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CARPENTER ANTS

While last month’s newsletter we discussed how to humanely evict bats and raccoons from your property, this month we discover what carpenter ants are really about, and how to deal with them.
 
Like all insects, carpenter ants (Camponotus pennsylvanicus) are cold blooded. They congregate in dead trees and other hidden places during the winter and search for food in the warmer spring and summer months.
 
It’s during this time, as the sun shines through your kitchen window, you’ll notice carpenter ants on your hardwood or linoleum floor. They are red or black ants that vary in length from 6 to 25 mm. They are on a trek for carbohydrate-rich foods.
 
Carpenter ants are omnivorous. They can eat a wide variety of plant and animal foods, including fruits, sweets such as syrup and jam, and meat. Despite what their name implies, they cannot digest wood cellulose like termites.
 
Typically, when a person spots a carpenter ant inside the home, they assume the worst. They fear a swarming, thriving ant colony is breeding within the house. This is rarely the case. Carpenter ants live in hollow trees, logs, landscaping timbers, and soil, and will march hundreds of metres from their colony in search of food.
 
According to Gary Umphrey, an ant expert and mathematics professor at the University of Guelph, there’s a 90% likelihood the ants are only passing through.
 
The 10% exception is homes with decaying wood structures due to an ongoing moisture problem. Carpenter ants will burrow and nest in the moist, decaying wood. Evidence of them nesting in your home may include small holes and trails of sawdust.
 
If these signs of infestation are visible, structural damage may be extreme. You’ll want to contact a Registered Home Inspector for professional advice.
 
To deal with carpenter ants, the federal government’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency recommends correcting humidity issues that may be affecting wood structures, removing sweets, grains and meat products, and carting away firewood that may have transported ants into the house.
 
Other natural and humane ways to keep ants at bay include:
  • sprinkling bay leaves or cayenne pepper near cracks and entry points. Ants hate the scent and will move elsewhere.
  • spray a cleaning solution of vinegar, water, and about ten drops of tea tree oil around your counters and doorway
  • draw chalk lines around your doorways and windowsills. Ants do not like particles sticking to their feet
  • If a colony is well established in the home, various chemical treatments are available (although they are not ecologically friendly or humane).
 
Regardless, you’ll see ants less in the summer months. Ants, like humans, tend to scale back their work activities as the weather gets hotter. In the autumn, as their food stores fill, they become even more scarce before disappearing for the winter.
 

Thanks for reading this month’s newsletter. Hopefully this article shed new light on the unduly maligned carpenter ant. A little understanding about these creatures can save a lot of unnecessary anxiety and expense!
 
Next month we’ll be back with more insights on home ownership. Until then, enjoy the summer.

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