A Common Household Pest in Florida
Carpenter ants are in the genus Camponotus, which includes over 900 species worldwide. They get their common name, “carpenter ant,” because some species excavate nests in wood. Carpenter ants are sometimes called bulldog ants or bull ants. These bi-colored arboreal ants are among the largest ants in the world, making them easy to spot as they forage or fly indoors and out.
Carpenter ants are one of the most common indoor insect pests, and can be found nesting throughout a homeowner’s home in wooden support pillars, walls, window frames, and in attics. Homeowners often see these ants foraging inside their home at night. The good news is that Florida carpenter ants do not consume wood like termites; however, their nests can be tricky to locate and sometimes difficult to eradicate. An experienced pest management company can locate the trail of ants and follow it back to the nesting site. The nest and home is then treated, and subsequent treatments are scheduled to prevent future invasions. Carpenter ant complaints are numerous during the spring swarm season, usually between April and June, when winged reproductive ants are often found in homes, mainly along window ledges and near sliding glass doors.
Carpenter ants develop through complete metamorphosis, going through stages of the egg, larva, pupa, and adult worker or reproductive (alate). Carpenter ants create new colony sites when winged male and female reproductive ants emerge from a nest and depart for a mating flight. The mating flights of carpenter ants take place in the spring and are triggered by environmental factors such as changes in daylight and temperature. Winged reproductive ants fly in the evening or night during the rainy season (May through November). At the conclusion of a mating flight, the newly fertilized queen falls to the ground, breaks off her wings, and begins her search for a suitable nest site.
The Queen and Her Subjects
Carpenter ant nests are often started under loose bark or wood debris on the ground. The queen seals herself off in a chamber and rears her first brood in isolation. Larvae are maggot-like and progress through four instars. The mature larva spins a web of silk around itself, creating a cocoon wall where the larva turns into a pupa. Emerging adults are incapable of freeing themselves from their cocoons and must be assisted by the queen. The small workers from the first brood are called minims or minors and have very little size variation. These workers will forage, feed and groom the queen, maintain the nest, and assist with brood care. The developmental cycle, from egg to adult, ranges from 50 to 70 days. The colony will continue to grow, and populations may reach several thousand workers.
Making Your House Their Home
During the flight season, carpenter ants can be found in alarming numbers. They have medium to large colonies and are very opportunistic in their nesting habits. They are active year-round and are serious house-infesting ants. Sometimes homeowners are concerned about damage to the structural integrity of their homes; however, Florida carpenter ants seek either existing voids in which to nest or excavate only soft materials such as rotten wood and Styrofoam. Colonies of carpenter ants are primarily nocturnal in their foraging. Carpenter ants do not sting but they do bite!
Integrated Pest Management
Following our prescribed practice of Integrated Pest Management, utilizing non-chemical practices, will go a long way to eliminate or exclude carpenter ants from infesting a structure. This includes repairing leaky pipes, caulking entry points, removing damaged wood and eliminating “bridges” caused by trees and shrubs touching house exteriors. If wires or power cables are being used as bridges, it is often possible to professionally treat the wires or areas where the wires attach to the structure. Using building materials designed to exclude carpenter ants in a structure is another example of a preventive strategy. Certain man-made lumbers have plastics incorporated into the product, making this lumber ideal for use in exterior structures such as decks. Insulation materials are also manufactured with impregnated borates and other compounds that repel or kill carpenter ants.
There are a number of treatment options available for the control of carpenter ants. A typical treatment consists of an insecticide application to wall voids and a perimeter spray to the outside of the structure, and is the most common. At Patrick Exterminating, we will first determine the source of your ant problem and then employ the most practical solution to effectively rid your home of these invasive pests. Call us at 772-286-6812, or click HERE to schedule a no-obligation home pest inspection.
Source: University of Florida IFAS Extension
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