Carpenter ants, which are large and black, are very common pests in our area!. Dr. Daniel Suiter and Dr. Brian Forschler, who are both with the University of Georgia Department of Entomology, developed an excellent leaflet on carpenter ants. This article contains advice from those entomologists.
Carpenter ants are perhaps the largest of the pest ants likely to be encountered by homeowners and pest management professionals. Black carpenter ants are dull black in color and their abdomens are covered with yellowish hairs. The black carpenter ant is common in northern Georgia.
In Georgia, carpenter ants are active from late spring through early fall. They are most active at night, but can be seen during the day. Ants leave the nest in large numbers, traveling up to hundreds of feet between nest sites and feeding sites on semi-permanent paths that the ants construct and maintain. Ants can be seen using these paths as they emerge from and return to their nest.
Carpenter ants may establish nest sites inside and/or outside the home. Some examples of where ants have been found nesting inside are in moisture-damaged wood around chimneys and skylights, under bathtubs, in wall voids beneath window sills, in wooden porch supports and columns, under siding and wood shingles, and in moisture-damaged eaves.
Outdoors, nests are most commonly found in hardwood trees. Most large hardwood trees contain a knothole, treehole or other natural void where ants find a habitat that is ecologically stable (consistent humidity and temperature). There they chew dead wood to create and expand galleries for nest sites.
The key to eliminating carpenter and infestations is to find the nest and remove it, either physically or by treating it with an insecticide.
In the majority of cases, the use of insecticidal baits is the preferred method for controlling carpenter ants. Indoors, use baits contained in childproof, plastic bait stations. Place bait stations in areas where ants have been seen or where the stations are most likely to be encountered by foraging ants.
Outdoors, deliver gel baits to form two or three small piles in areas where ants have been seen or on the bark of trees containing nests.
Homeowners can take several measures to help prevent problems with carpenter ants. First, eliminate sources of excess moisture to help make the home a less desirable nesting site to ants and other pests. For example, repair leaks around attic vents, pipes, sinks, chimneys and skylights. Replace water-damaged wood.
Second, trim tree limbs away from the structure. Foraging carpenter ants often enter structures by bridging to roofs and siding from tree branches in contact with these surfaces.
If property owners experience an ongoing infestation of carpenter ants, it is advisable to hire a pest management professional. In addition to specific knowledge and experience regarding carpenter ants and their control, pest management professionals also may utilize tools not readily available to the property owner. Regardless of the company hired, the technician should conduct a thorough and complete inspection that results in location of the nest, or at least a probable nest site, before treatment. Although locating the nest is not always easy, it is the key to eliminating the carpenter ant infestation.
For additional information on carpenter ants, contact the Dawson County Extension Office at (706) 265-2442.
Clark Beusse is the Dawson County Extension Agent.