Ants are a common invader of homes in eastern Pennsylvania. Some ants invade pantries and will swarm any food that has been found. Others, like carpenter ants, live in trees and wood in and around a structure. Damage to wood in a home from carpenter ants, could be an expensive repair!
The pavement ant is an introduced species. The ants were likely carried to the United States in the holds of merchant vessels during the 1700s to 1800s. The pavement ant is a soil-nesting species that currently has a distribution from New England to the Midwest, and south through the Mid-Atlantic States to Tennessee. It is also found in parts of California and Washington.
The pavement ant workers are about 2.5–4 mm long and vary in color from dark brown to black. The swarmers or reproductive ants are winged, about twice the size of the workers.
Control of foraging pavement ant workers can be accomplished through the use of baits. The workers carry the baited material back to the nest, eliminating the colony. Baits are placed in areas where ant activity has been observed and are placed where children and pets cannot reach them.
In their natural habitat, carpenter ants aid in the decomposition of dead, decaying trees. They normally nest in logs, stumps, and hollow trees. These ants seldom tunnel into dry, sound wood, but they may excavate moist, rotting wood and other soft materials to make satellite nests.
A carpenter ant colony has one wingless queen and many sterile, wingless, female workers. Winged males and females emerge from established colonies on warm days in the spring and early summer. Mating occurs during a brief flight, after which the male dies, and the female (queen) removes her wings and searches for a suitable nesting site. A new queen lays fifteen to twenty eggs, which produce the first brood of offspring. The whitish, soft-bodied, legless larvae later become the sterile female workers.
Homeowners should watch for ants that are foraging indoors and try to find their nests. Look for piles of coarse, stringy wood particles, dead insect parts and other debris that are sifting from cracks in the siding, behind moldings, in the basement and attic, and under porches. Carpenter ants do not consume the wood as food; excavated particles are dumped outside the nest and are at times readily visible. Satellite colonies within homes can sometimes be located by listening for a rustling sound in walls and ceilings using a stethoscope or inverted water glass to hear the ants.
*Source Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences
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