and black, yellow and red, with sizes between six to 13 millimeters. The body of the black carpenter ant is completely black or dark brown, while the other carpenter ants have a black or dark brown body and reddish-brown thorax. The black carpenter ants that are found in the west and east of the United States are the most studied. This ant is large and black, while the carpenter ants found in Florida are small and can vary in color, between black and brown, yellow or red.

However, there are many species of carpenter ants in the United States and, therefore, neither their size nor their color are reliable ways to identify them. The Camponotus, carpintera ant also known as the wood ant, is distinguished from other species by its rounded thorax and thin waist. All carpenter ants have bent antennas. The queen of the carpenter ants and the breeding males have front wings that are larger than their hind wings. Those wings are transparent or of a clear coffee. Winged carpenter ants appear between February and August. Once the queen is fertilized, she makes a nest to start another colony.

The eggs of these ants measure 1/8 inch long, are oval in shape and cream in color. The larvae do not have legs. During their pupa stage, they become adults.

Habitat

They live outside or inside the wet, rotten or hollow wood. They elaborate “galleries” inside the particles of the wood to be able to move through tunnels from one section of the nest to another. They leave “sawdust” when digging, which is usually the necessary clue to locate their nests.

Diet

Carpenter ants feed on a wide variety of substances. Some elements that they use for their nutrition are: dead insects, sweet substances that are detached from some plants and flowers, fruits (citrus fruits are more attractive to them), meats and fats, sweets and juices, etc. The favorite food of adult ants is the nectar they get from other insects. A particular case that occurs in the feeding of the carpenter ants is the symbiosis. This process is a type of relationship in which two species benefit. The carpenter ant drags its nest to the caterpillar of certain butterflies and feeds on its juices; In the same way the caterpillars benefit by obtaining their food from the carpenter ant ants.

Reproduction

The queen puts 15 to 20 eggs the first year and up to 30 the second year. The eggs complete their life cycle in 60 days. Worker ants can live up to seven years, while queens can live up to 25 years.

Size

Carpenter ants are one of the largest of all ant species. The workers of the carpenter ants are polymorphic, which means that there may be ants of different sizes within the same colony. Adult carpenter ants can measure between six and 12 millimeters long. The group of winged males can reach more than 18 millimeters, while the queen grows up to 20 millimeters or an inch long. A mature colony may contain 3,000 or 4,000 adult ants. Like other species of ants, the carpinteras are sociable and their colonies are composed of different castes. A typical mother colony contains a queen, the young of the queen and the workers, both castes of greater and smaller size. The size of the workers determines their responsibility.

The smaller workers are the smallest in the colony and their responsibility is to take care of the girls and look for food. The largest workers are the largest and serve as soldiers to defend the colony from predators. In the United States there are more than a dozen common species of carpenter ants.

The carpintera ant of Florida and the black one are the two most common species among the carpenter ants. While they may have physical characteristics, nesting habits, feeding and similar destructive behaviors, their colonies contain different sizes of ants. Two factors affect the size difference between these species: the availability of food and the number of ants that seek food. The Florida carpenter ant has a size that fluctuates between 3/16 of an inch and an inch, with the queen being the largest, since it usually measures more than ½ inch. A colony of Florida carpenter ants contains up to 3,000 workers.

The size of the workers of the black carpenter ants depends on their caste. The workers can be as small as ¼ of an inch, while the queen can measure more than ½ inch. In all species of carpenter ants, the queen is twice the size of the workers.

Carpenter Ants The life cycle

Their life cycle begins with the nuptial flight, which usually occurs in late spring or early summer, depending on environmental factors. During the nuptial flight, the drones (males with wings) and the princesses (females with wings) appear; After the princess is fecundated, she loses her wings and the drone dies. The princess then searches for a new site to build her colony, usually in a slit of a wooden structure. She herself seals the entrance to be trapped in the chamber and lay eggs, which she does in approximately 15 days. It remains there until the first group of its breeding becomes adult.

