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How to Identify Carpenter Ants, Signs and Damage in Wisconsin

Working in pest control, I realize what pests are common in Wisconsin, but sometimes they just seem like exotic creatures from a textbook that I’ll probably never see in real life. I forget that they are very real and very much around, and the carpenter ant I found in my home is proof that they sure do exist.

I’ve never seen a carpenter ant before, but this was the biggest ant I’ve ever seen in my life so I knew something was unique about it. I captured the ant in a jar and brought it into work the next day. I described to Steve Counsell, Batzner’s Training and Development Manager, where I found it, and he asked if this was the only one I found. It was, phew! Steve explained, “Keep an eye for more. If you don’t see any, then this guy was either just a hitchhiker accidentally brought in on a pant leg or a scout looking for a new nesting location.” So for now, I don’t have to worry, but I will definitely keep watching for more!

If clients are consistently seeing carpenter ants, the first thing a Service Specialist will ask is if you have had any water damage. According to PestWorld, “Carpenter ants build their nests in various wood sources, including tree stumps, fence posts, firewood or landscaping. They prefer to attack wood that has been wet or damaged as a result of leaks. Indoors, this means they are often found in damaged window and door frames, crawlspaces under roofs, chimneys, sinks and bathtubs.”

If you do not have any moisture damage, the next thing they will check for is hollow core doors in your home. Paul Matusiak, one of Batzner’s on-staff Associate Certified Entomologists, explains, “Hollow core doors are ‘move-in ready’ for carpenter ants and a perfect place to set up a satellite nest. Carpenter ants build their nests by taking the cellulose out of wood and leaving the fibers intact. Hollow core doors already have this set up for them, which is why they are often found there.”

In order to locate the nests, our Service Specialists will look for frass (powdery debris of wood produced by the activity of boring insects; appears similar to sawdust and will contain insect pieces) and the presence of ants.  They will watch to see where the nests are coming in and out of.  Jason Ganas, Senior Service Manager, recalls, “We’ve even gone as far as drilling holes in walls and putting a camera behind the wall to learn more about what’s going on where we can’t see.”

I wanted to share my story and help educate others on what I learned from my experience. Carpenter ant control can be very difficult and requires an integrated approach involving many techniques, including locating the nest and any satellite nests. If you find more than one carpenter ant in your home, it is best to contact a pest control company.

 

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This was the ant that was found in my home. It was identified as a “Reproductive” ant.  It is a male whose only job is to relocate and start a new nest. It is recognized by its size and flat abdomen.  They typically also have wings; however, this one does not.

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Shows an ant coming out of the bottom of a door. The second, empty hole in the bottom right is another entrance used by the carpenter ants.