In our South Carolina service area, carpenter ants are a threat no homeowner should shrug off. If you're seeing signs of carpenter ant activity, that is to say, large black ants crawling around in or near your home, this may be the only sign you will get to alert you of their presence. Carpenter ants don't usually cause damages that are obvious. Therefore you aren’t likely to see these pests actually damaging your home. Carpenter ants chew on the inside of wood instead of the outside which is what makes it so tricky to detect them. Their reason for chewing galleries inside the structural wood of homes is so they can establish their nests. It wouldn't be very smart of them to create nests on the outside of wood where predators could find and eat them. So, uncovering carpenter ant damage can be quite difficult. Here are some things you should know!

carpenter ant crawling on wood
carpenter ant on kitchen counter

Warning Signs Of Carpenter Ant Damage

Unlike termites, carpenter ants don't eat wood. Instead, they tunnel through it in order to create galleries and establish their colonies inside. If these destructive pests are chewing on a wall inside your home, you may be fortunate to find sawdust on the floor or stuck to the wall. This sawdust is called frass. In this frass, you may find dead insect parts, carpenter ant excrement, pieces of insulation and sheetrock, or other building materials.
If life were simple, frass would be easy to spot. You'd be able to walk into your kitchen and see frass in a corner on the floor or you'd be able to go into the bathroom and see frass in a pile near a sink. Sadly, this is a rare occurrence. Frass usually ends up being pushed out into wall voids, dark basement areas, exterior locations that are shaded or hidden, and attic spaces. Frass can also be pushed out of carpenter ant tunnels in places that help to conceal it, such as garage or woodshop areas or locations where firewood is stored. Therefore, it is important not to rely on seeing frass in your home as a way to detect carpenter ants; you must also be able to recognize kick-out holes.
A kick-out hole is an opening created by carpenter ants for the purpose of pushing frass out of their tunnels as they work. These holes are only slightly larger than the ant workers themselves, so you'll have to look closely in order to see them. Oftentimes, you'll find frass stuck to the wall beneath the kick-out hole. And, when kick-out holes are hidden inside a crevice, you may see frass pouring out of the crevice. This may also happen if there is a gap between two timbers and kick-out holes have been created between them.

Visual Carpenter Ant Damage

When renovating your home, you could uncover carpenter ant damage. If you do, this damage will look just as you might expect it to look. You'll see tunnels and galleries carved inside the wood. What you should know about these tunnels is that they will be smooth, as though someone took sandpaper to them and smoothed them. This is important to understand if you want to be able to tell the difference between termite tunnels and carpenter ant tunnels. If the tunnels look more jagged and messy, you’re dealing with termites, not carpenter ants. Carpenter ants can create their nests entirely inside the wood of our homes, without any need for contact with the soil outside; the subterranean termites found in our service area cannot. They will bring soil up into their tunnels, which makes their tunnels appear more gritty. Another clear sign that you're looking at carpenter ant damage will be the presence of carpenter ant workers crawling around inside the tunnels.
In rare circumstances, carpenter ant tunnels may be seen from the outside of the wood these ants are tunneling through. If you rip sheetrock off a wall and find a 2x4 stud with holes that look like dashes and dots, it could be carpenter ant damage!

What To Do When You See Signs Of Carpenter Ants

Since carpenter ants can be rather sneaky insects, it is important to hire a pest control provider who knows how to properly track the scale of the infestation inside your home. The last thing any homeowner needs is a false impression that their property is safe when it really isn’t. A licensed professional will use well-established protocols for tracking and eliminating carpenter ants. Don't trust your home to less than the best inspector!
If you live in Aiken, SC or the surrounding area, contact us at Aiken Pest Control. We have a number of residential pest control options for you to choose from.


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