During this time, the queen uses her stores of stored fat and wing muscles to feed and feed her young. The queen provides food to the young ants through the secretion of the salivary glands until they become workers and are able to go out to look for food. The queen only cares for her first baby. When they become workers, they will be the ones who care for the successive offspring. To build a large and stable colony requires three to four years. The life of the carpenter ants is estimated at 60 days from the egg to the adult stage. The egg stage takes approximately 24 days, the larva stage 20 days and the chrysalis stage 21 days. The temperature should remain between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit for proper development. Cold weather can prolong the development of ants up to 10 months.

The only role of the queen of carpenter ants is to lay eggs; as soon as the workers mature, they take responsibility for caring for the colony. They look for food, take care of larvae and chrysalises and dig galleries to enlarge and expand their nest. When several generations of workers mature, the functions are divided and two castes appear: the larger ones will be the soldiers and their role will be to protect the nest; the smaller ones will look for food and attend to young women. When the colony contains more than 2,000 workers, the queen begins to produce drones and princesses, who will leave their colony and form new anthills. A typical colony has a queen and 200 to 450 ants with wings that mate during the spring.

Nests

Carpenter ants prefer to make their nests in wet wood or in structures that have been damaged by other insects. As a result, most nests of carpenter ants are found in rotten woods from places such as windows, chimneys, dishwashers, door frames, behind walls containing pipes and in hollow spaces, such as cracks in the wall, electrical wires and pipelines. In environments where these ants can find wet wood, a cozy temperature and protection from their predators, their colonies thrive. There are two types of nests of the carpenter ants: the mother colonies and the satellite colonies. The mother colonies can contain about 2,000 workers, numerous offspring and a queen that lays eggs, while the satellite colonies can have thousands of workers but without eggs, larvae or queens. These satellite nests can become a problem in homes and buildings. Carpenter ants can establish their nests outside or inside. When they nest outside they do it in hardwood (parquet) that contains holes or other imperfections. As carpenter ants require a consistent temperature and humidity, they always seek to nest in damp and rotten wood. When the carpenter ants nest in different areas, they look for an alternative site that offers them a constant temperature, security against their predators and protection against environmental conditions.

Inside homes or buildings, carpenter ants can be found in wood that has been damaged by moisture. Unlike termites and beetles, carpenter ants do not eat wood. They dig inside the wood with their jaws to build galleries for their nests. The potential damage they cause to houses, buildings or other structures depends on the number of nests that exist in the area. However, the damage caused by carpenter ants is not as severe as that caused by termites. However, the longer this pest remains untreated, the more damage it can cause. That is why it is better to locate these ants and their nests as quickly as possible. Although the nests of these ants are difficult to locate, experts recommend striking the surface of the wood and trying to hear if the structure sounds hollow, which usually indicates damage to the wood. With this technique, it can cause panic among the workers and cause them to appear outside their nests. If you identify an infestation of this pest within your home, it is best to contact a pest control professional so he can help you eradicate it.

Membership in the nest

The Queen

A colony of carpenter ants is composed of thousands of workers and only one queen. Like other species of ants, queens are responsible for laying eggs. The swarms of males with wings (drones) have the function of mating with the group of winged females (princesses). The males die after fertilizing the princesses.

The queen of this ant measures approximately one inch and depending on the species, it is dark brown, red, yellow or black. After mating with the male, the queen looks for a new nest for her young. It prefers wet or rotten wood to establish its new colony. After having located an area for its nest, the ant locks itself in its nest until its first breeding, of approximately 30 eggs, hatches and reaches the mature age. While their young reach adulthood, the queen uses fat stored in the muscles of her wings to feed and feed her young. The period from egg to worker of the carpenter ants lasts 60 days. When the first generation of workers is able to go in search of food, they take responsibility for caring for the colony. The workers look for sources of food, they dig in the wood to expand their nests, they take care of the queen and the new larvae. Because the first generation of workers is fed with the fluids of the queen’s body, they are typically very small. However, successive generations tend to be larger because their diet is more extensive, consisting of the secretion of nectars, insects and other small invertebrates.

