Carpenter Ants are one of the largest ants we have in the United States. Their range is throughout our country. Typically you’ll know you have carpenter ants because you’ll start noticing large, black ants foraging randomly on, in or around the home.
WHAT DO CARPENTER ANTS LOOK LIKE?
In general, carpenter ants are large and black. But there are two variations of the species which are quite different.
The second most common species is the Florida Carpenter Ant. These ants are a bit smaller, travel less than their cousins, and have a wide range of colors including yellow, red, light to dark brown and black.
Another variation of is the Yellow Carpenter Ant. Like their black cousins, the yellow carpenter ant is large. Regardless of which carpenter ant you have, their behavior will typically include:
1) Scent trails which may be hundreds of feet in length (expect to see only a few ants on this trail at any given moment).
2) Nocturnal activity (mostly active at night).
3) Chewing on wood structures and in wall or ceiling voids for nesting. Though they don’t eat the wood, they will readily damage it with the result being long hollow cavities, sawdust (aka: frass) and weakening of structural members.
4) An ability to identify leaky, damp wood and spaces.
5) An ability to avoid chemically treated areas and find new ways into a structure when traditional sprays are used.
6) Networking of nests so there is no “main” nest but instead, a series of linked nests making control of the problem a bit more complicated.
WHY ARE CARPENTER ANT NESTS HARD TO CONTROL?
Unlike most ants, carpenter ants will set up a series of nests which are all “linked” together. This network of nests can be in series enabling foraging workers and scouts to have a place of safe haven when out and about doing their chores. This structure also helps to preserve any one colony because it’s rare that all the members will ever be in one location at one time. Should any one “satellite” nest be destroyed, the other nests will usually have enough members left to enable the colony to move on and survive.
This nest characteristic is also why controlling carpenter ants can be a challenge. If you only get 1-2 of their nests but miss even one satellite colony, they will typically try to rebuild by either repopulating the affected nest or by moving close by to a “safer” location. This is why a thorough and complete treatment is needed when implementing a carpenter ant program.
The following video gives a quick view of trailing carpenter ants and how you can treat them.
ARE YOU SEEING CARPENTER ANTS WITH WINGS?
Another sign you have a carpenter ant infestation is if you happen to find a lot of large black ants with wings. Like most any ant, carpenter ant colonies will generate “swarmers” also known as “kings” or “queens”. These winged reproductives purpose is to leave an existing nest to fly away and land somewhere to start a new nest.
Swarmers tend to be released during the spring but may be found at any time. If you are finding these in the home, chances are there is a nest located somewhere on the structure. And when located on the home, swarming can happen at any time, any season in the year.
The following video shows an actual carpenter ant nest that was created in a deer feeder just outside a home. From this nest the ants could invade several homes due to the proximity of the nest in this residential community. More importantly, if left untreated, these carpenter ants would undoubtedly create many more nests. Watch carefully and you’ll be able to see swarmers, the ones with wings, as well as all different sized worker, scout and nurse ants.
HOW TO TREAT CARPENTER ANTS
If you suspect you have a carpenter ant problem, try to determine the magnitude of the issue. Getting answers to the following questions will help in deciding where you’ll need to treat.
If in the home, are the ants active in just one area or throughout the structure?
Are they originating from a nest in or on the building or from a wooded lot alongside the structure?
Does your regular pest control program (whether you do it yourself or use a service company) include perimeter treatment of the ground and/or foundation of your buildings?
With answers to these questions, you can take the next step and treat using either one or more of the following options. The general approach is to use a direct nest treatment when you know where nests might be located. But if you have no idea of nest sites, the use of bait and non repellent spray will be the best approach.
BEST CARPENTER ANT TREATMENT FOR INSIDE THE HOME
Although most people are compelled to spray when they seen ants, the use of a traditional active won’t work. This is true for several reasons.
First, ants only send out a small amount of active workers so even if you spray them directly and kill them, their nests will just keep sending replacements.
Second, ants can easily detect traditional actives and will merely avoid where you spray. This will cause them to form new scent trails, nests, etc. which will only complicate the problem.
To avoid this scenario, you need to use a stealthy approach. And the best materials for this is a special bait and a unique spray found in very few products.
