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Carpenter ants are indigenous to many parts of the world. They are known to mostly nest outside in rotted, damp wood where they build distinctive looking nests. They are also famous for chewing through the wood to create passageways that offer access to their nesting areas known as galleries. When they build their nests indoors, carpenter ants will settle for hollow-core doors, wall voids, and window sills.
Unlike their cousins, the termites, carpenter ants do not feed on the wood they chew through but damage it as a result of tunneling. The easiest way you could locate their nests is by observing the presence of sawdust-like shavings known as frass. These are very fine sawdust that is left by the insects as they chew through wood.
Carpenter ants are easily identifiable by their large form, they measure between ¼ to an inch long and are single node ants. They are mostly black, but you could also spot brown, red, yellow, tan to orange colorations depending on the species. Carpenter ant queens are slightly larger than the rest of the colony. The workers in a specific colony vary by size.
When are carpenter ants active?
Carpenter ants move fast, and will only stop to share food or feed. They are most active during the night. You will spot the worker ants emerge from the nest 15 minutes after dusk. Like any other ant, they use chemical trails with pheromones to search for food. It’snot uncommon to have ants forage for food 300 meters from the nest. Once they get a reliable source of food, they will make a permanent trail through the grass. If the loot is sustainable, they will construct a satellite nest.
Carpenter ants are most active during spring. You should expect them during March and April and will remain active all through to September. A full fledge carpenter ant colony, at least two years old, will release reproductive winged queens accompanied by males during spring. The reproductive carpenter ants are known as swarmers. Their main aim is to mate with the females, who are looking for alternative locations to set up a new colony. Carpenter ants are most inactive during winter, although you will have some form of activity if the nest is indoors.
So, do carpenter ants hibernate during extreme weather such as winter?
Well, it depends on your definition of hibernate. Carpenter ants don’t hibernate, but go into diapause, which is some hibernation, but for insects. It’snot hibernation as much as it seems like it, but rather a pause. This state is normally brought by the change in ideal temperature and or availability of food resources.
When it gets too hot, a lot of the animals will go into diapause to prevent them from overheating. If the ants get too hot, they will die. They also get into this state during winter when temperatures drop. The low energy state helps them survive through the cold season with little to eat. The main difference between hibernation and diapause, is, in diapause, the creature immediately becomes active when the conditions change. For example, if we experience a single warm day during winter, carpenter ants will immediately become active, other hibernating creatures’ won’t until the conditions change completely.
Depending on where their nests are located carpenter ants might not feed on anything during the entire period of winter. They will seal up their nests and get into diapause until its warm again. During this low energy state, their bodies rely on fats, carbohydrates, and proteins that are stored in their bodies.
If you have carpenter ants in your wall during winter, they might not go into diapause. Human-made structures keep them warm, hence the reason they remain active. They will forage for food inside your house on your shelves, pantry, floors and kitchen counters.
How to get rid of carpenter ants
The only way to get rid of carpenter ants for good is by destroying their nests. If you have a carpenter nest in your home, it can be treated with dust or residual liquid pesticides. This will get rid of the queen, preventing further multiplication of the colony. Getting to the parent nest is, therefore, the most critical step when it comes to exterminating these nuisance critters. If you have carpenter ants swarming your home during winter and you are unsure of what to do, contact us. Our professional carpenter ant control technicians will be more than happy to get rid of these bothersome critters for you.