Among the eggs that the queen puts are the future workers and queens. Between three and five years, a queen unfertilized or who has no more sperm, produces drones (male ants with wings). The queen of the carpenter ants could live up to 15 years and have put more than 60,000 eggs fertilized during their life. If the queen dies, the workers can produce eggs but all their breeding will be males.

The larva

The carpenter ants undergo a complete metamorphosis in which they pass through the stages of the egg, the larva, the chrysalis and the adult. When the male and female winged reproducers leave a colony, they mate. After the female is fertilized, she loses her wings and the male dies. Then the female looks for a humid place to establish her nest where she will lay her first batch of eggs and establish a new colony.

It takes three to six years to establish an active and stable colony. The complete development of the egg phase from that of an adult ant takes approximately 60 days. While the egg takes 20 days to develop, the larvae of the carpenter ants need 20 days to leave this stage and enter the chrysalis, which lasts approximately 21 days. This development time depends on a consistent temperature, between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is colder, the process can be extended up to 10 months. The eggs of the carpenter ants turn into larvae and then into pupae before they become adults. The larvae of the carpenter ants are small and white, without legs, similar to worms and resemble the larvae of flies. During this stage, the workers look for food for them.

The larvae of carpenter ants digest solid food and regurgitate it so that other ants can eat the liquid. The larvae of the carpenter ants, although in a primitive stage, are necessary for the development and survival of the colony. As long as a colony has a queen, the colony will also have larvae developing in it.

Damage caused

The damage caused by carpenter ants is due to the construction of their nests. They dig for “galleries” and for the queen to lay her eggs and the young ants can develop. Unlike termites and larvae of some beetles, carpenter ants do not feed on wood; they only dig inside it to build their nests. The workers of the carpenter ants prefer to live in damp wood. Carpenter ants enter homes through heating ducts, through air conditioning equipment, through windows, through telephone wires, into areas where trees connect with structures, storage sites, terraces and stacked firewood outside. The invasion of ants occurs when the workers in search of food or water are introduced to the houses through tunnels. The damage caused by carpenter ants is not as severe as that caused by termites, however, the nests of these ants can cause many damages over the years. Over time, the number of members of the colony grows and its expansion also increases in the wood causing greater damage. To distinguish an infestation of carpenter ants from one of termites, it is important to observe the hole made in the wood, that is, the nest. The carpenter ants are clean and the wooden galleries shine, so that they look soft inside; The termite galleries contain a lot of earth and mud.

Carpenter ants galleries have holes that workers use to dispose of unwanted remains. There is usually a pile of “sawdust” behind each hole, similar to the residue left by a pencil sharpener when sharpening a pencil. Although you can not see the damage of the wood on the surface, the galleries of the carpenter ants can be identified by small holes left in the wood.

The infestation

Carpenter ants intentionally do not damage wooden structures, however, when they build their nests they are able to do so. This plague can become a serious problem when they are not treated because, in some cases, they make satellite nests. In order to achieve their control it is necessary to identify them and locate their nests.

The most obvious sign of the existence of this plague is the presence of the workers in the buildings or in the houses; nevertheless, it is not possible to conclude that in such places they have made their nests. These ants travel long distances from their nests in search of food. Carpenter ants rarely nest in dry wood. This pest can be observed at different points of entry of homes or buildings, such as ventilation ducts, attics, foundations of buildings, cracks, electrical wires, pipes and telephone lines. These ants prefer to nest in wood used in the infrastructure of buildings or houses, behind the walls, hollow doors, window poles and insulating panels. Carpenter ants typically look for wood that has been worn away by moisture, decay or other insects. When the infestation of these ants is severe, it is normal to find sawdust piles behind wooden things. Carpenter ants rummage through the wood to make their nests and that is why they can also be easily identified by soft crunches inside the wood structures. However, when adult ants with wings emerge from the roof, walls or other hidden crevices of a building or house, the existence of the infestation is evident.

