Carpenter ants are dangerous but not in the traditional sense. Carpenter ants aren’t known to be aggressive and don’t commonly bite humans unlike some other dangerous ants. However, carpenter ants are specifically dangerous to wooden structures and property as their nesting habits lead them to excavate and ultimately damage wood.
In this article, we’ll discuss further how carpenters are dangerous, how much damage they can do, and what you can do about them. Before that though, a brief introduction on what carpenter ants are exactly.
What Are Carpenter Ants?
Carpenter ants are dark, large ants from the Camponotus genus which get their name from their habit of nesting in wood. They target moist and dry wood for their nests and chew through them to create smooth and polished galleries in which they’ll live.
These ants are one of the most notorious wood-infesting or damaging insects alongside termites and carpenter bees, and can cause significant damage to wooden structures.
Do Carpenter Ants Bite?
Yes, carpenter ants do bite. In fact, their bites can be quite painful and feel like strong pinches due to the strength of their mandibles. In some cases, their bites may even break the skin and draw blood. Such is what you can expect from ants that can chew through wood.
What makes matters worse is that carpenter ants may also spray formic acid into the bite wound and cause a burning sensation similar to that of a sting. While generally harmless, this formic acid may cause allergic reactions that lead to swelling, irritation, pain, dizziness, fever, and sometimes even vomiting or diarrhea.
With all that said, carpenter ant bites aren’t usually dangerous and will only lead to some swelling and pain that eventually subsides. Furthermore, carpenter ants aren’t known to be aggressive, and will only ever bite when they feel the need to defend themselves. Therefore, they don’t typically bite us humans and as such, aren’t considered dangerous in that regard.
How Are Carpenter Ants Dangerous?
If carpenter ants aren’t aggressive and rarely bite, then how are they dangerous? Well carpenter ants, as mentioned, are wood-infesting ants. They mostly nest in wood and in doing so cause damage to the wood as they excavate and build the tunnels and internal structure of their nest.
In fact, carpenter ants are the most notorious of wood-infesting ants and are often mistaken for termites for the damage that they can cause. When left unchecked, carpenter ant colonies can grow very large and cause significant property or structural damage.
How Much Damage Can Carpenter Ants Do?
Carpenter ant damage varies depending on the severity of the infestation. Smaller infestations may simply lead to hollow wood while more severe ones may cause the weakening or warping of structures to the point that they give out.
What’s more concerning however, is that these infestations can often go undetected. Carpenter ants don’t typically damage the external surface of wood apart from the small slits or openings they used for excavation.
The only obvious indicator of an infestation is the build-up of frass, cone-shaped piles of sawdust like trash, around nest openings. Otherwise, these infestations are usually discovered only when wood is broken up to reveal the smooth galleries that these ants produce.
How To Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants
Given that carpenter ants can severely damage wood it’s imperative to treat and prevent carpenter ant infestations if you want to preserve the integrity of a wooden structure or property. In order to do so, you’ll need to locate, treat, and prevent.
The first step to treating a carpenter ant infestation is to locate the colony nest. It is only then that you could apply the necessary measures to effectively get rid of the queen and the whole colony.
Carpenter ants like to nest in moist wood which favors growth and development. So look for signs of infestation such as frass and hollow wood, around areas where leaks are prevalent.
Check for common spots such as sinks, tubs, and also around firewood stacks, logs, or other wooden structures such as doors and windows.
Once the nest has been located, you may proceed with applying insecticides to get rid of the queen. Depending on the location of the nest, you may choose to use dust, aerosols, foams, or baits.
The first three, dust, aerosol, and foam, are best used for easily accessible nests where they can be directly applied. They need to penetrate deep into the nest to get rid of the whole colony, otherwise the queen can remain unharmed and may simply rebuild and reestablish the nest afterwards. As such, feel free to drill holes into the affected wood for better penetration.
For out-of-reach or hard to locate nests, you may opt to use baits instead. These baits are a mixture between toxic matter and food that are attractive to ants. Ants that take the bait will bring it to their nests where they can potentially pass it to the queen.
The issue with baits however, is that success isn’t guaranteed. Everything depends on the actions and decision-making of the ant themselves which means that sometimes baits can get neglected.
Therefore, the best course of action is to call for professional help. Professionals will help you locate the nest and apply the best type of control depending on the situation. They’ll also advise you and apply the necessary measures to prevent carpenter ants from returning after treatment.
Regardless of whether you treat infestations yourself or not, it’s important to know how to prevent carpenter ant infestations. After all, prevention is better than cure, especially when you’ve already put effort or money into treatment. Here are some tips to prevent carpenter ant infestation:
- Check and Correct Moisture Problems: As mentioned, carpenter ants like to nest in moist wood. So check and correct roof or plumbing leaks and any other drainage issues to prevent any wooden structure from becoming damp and attractive to carpenter ants.
- Trim Down Vegetation: Tree limbs, branches and other types of vegetation may serve as bridges from carpenter ant nests to your wooden structures or property. So be sure to trim them down and prevent contact.
- Clearance Between Soil and Structural Wood: Similar to vegetation, having wood in contact with soil may facilitate easy nest immigration. So make sure there is proper clearance between both.
- Remove or Stack Wood Away From Property: Aside from moist wood, carpenter ants may also target and nest in dry wood for their satellite nests. These include logs, stumps, and other debris in and around your property. Therefore, it’s best to remove them or if you’re keeping wood of any kind, store them away from the property or other wooden structures.
- Clean Up Food: As with other ants, carpenter ants are also attracted to food. They may enter your property due to improperly stored food or food spills. So be sure to clean up, don’t leave dirty dishes out, and tightly close your trash cans.
- Seal Entry Points: Lastly, seal cracks and crevices that may allow carpenter ants to enter your home.
Are Flying Carpenter Ants Dangerous?
Flying carpenter ants aren’t dangerous. These flying ants are reproductive ants called alates and consist of virgin queens and drones that pretty much only have reproduction in mind. As such, they bite less often than workers and don’t participate in nest excavations.
That said, the presence of flying carpenter ants is a good indicator of an infestation. If you spot them around your property, then it’s pretty much guaranteed that there’s a nest nearby.
Summary: Are Carpenter Ants Dangerous?
Carpenter ants are dangerous in the sense that they can cause significant damage to wooden structure and property. These ants are notorious wood-infesting ants that chew through and damage wood as they build the internal structures of their nest. Depending on the severity of infestations, they can do as much damage as termites and cause structures to weaken to the point of breaking down.
Apart from that however, carpenter ants aren’t known to be aggressive ants. They rarely bite humans and thus aren’t considered to be dangerous in the traditional sense. Their bites hurt though and they can amplify the pain by spraying formic acid. Nonetheless, aside from allergic reactions, these bites are often harmless and simply result in some swelling and mild irritation.