Are Ants Really Dangerous To New York Residents?

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In our service area, we have several ant species that can become household pests. But of all the ants that get into a home, carpenter ants are the most dangerous. While they don't bite, and they don't generally contaminate food sources, they can do significant damage to the structural integrity of a home, especially if they go undetected. The focus of this article will be to examine some of the many ways carpenter ants can elude detection. Let's start first with a bit of background as to how these ants behave.

carpenter ants chewing through wood to create tunnels

When carpenter ants attack a home, it is usually in places that have been dampened by water. Quickly, they set to work chewing tunnels into the wood and forming a larger gallery to establish a nest. From there, the queen creates offspring that will become her workforce. As new workers develop, they go out from the nest, and often outside of the home in which the ants are infesting, to find food and bring it back. This is an easy task for carpenter ants because they have an extensive diet. They eat sources of protein and sugar. Preferring protein-rich foods, they feed quite a bit on aphids and other insects both living and dead. For sugars, they feed on honeydew secreted from aphids, which they regurgitate for larvae in their nests to feed on. Inside a home, they will feed on any foods that contain sugar or fat.

As carpenter ant live, feed, and reproduce, they expand tunnels and galleries within the wood of a home. Unlike termites, they do not eat wood. Therefore, the frass (sawdust) may be pushed out their tunnels. It is the accumulations of frass that usually give a homeowner the warning needed to deal with an infestation.

Once a nest matures, it will begin to produce male and female alates. These are winged reproductives that most people call swarmers, due to the way they swarm together before mating. Swarmers are another common warning sign.

How Carpenter Ants Elude Detection

  • When firewood is stored inside a home, it can help to cover up a carpenter ant infestation. It is also the likely cause of a carpenter ant infestation, but we'll save that for another article. If carpenter ants create kickout holes behind stacks of firewood, the frass can be mistaken for sawdust from the woodpile.

  • When carpenter ants create kick-out holes in a garage or workshop where "real carpenters" work, the frass can be mistaken for residue left from a wood shop project.

  • When carpenter ants create kick-out holes inside wall studs, the frass can be hidden in the wall's void.

  • When carpenter ants get into a crawl space under a home, the frass left is in a location that is seldom accessed. It can also be mistaken for dirt.

  • When carpenter ants create a nest inside an exterior wall, frass can be pushed outside of the home, rather than inside.

  • The appearance of ants getting into food can easily give these invaders away. When carpenter ants feed on food sources outside of the home and never find a suitable source inside, they can avoid being detected. Well, almost. If a home is infested, it is likely to have a scout ant or two crawling around here and there.

  • Carpenter ants are mostly nocturnal. If they feed on a food source inside a home during the night, it can go undetected.

  • While swarms are a clear warning sign, they are sometimes mistaken as an impending carpenter ant infestation rather than a current and mature infestation.

  • Carpenter ant swarms rarely last more than 30 minutes. If a swarm emerges and dissipates before anyone sees, those ants can remain undetected. What's worse, is they will have multiplied. The job of swarmers is to develop new nests.

  • When carpenter ants damage a home, the damage can warn a homeowner of their presence. But, when this damage is secluded in areas of a home such as basement beams, attic timbers, and wood supports under decks, patios, porches, and other external structures, they can go undetected.

The best way to protect a home from carpenter ants and other wood-destroying organisms is to have year-round pest control service from a trusted professional. To establish service for your New York home, or to get answers to your pest control questions, give us a call today!


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