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One of the largest types of ants that we commonly encounter in the Northwest, the Carpenter Ant typically strikes the largest sense of fear in the minds of homeowners due to the reputation that these ants have for moving into a structure and the destroying the wooden supports of our homes and outbuildings. Ranging in size from just under a 1/4" long to just over a 1/2" long, these large black ants are intimidating both because of their size, but also for the numbers of ants that can appear all at once. Driven to swarm during the high heat periods of late Spring and early Summer, it is very common to have hundreds of these swarming ants show up along an exterior wall of your home, or more commonly, to congregate up in the corner of the eaves along the roofline. These swarming ants, known as the Reproductive Ants from a Carpenter Ant colony, will often still be found with their wings attached. When I hear the phrase "Flying Ants" or "Ants with Wings", I know that both a fully mature Carpenter Ant nest is nearby and that it is currently swarming. A fully mature Carpenter Ant nest, which can take about 4 years to completely develop, can hold literally thousands of individual ants within the colony.
When a home or other building becomes infested with Carpenter Ants, the nest being located within that structure is known as a Satellite nest. This nest is an extension of what is referred to as a Primary nest, or Originating nest, that is typically located in the nearby surroundings of the affected structure. The primary nest can come from an old stump or rotten log in the yard, old railroad tie retaining walls used for landscaping, old fence posts, etc. In any case, the ants will begin trailing back and forth from the original nest (primary nest) to the newly established satellite nest. The discovery of a consistent in and out trail of ants leading up to an into your home is a sure sign that these ants have begun to establish a nest inside. Nests can be located within walls, underneath sub-floors, up in the attic areas, just about anywhere that they can find wood to chew into to create a place to call home. Other indications that you may have a Carpenter Ant colony within your home would be the consistent, daily sighting of active ant activity found within the interior living space of your home, especially in the late February, early March timeframes when the ants are beginning to emerge from winter dormancy, but it is yet too cold outside for their regular activity. Another indication of the existence of a colony of Carpenter Ants in your home can sometimes be the steady, constant accumulation of a pile of fine sawdust at the edge of your baseboards or underneath an exposed beam.
Having these kinds of problems dealt with professionally is always advised, as the typical over-the-counter products that one can find from the local hardware stores are repellant, contact-killing agents. While using these products will certainly kill the ants that you can see, it will also drive the bulk of the colony deeper into your home where they will continue to reproduce, grow larger in size an continue to damage the structure itself. In addition, the ant colony with alter their trailing patterns so not only will you not see them in the original area of your home, but you can potentially create a much larger, bothersome inside presence with a can of Raid.
Fortunately, the chemicals that we as professionals have at our disposal today are both quick acting and thorough. When we treat for a nest of Carpenter Ants, we are able to simultaneously exterminate both the satellite nest in your home as well as the originating primary nesting site. Using this approach insures that it may be years, not just months, before surrounding Carpenter Ant colonies again try to re-infest your home.
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