Carpenter ants are destructive pests, but you should not feel pressured by a pest control operator to schedule a treatment immediately. Educate yourself about ants and the available control methods. If you decide to hire a professional, look for one who understands your concerns about toxic chemicals and will work with you to select a least-toxic control program. |
Often carpenter ants are discovered during the inspection prior to the sale of a house. Usually the result is the application of pesticides both inside and around the outside of the home.
Most people don't think about carpenter ants until they are told the bad news. Sometimes a homeowner sees ants and suspects a problem which is later confirmed by a pest control operator.
The shock caused by the discovery of carpenter ants often leads to premature and ill-considered decisions. Despite your vivid image of thousands of ants literally eating your house, the fact is that you probably have plenty of time. Don't panic! There may not even be a nest inside the home. Even if there is, a colony consisting of 200 to 300 worker ants is at least 2 to 4 years old, and in two weeks they won't do much additional damage.
Unlike termites, carpenter ants don't actually eat wood. In order to expand their nests, carpenter ants burrow into wood, hollowing out structural beams and eventually weakening them. It may surprise you to learn that carpenter ants are actually beneficial insects—in the forest, that is, where their excavations help to speed the decomposition of dead trees. In your walls, they are definitely pests with a capital P. Although they are industrious, carpenter ants aren't masochists. They prefer to establish their initial nests in decayed or rotted wood which is easy to excavate, but they will eventually extend their tunneling into sound wood, where they can do considerable damage.
Sometimes a nest in the walls can be identified by the rustling sound made by the working ants. It is loud enough to be heard faintly outside the wall. Pounding on the wall should make the sound increase in volume—ants don't feel guilty about their activities, so they won't hush up to avoid discovery. If no nests are found, it may be necessary to lure some ants into open areas with a bait and then see where they go when the bait is removed. A little honey, jam, or jelly works well.
A chemical pesticide is always the last resort, but chemical controls are often required for carpenter ants. Usually these chemicals are applied by professional applicators.
Boric acid is a powder which can be placed into wall voids. It is moderately toxic and does pose a risk to children and pets if accessible to them. Placed in wall voids, however, boric acid does not enter living spaces because it does not evaporate. Another new reduced-risk chemical that can be used in walls is eugenol, a derivative of clove oil.
Recently, baits have become available for carpenter ant control. Baits tempt ants with various food attractants, and some are designed to be taken back to the nest by foraging ants, thus increasing the effectiveness of control.The use of bait products can be effective and can reduce the risks of exposure to pesticides. Ask your pest control operator about a control program that includes baits, especially when used either in bait stations or in crack and crevice applications where human contact is unlikely.
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