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Carpenter ants are the most commonly controlled ant pests within US homes, according to multiple scientific surveys of pest management professionals. The common name “carpenter ant” refers to all ant species in the Camponotus genus of ants, and the name derives from their habit of excavating nesting tunnels in natural sources of dead and moist wood such as logs, tree stumps, tree hollows, dead portions of trees, and fallen branches. Unfortunately, some carpenter ant species are pests of woodwork, but unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood. More than 1,000 carpenter ant species have been documented worldwide, 60 of which can be found in the US and Canada. Of these 60 species, 24 are considered pests of homes in the country, the most common of which include black carpenter ants (C. pennsylvanicus) in the east, western black carpenter ants (C. modoc) in the west, and Florida carpenter ants (C. floridanus) in the Gulf Coast states.

The black carpenter ant is the most commonly controlled and economically costly carpenter ant pest species, and it’s particularly abundant in southern and central Massachusetts. Massachusetts is also home to the red carpenter ant (C. chromaiodes), the nearctic carpenter ant (C. nearcticus), and the New York carpenter ant (C. noveboracensis). These species, and most other carpenter ant species, are notable for being among the largest ants in the US, which makes them relatively easy to recognize when they are spotted indoors. Carpenter ants are well known for excavating nesting tunnels in moist structural lumber within homes, resulting in costly damage. However, some carpenter ant pest species are not associated with structural wood damage, and even black carpenter ants may not nest within structural wood when they infest homes.

In many infestation cases, carpenter ants are only a nuisance, but it is not at all uncommon for carpenter ant workers to establish satellite nests within inaccessible indoors areas, most notably within wall voids. If workers encounter structural wood that is in contact with ground soil, or wood that has become saturated with moisture from plumbing or rainwater leaks, chances are high that they will nest within that wood. Keeping indoor moisture under control is the most important aspect of carpenter ant pest prevention. Several simple housekeeping tasks will help to prevent indoor moisture buildup. For example, keeping shrubs around homes well trimmed and a foot or more away from exterior walls, keeping crawl spaces well ventilated, keeping wood stacked above the ground and away from the exterior walls of homes, and keeping gutters unclogged and roofs in good condition.

Have you ever had a carpenter ant infestations that did not see the pests damage structural wood?