This plague can be distinguished from termites by the way they build their nests in wood. The nests of carpenter ants have smooth walls and lack of accumulation of earth or mud, since this ant cleans the galleries. Another characteristic common to the existence of carpenter ants is sawdust, the presence of debris, dead insects or other debris outside the nest opening. Sawdust piles are usually located around windowsills or cobwebs.

Stings

There are more than a dozen species of carpenter ants. Carpenter ants live inside the wooden structure digging galleries to ensure shelter and protection of their larvae. The galleries have slits similar to small windows that serve as points of entry and exit, as well as to throw the garbage and dead ants into the anthill. Carpenter ants live in and around forest areas and prefer dead or rotten wood, such as firewood, trees or trunks. Although this type of ant plays an important role in ecology, they are problematic because they damage the wooden structure of houses. Carpenter ants can enter the home in search of water or food. They cause damage to the wood of houses and buildings when they build their nests in them. If you suspect the existence of an ant infestation inside your house or building, it is better to call a pest control professional since these ants sting to defend your nest when it is disturbed. Its bite does not provide poison or transmit diseases, but when it bites it releases formic acid into the skin, which makes it very painful. This condition is used to defend against other insects or ant species when they are threatened. The bite of this ant feels like a pinch and does not need any kind of treatment, unless it causes skin irritation. If that happens, wash only the affected part with soap and water, apply an antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with a bandage.

Pest Control Services Boynton Beach

Non-chemical control

Inspect nearby structures and yards to see if there are nests. Once areas with problems have been identified, areas with high humidity levels should be ventilated or drained. Change wood damaged by carpenter ants, other insects, or organisms that cause rot. Keep firewood away from your home and away from the ground. Fill and repair cracks and crevices in structures. Repair leaky pipes and remove trash from the water channels to prevent rainwater from accumulating, and repair and clean the chimney.

Chemical control

Contact your county Extension office for information on current pesticide controls.

Natural pesticides

Carpenter ants dig wood to make their nests and to live in them, but unlike termites and beetles, they do not eat the wood they damage. There are different species of carpenter ants, but the ones that really constitute a nuisance for the buildings and houses are the red and black ants.

It is difficult to locate this class of ants, however, their presence can be determined by finding ants with wings and sawdust near or around wood areas. When a large colony of carpenter ants nests inside houses or buildings, they are often found behind walls, in pipes or in electrical wires; it is there where they should look for their nests. Sometimes you can perceive your activity by hearing the slight cries that emerge from behind the walls. Unless the damage is severe, there is no need to disassemble the structure to eliminate the colony of these ants.

Natural pesticides are used to attract, trap and kill ants. They are effective in a few weeks and it is better to use them at night, when the workers are active looking for food. These pesticides come in the form of bait and contain a sweet substance that attracts ants. They must be placed in the way (s) that the ants use to go from their nest to their food source, so the workers will take the poison to the colony to distribute it among the queen, the larvae and the other workers, causing them in a few days death. But if the ants have built satellite nests in separate sites, the effectiveness of the chemicals will take a little more time since the workers should bring the poison to the entire colony to be effective.

Among the many pesticides available in the market, boric acid is one of the most effective for the control of carpenter ants and other species. For the mixture of this bait to be effective, it must not be dried or evaporated. To prevent this from happening, it must be supplied in the correct dose, because if it is not done correctly it will not have the capacity to eliminate the colony. Even more: if the damage is severe, it is best to consult a professional in pest control services. The Pest Control Boynton Beach Florida can mix chemical and non-chemical poisons to kill the queen, workers, larvae and eggs of the entire colony and thus eliminate the entire colony.

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