The two most common species in the Greater Victoria are Camponotus modoc and Camponotus vicinus. Both species can cause significant structural damage. Carpenter ants are usually large and can range in size from 7mm to over 20mm. C. modoc tend to be a very large black ant. C. vicinus is also a large ant, with a black head and abdomen and orange to red coloured thorax (middle section). Their nests or colonies can be as small as a few hundred ants to as large as 100,000 or more ants.
Carpenter ants can be seen around a house or structure early in the spring and summer. Sometimes winged carpenter ants appear or swarm. They are leaving the nest to establish new colonies. If winged ants are seen coming out of a particular area, there is likely the nest close by. If winged ants are found inside that is a good indication there is a nest in the structure. Winged ants are generally not produced until a colony is at least 3 to 5 years old. A swarm may indicate a well-established nest.
Contrary to popular belief carpenter ants do not eat wood. They feed on a variety of food containing either protein or carbohydrates. Some examples of these foods could include things like, honey, sugar, meat, grease, aphids and dead insects. Of the entire colony, which may have thousands of individuals, only 5 to 10% will be out looking for food.
Carpenter ants nest in wood, or cavities or soft materials. They excavate galleries in wood or other materials by chewing but they discard the debris (called frass) outside the nest. Frass often looks very similar to saw dust. Frass may sometimes be found under a hole or other opening but is often discarded inside wall voids.
Environmental modifications may help to prevent a carpenter ant infestation. Examples of modifications include repairs to leaking roofs or plumbing, removing any rotting wood, trimming all vegetation so it doesn’t touch the house, ensuring adequate ventilation in crawl spaces and attics, and storing firewood off the ground, away from the house. Other site-specific information can be discussed during an inspection.
Warning Signs of a Carpenter Ant infestation
If you observe one or more of these signs, you may have a carpenter ant infestation:
Medium to large sized black ants are spotted in or around your home in the winter months and reappear again in early spring, in April or May.
Large ants are in bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms, hallways and kitchen floors though they usually avoid food cupboards.
Small piles of fine sawdust-like material below window frames or on floor around exposed wooden products.
Hearing faint sounds in a wall or a window casing.
Observing the large ants moving in an organized way around any opening on the interior or exterior of your home.