The Damage Ants Do: Are They Carpenter Ants or Termites?

Are you finding big black ants in your house? Have you found one or two in the kitchen or bathroom? Have you tried to spray these areas, but find the ants keep coming back? If this sounds like what you are experiencing, you probably have an infestation of carpenter ants.

Carpenter ants not only are unpleasant sights for homeowners. They cause messes, in addition as structural and other damage to the homes where they take up residence. The damage caused by carpenter ants is a consequence of nesting. Worker ants excavate galleries for queens to lay eggs and for young ants to develop. You may have one or many more nests in or around your home. The possible damage you may suffer depends on how many nests are truly present within the structure, and how long the infestation has been active. As the number of individual ants inside a colony grows, their expansion by the wood increases, and the more damage they cause. This damage may include causing water leaks around pipes in your kitchen/bathroom/basement, short circuiting your dishwasher, swarming in your kitchen, and destroying wood structures.

Once a colony of carpenter ants has established itself in your home, it will grow and cause increasingly more damage. Carpenter ants prefer wood that is moist, or is already rotted and should have been replaced. But sometimes they will nest in perfectly dry and healthy wood. Nests are more likely to be found in wood dampened by water leaks, such as around sinks, bathtubs, poorly sealed windows, door frames, roof leaks and poorly flashed chimneys. Carpenter ants find entries to homes by heating and cooling equipment ducts, windows, telephone wires and cable lines, areas where trees are nearby to a structure, sheds, porches and firewood stacked near your house. Look for tree branches that may be just above or in contact with the roof. Firewood piles are chief nesting sites, and nests are often found in the wall void behind a dishwasher, or in a hollow porch column.

While both carpenter ants and termites damage wood, the kind of damage they do and the techniques to prevent and get rid of them vary.

However, carpenter ants gain no nutritional value from wood, but damage it to make nests. The immediate damage caused by carpenter ants is not as harsh as termite damage. But, carpenter ant nests that go undetected may cause meaningful damage over a period of years.

To tell if you have carpenter ants or a termite infestation, examine the wood where they have made their nests. While the surface of wood may appear undamaged, carpenter ant galleries can be identified by telltale signs. Because they clean and polish the galleries of their nests, you will see smooth walls that have a sandpapered turn up. Worker ants eject unwanted debris by holes in their nest galleries. This debris is called “frass” and looks like the scraps produced from sharpening a pencil. You will see these shavings, debris, dead insects and other debris outside of nest openings, especially around windowsills, retained in spider webs, on window ledges or in light fixtures.

however, termites and the larvae of some beetles truly eat wood. Wood damaged by termites will contain a large amount of soil or mud-like material. Winged carpenter ants can be distinguished from termites by their larger size and shape of their antennae, waist and wings.

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