Carpenter ants are known for being large, often having wings and destroying wood structures to make their nests. These pests can cause hundreds or thousands of dollars of damage before being noticed, so it’s important to know the signs of carpenter ants.
These ants typically have two kinds of colonies: parent and satellite, according to the University of Minnesota. A parent nest contains the queen and thousands of worker ants, and is where most of the resources gathered will go. Satellite nests can also contain up to thousands of workers but no queen or ant larva. It is possible for a parent colony to be outside and to have satellites of that colony inside a house. In order to maintain a full level of insect control, a complete extermination of all nests is necessary.
Nests will be most often located where wood is damp, since that is easier for the ants to mine. The University of Kentucky states that areas that are near consistent leaks or around sinks are common locations for carpenter ants to build their nests. The insects will often choose the bathroom, the kitchen or rooms with poor circulation where condensation tends to gather. There may be multiple colonies within the same house in different areas that are all affected by water in one way or another.
Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not actually eat the wood that they destroy. It is possible to spot a nest by noticing small piles of what appears to be sawdust on the floor. Occasionally the ants will push all the wood they have ground up out of the nest to make room. However, this is not always the case, as they will sometimes keep the wood dust inside the nest with them.
Visually, carpenter ants look similar to other species of ants as well as termites. These ants are larger than other species of ant, however, and often have wings. While termites are smaller and typically white, these pests are large, black and have jointed bodies like that of a wasp.
Since carpenter ants will so often make multiple nests that are nearly impossible to detect, it is almost always best to seek professional pest control. Often exterminators will need to find all the satellite nests as well as the parent nest to ensure that the ants do not return. Simply spraying the visible ants will not work, as they will reproduce and return.