CARPENTER ANTS COLONY STRUCTURE AND PREVENTION
Ten species of carpenter ants are native to British Columbia; the most important pest species on the West Coast is a big black ant, with the scientific name Campanotus modoc. A black ant with a reddish, middle section, called Campanotus vicinus, is more common in drier areas.
Even though these two carpenter ant species have different colouring, they both have one-segmented pedicel (the segment between the thorax and the abdomen) and the profile of the thorax is evenly rounded and not bumpy. All carpenter ant species have these characteristics.
Carpenter ants nests consist of smooth, clean tunnels and excavations in wood that run with or against the grain. In contrast, subterranean termite tunnels are lined with a mud-like material and always run in the same direction as the wood’s grain.
A carpenter ants colony is often composed of a series of nests. The main nest, or parent nest, is usually located outdoors, often in woodpiles, logs, stumps, or trees – sometimes several feet above the ground. The nest contains the queen, some workers, larvae and pupae. It may be joined by sub-nests, or satellite nests, containing workers, and older larvae and pupae. Carpenter ant workers are polymorphic–which means workers are different sizes. Each colony has at least one queen, the egg-laying colony member. There may be more than one queen in a colony.
The colony’s reproduction takes place in the parent nest where the queen lays eggs. Larvae hatch from the eggs, are cared for and later may be transported to satellite nests. There, the larvae will undergo pupation and complete their metamorphosis to become adult workers.
It is the satellite nest that is most often encountered in structures. A satellite nest is often established in an area where wood has become moist. Common sites include wood around leaking chimney flashing, attics, skylights, bathtubs, windowsills, door frames, porch supports, columns, soffits, wood siding and shingles, and flat roofs. Carpenter ants also will nest in Fiberglas and foam insulation.
When a colony gets very large it may produce winged reproductive, called swarmer’s .Swarming usually occurs during warmer months.
Black carpenter ant swarms are more commonly observed from March-June. The males are much smaller than the females and often emerge a few days earlier.
The diet of carpenter ants is quite varied and includes living and dead insects, honeydew from aphids, sweets, meat and fats. They do not eat wood. Workers leave the colony in late afternoon or early evening, forage during the night and return to the colony in the early morning hours.
Carpenter ants carry food back to the nest intact or ingested and later feed it to non-foraging members in the nest. These ants may forage several hundred feet from the nest to search for food.
Carpenter Ant Prevention
To prevent further carpenter ant infestations, trim all trees and bushes so branches do not touch the house. Eliminate other unnecessary vegetation touching the structure. Correct moisture problems such as leaky roofs, rain gutters and downspouts. Paint and/or seal exposed wood construction before it becomes wet. Replace previously ant- or termite-infested wood, rotted, or water-damaged wooden parts of the structure and eliminate wood/soil contacts. Remove dead stumps on the property and store firewood off the ground and away from the structure.