The spray is the first material you need to apply. For most homes, our ADVION WSDG. It uses an active ants cannot detect. This means they’ll readily walk over the treatment, pick up some chemical and over a few days, bring it back to their nests and share it with other members of their colony. Advion should be applied to all baseboards, around door ways, windows and basically any crack or crevice around any room.
Mix 1 pack per 1/2 gallon of water and spray all baseboards. One treatment will do it but if you find them still active on carpets or some areas you didn’t spray 2 weeks later, spray again.
You’ll need a good PUMP SPRAYER to apply the Advion. Just make sure your sprayer is clean, odor free and contains no remnants of herbicide, etc. Advion needs to be in its natural odorless state if its to be undetected by target pests.
After you spray, let the treatment sit for at least one day and then set out CARPENTER ANT GEL where you see them foraging. In general, this will be up above where the spray was applied. Usually around countertops, in pantries our around windows, carpenter ant gel uses honey dew as its main attractant which is something carpenter ants cannot resist. They need this for their young and will readily grab up any they find.
Typically harvested from trees, flowers and bushes, honey dew is essential for carpenter ant nests. Carpenter Ant gel also contains a non-repellent slow working active that will kick in once the feeding ants pass the active out as feces. Generally this will be done by the feeding young which in turn will kill them and the nurse ants handling their feces. Like the slow working spray, the bait will take several days to do its job so its common to see ants foraging for 5-7 days following the application. And if you still see them walking around 7 days after you apply some, renew the placements.
To treat, you only need to make small dabs about the size of a grain of rice. These placements should be placed along ant trails and spaced about 2-3 feet apart. Do not place the gel on or close to a foraging ant; its best if you keep it close but not exactly on them. This way it will be something they “find” and more natural.
This gel is packed in a small syringe like tube with a plunger and tip allowing you to disperse it in small amounts and then reseal it until you need to treat again. The 1 oz tube is usually enough to treat 1-2 rooms making 20-30 placements along the way. Renew placements once a week until you don’t see any activity.
To protect your gel from dust and other contaminants, use REFILLABLE BAIT STATIONS.
The following “short video” (less than 60 seconds long) shows why using these stations is a good way to apply the gel:
These stations come apart easily, measure just 2.5″ wide and will protect both the gel above and the granules below if you want to make clean placements which can be easily removed once the problem is resolved.
HOW TO TREAT CARPENTER ANTS ON A HOMES EXTERIOR SIDING
If you’re seeing ants on your home exterior siding, they could be using some sections as part of their trail way or worse, for a nest. These areas should be sprayed with the PROTHOR detailed below. Use 2 oz per gallon and plan on spraying the home with 1-2 gallons once a week until the trails end and no longer active. This usually happens with just one treatment.
HOW TO TREAT CARPENTER ANTS IN THE YARD
If ants are mostly active out in the yard around a fence, railroad ties, trees, pine straw, etc., there is most likely nesting going on and to stop them from coming onto and into your home, you’ll need to do some yard spraying and baiting.
To be successful treating large areas, you need to saturate the foliage, mulch, lawn, dirt and basically all surfaces ants can be trailing or nesting. The best spray for the job is PROTHOR. Like the Bithor, its another non-repellent which ants can’t detect so you won’t cause them to scatter or re-route their trail ways when you spray. The difference is that is that Bithor is for use inside and on the home whereas the Prothor is not labeled for use inside but instead, over turf, mulch, etc.
Prothor can be applied anywhere outside and you’ll need .5 oz per 1000 sq/ft. The 27.5 oz jug can treat 1.6 acre and should be applied twice to ensure the problem is controlled.
Use the Hose End Sprayer below adding 2.5 oz to the sprayer and some water to treat 5,000 sq/ft.
The following short video shows this being done in our Green Topped Sprayer but the setup and mixture rate is the same for the Yellow Topped sprayer featured below.
What’s great about Prothor is that it will affect any ant foraging into your yard from neighbors, trees, etc. And it works on a range of pests, not just ants.
This HOSE END SPRAYER is easy to use and good for making the application. As detailed in our video above, use 2.5 oz of the Prothor to treat up to 5,000 sq/ft. The sprayer can disperse up to 20 gallons so you can treat up to 1/2 acre with one filling.
