Homeowners may be concerned if they see carpenter ants inside. But, seeing carpenter ants inside the home does not necessarily mean the house is actually infested. It could mean the house is simply within foraging distance of a colony.
When carpenter ants are observed, don’t spray them; instead, feed the ants small dabs of diluted honey placed onto the back (nonsticky side) of pieces of masking tape. The best time to do this is late at night since this is when carpenter ants are most active. After the ants have fed on the honey, follow them on their journey back to their nest. Be patient– eventually the ants will disappear behind a baseboard, cabinet, or into some other concealed location such as the hollow space (void) within a wall, door casing, or porch column.
Treat wall voids and other hidden spaces where ants are entering by carefully drilling a series of small (1/8 inch) holes and puffing boric acid (available at most hardware stores) into the suspected nest areas. The boric acid powder will disperse in the hidden void and contact and kill the ants. If you suspect the nest is in a wall, drill and treat at least 3-6 feet on either side of where ants are entering so as to maximize the chances of contacting the nest. Carpenter ants prefer to travel along wires, pipes and edges. If you suspect the nest location is in a wall, also treat behind pipe collars and behind –not in– the junction box for electrical switch plates/receptacles
Carpenter ants seen in the home may actually be nesting outdoors, foraging indoors for food and/or moisture. Consequently, the homeowner may end up following the ants they have baited with honey out of the house and into the yard, possibly to a nest located in a stump, or under a log or railroad tie. Once the outdoor nest is discovered, treatment can be performed by spraying or drenching the nest with an insecticide such as carbaryl (Sevin), diazinon, or chlorpyrifos (Dursban). If outdoor nests are suspected, the homeowner should also inspect around the foundation of the building at night with a flashlight, especially around doors, weep holes and openings such as where utility pipes and wires enter the structure. The baiting approach using honey can also be used to trace carpenter ants which are foraging outdoors back to their nest.
Certain parts of a house, around and under windows, roof eaves, decks and porches are more likely to be infested by carpenter ants.
Because carpenter ants live in colonies, a treatment which targets the colony will be most effective. Finding the colony is important. Look for the piles of sawdust to locate the entrance. Another method to find the colony is to watch the movement of foraging ants. They are most active at night. Inspect the entire structure and surrounding grounds, because the nest may be outdoors.
Once you find the colony, ant control strategy depends on where it is. If the colony is in a tree, you can use a dust insecticide (such as Sevin® or rotenone) labeled for use on trees in the landscape. Apply the dust directly into the nest cavity.
If the colony is in a wall void, you may need to place an insecticide inside the wall. Do not use liquid insecticides inside wall voids. Introduce the dust into the nest through the entrance hole using hand duster with a tube with a tip which fits snugly in the entrance. It may be necessary to enlarge the hole to fit the duster. You can make a duster from a flexible plastic bottle equipped with a tube tip. An old mustard or catchup bottle might work for this use. Fill the bottle no more than one-third full, insert the tip in the entrance hole and inject the dust by alternately squeezing and releasing the pressure on the bottle. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many over-the-counter dust products available for homeowners. It may be money well spent to hire a pest control professional who has a greater arsenal of products at his/her disposal and proper application equipment.
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