The sight of ants scurrying across the floor can send homeowners into panic. While commonly seen on patios in the summertime searching for remnants from your backyard barbecue, Paolo Bossio of Toronto’s Advantage Pest Control (www.pestservices.ca) says the presence of large, black ants in the wintertime can spell trouble for your home.
These ants are called carpenter ants and are responsible for thousands of dollars of damage to homes in Toronto every year. “Carpenter ants burrow pathways and tunnels into wood that weakens and worsens the structure of the wood,” says Bossio. While they typically nest in moist, decaying wood found around decks, porches, window and door frames, they can make their way into sound wood and become particularly dangerous if they begin tunnelling into load bearing beams.
Since they dig through the centre of the wood, infestations of carpenter ants can be difficult to detect, but Bossio says one tell-tale sign is the presence of tiny piles of sawdust. “Carpenter ants are extremely tidy. Once they’ve dug a tunnel, they won’t leave a spec of sawdust anywhere,” he says. Unlike termites, who feed on wood, carpenter ants shift wood scraps away and retrieve their food from other sources. While piles of sawdust may be visible in an unfinished basement, they are often hidden behind walls of drywall, making carpenter ants virtually undetectable to the naked eye.
While seeing a couple carpenter ants in the summer shouldn’t be cause for concern as they could simply be entering your home for food and nesting in a tree or deck, a winter sighting would mean they’re nesting in your home.
“Often homeowners attempt home remedy solutions like spraying with Raid,” says Bossio. While this may temporarily eradicate a small portion of the colony, it can also cause the colony to fracture and the problem to escalate. The real key to treating carpenter ants and preventing future infestations is to find the main nest, where the Queen is laying eggs. This can be done through an inspection by a licensed technician who is trained to identify the locations of nests and travel patterns of carpenter ants.
As part of preventive maintenance, Bossio recommends that Toronto homeowners utilize the Integrated Pest Management treatment (consisting of exterior sprays and baits) for their home in the spring, when carpenter ants begin to come out of hibernation, and replace damaged or decomposing wood inside and outside the home.