One treatment will generally control the problem but if expect to be spraying a few times annually to ensure new ants don’t come back. In general, once every 3 months will keep them under control. Remember, by keeping the population of carpenter ants down around your buildings, you will keep them from foraging inside.
BEST CARPENTER ANT BAIT FOR THE YARD
After spraying the yard, let it sit for at least one day and then for added protection, apply SCATTER BAIT around trees where they’ve been seen, in mulch piles, turf, etc. Basically anywhere after the Prothor treatment has had a day to dry and settle. This bait works well on carpenter ants but will also impact roaches, crickets and any other bait.
Scatter Bait should be set out where the ants have been active. Sprinkle out 2 oz for every 100 sq/ft of area where they’ve been trailing.
As long as you allow the Prothor to dry a day prior to baiting, the bait will not be affected by the spray so use it to intercept foraging carpenter ants that are coming from adjoining properties, trees, etc.
HOW TO TREAT A CARPENTER ANT NEST
If you know where the nest is located, a direct treatment can be quite effective. The key here is knowing where to treat because this approach though fast acting will only work if you have the exact location of their nest.
To help locate the nest, spend time being a detective. And remember, there could be several nests. Rare is the time when only nest exists; most activity will involve 3-6 locations all working together.
So if you spot 1-2 spots on a tree where you see them trailing and then disappearing, it would most likely mean you’ve spotted at least one nest. But don’t quit there.
Instead follow the trailing ants to see where else they go. True, this will involve spending time around the outside of the home just watching them forage but it will be time well spent.
The following video explains how to best inspect and figure out where ant trails go and nests might be lurking – even in direct sight.
BEST WAY TO DIRECTLY TREAT A CARPENTER ANT NEST
So after spending some time watching trailing ants and locating where you think they might be nesting, a direct treatment with DEMISE DUST could prove to be an effective way to proceed.
Demise Dust works as a “dehydrator” on insects taking away vital moisture by cutting through their exoskeleton and allowing water to quickly escape. Demise is “light” and when puffed into cracks, crevices and voids, it will quickly penetrate in all directions filling their nest sites and killing all ants it touches.
It won’t take much Demise to knock out the nest. In fact just 2-4 oz will usually be plenty. If you hit the nest directly, you’ll see ants crawling out and dying within minutes. Be sure to treat any cracks and crevices close to a nest and if you suspect other locations around the home they might be using, dust them too.
You’ll need a HAND DUSTER to apply the Demise and the following short video shows how its used.
It will hold 2-3 oz of dust which is generally enough to treat one nest.
The following video explains why Drione is such an effective tool on insects like carpenter ants.
Remember, do not use liquid material on nest sights as it will certainly fail to reach all sections of the nest. Dusting is generally the best only choice and should be used in conjunction with the sprays and baits listed above.
Demise has several benefits including a long lasting residual, a desiccant impact on all stages and where you treat, insects cannot live. This feature is important because applying Demise allows the user to eliminate nest sights one at a time.
In most cases, cracks and crevices which are around the main nest sight will provide enough of a route for the dust to penetrate when you treat. But in some cases, drilling 1/4″ holes in window frames, wall voids or other places nests are thought to be might help. Holes will allow for better dust coverage and quicker control.
To see just how Demise affects ants when you dust, watch this next video. In this clip you will see several carpenter ant nests treated and the treatment kills all the ants immediately. When you know where the carpenter ants are nesting, there isn’t anything better then Demise if you’re looking for quick control and immediate gratification!
CARPENTER ANT TREATMENT SUMMARY
1) If you are in an area where there are a lot of carpenter ants active around the home, you should address the outside turf with PROTHOR and SCATTER BAIT. Bait alone won’t be enough to kill off nests but when used with Prothor, treating 1-2 a year will generally keep them from getting established.
2) If you occasionally see one or two ants in the home throughout the warm season and into the winter, be sure to bait and spray the outside as listed above but to be sure they aren’t in the home, apply Carpenter Ant Gel and Advion WDG.
3) If you know the exact location of a nest either outside or in the home, treat it directly with Demise Dust. This product will knock the nest out immediately and provide the fastest results possible.
Carpenter ants are a major pest in the United States. If left untreated, they will chew through wood causing untold damage. Since carpenter ants forage great distances and typically maintain several nest locations, it’s not easy to control local infestations unless you follow the treatment outlined above.
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