Learning more about the various types of ants can be a challenge – after all, there are more than 12,000 species, but as a rule of thumb, we can divide them into two types – those that are annoying but harmless (think jam sandwiches at a picnic) and those that are seriously destructive (think damage to your home). The warmer months can see both types invade both indoor and outdoor spaces – and getting rid of them can be a serious challenge. They can appear anywhere, from your drive and paths and other paved areas. These can be annoying – and reduce the appeal of your home – but they’re more an annoyance than a serious issue.
Those tiny black ‘Sugar Ants’ are more than happy to hoover up the crumbs from a sandwich – but again (aside from the fact that they can carry harmful bacteria), they are just annoying. However, then there are carpenter ants. These ants can make it their summer goal to consume your house from the inside out. Adding to the problem is that they can give you a nasty nip. If you are faced with these home invaders, then here are some hints and tips to make sure that the problem goes away.
Firstly – what are Carpenter Ants?
The name really says it all. They make it their business to damage the wooden infrastructure of a home. And any wooden furniture you might have. They don’t eat the wood (like termites), but they chew it up and then excrete it in order to make pathways – their very extensive family. One of the ways to spot them is to keep an eye out for tiny particles that resemble wood shavings. If you are interested in new words – that leavings are called ‘Frass’ by the experts.
Spotting a carpenter ant is pretty easy. They’re much larger than other ants (1/2″ to 5/8″). They come in a variety of colours – ranging from red/black to all red and, in some cases, a vibrant brown.
So how do they get into my home?
Attraction to the home’s wooden material is key. Carpenter Ants love moist or moldy wood. So if you have leaking taps or an unsealed roof, you’re laying out the welcome mat for these uninvited guests. But they may not always chew their way in. Any small opening is an invite. That opening does not have to be level with the ground. Carpenter Ants are avid climbers (including up pipes and electrical wiring).
Carpenter Ants are also thirsty – so they gather near water sources. Take a close look at your dishwasher, aircon unit, sinks, shower and bath if you think you might have an infestation.
Getting rid of Carpenter Ants
Killing a single ant is going to get you nowhere fast. Like most ant species, carpenter ants send out scouts. Those Scouts will take a look at your home as a potential nesting site. If what you have on offer meets with their approval, the rest of the family will quickly move in, including those Worker Ants who will start building the nest. A few carpenter ants? Well done on your Eagle eye – but that’s only the beginning of the challenge. Here are some next steps.
Finding the nesting site is important – so make bait and physically observe where those scouts and workers are headed. Most experts recommend sweet baits (jam, jellies, and possibly for the more discerning ants, a crushed jelly bean). Sugar and baking soda mixed together will also work. If you are going that route, then you are killing two birds with a single stone – the sugar will attract the ants, while the baking soda kills them. Bonus – it’s environmentally friendly.
Keeping surfaces clean is vital. Carpenter Ants (like all ants use pheromone trails to guide other ants to a food source. Eliminating these trails leads to confusion. Essential oils work fabulously. Try some Tea Tree or any of the citrus oils. Dab some on a cotton ball and wipe down surfaces. You can also use a mixture of dish soap and water in a spray bottle to make the job less labour-intensive. A combo of water and white wine vinegar also works.
Now, if you have found the nest, the next step is to get rid of it (remember, keep an eye out for ‘Frass’ – or put your ear to the wall – if you hear a rustling sound, you may just have Carpenter Ants). The experts at Terminix recommend drilling 1/8″ holes spaced six inches apart in the nest. Then use a build duster (you can pick one up at your garden store or even at a hardware outlet) and puff some boric acid into those holes. Boric Acid is deadly to ants. You’ll have to repeat the process several times.
When is it time to call in the professionals?
This may sound like a lot of work for carpenter ant control. Take the easy way out and call in the professionals. Getting rid of one nest may not be the end of your problems – where there is one, there may be many more. Get hold of a qualified exterminator to identify and destroy all of the nests. And if you see a carpenter Ant – but cannot find the nest, then professional help is absolutely necessary.