Stay away from this carpenter!

Photo: Courtesy
Photo: Courtesy

One nuisance that comes with living in a warmer climate is a higher risk of insects that could damage your home. Termites and carpenter ants are small critters that can wreak havoc and cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in repairs to furniture and more importantly, your house. Carpenter ants are common in the Americas, especially Mexico.

Carpenter ants are often mistaken for termites because they both damage wood and have a similar look. Because both have wings, people often mistake the carpenter ant for a type of termite called the swarmer. Whereas winged ants have a narrow waist and elbowed antennae, termite swarmers have a broad abdomen and straight antennae. Unlike the carpenter ant with front wings longer than its rear wings, the termites front and back wings are the same size.

There are over 24 species, but the two most common are the red and black carpenter ants. Each carpenter ant in the colony varies in size. While an adult carpenter ant can measure from 6 to 12 mm in length, males, or winged swarmers, can grow to up to 18 mm. Queens can reach 20 mm in length.

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Unlike termites who eat the wood, carpenter ants only use wood to nest and live. Carpenter ants prefer partially decayed wood for their homes, and their nests are often difficult to find. They tend to choose areas with moisture problems, such as attics and ceilings, rugs and flooring, windows, doors, trees and shrubs, woodpiles, plumbing, electrical and other utility entries, gutters, vents, trashcans and sheds or doghouses. A nest of carpenter ants generally grows to about 2000 or 3000 workers. Some nests have been known to have 100,000 workers. It takes about three to six years to establish a large and stable colony. The life cycle of a carpenter ant is estimated to be 6 to 12 weeks from egg to adult.

A tell-tale sign of their presence is when you see sawdust around wood furniture. Sometimes you can hear carpenter ants rustling within wall voids.

Should you think you have uninvited house guests, there are pesticides available to ensure they check out early. Place insecticide that contains an attractive sugary bait near a carpenter ant trail and the worker ants will take it back to the nest. Generally, it will take a few days for the colony to die. If there is more than one nest, it will take longer.    

Boric acid is considered a go-to product to control all ant species, including carpenter ants. You can get boric acid as either a dry powder or liquid bait. It is readily available, odorless, and effective when applied according to instructions. Since it is sometimes difficult to correctly formulate this solution, there is no guarantee that it will kill a colony. If you suspect there might be more than one nest, it may be best to bring in a professional sooner rather than later. 

When purchasing furniture for your home, it is always best to invest in items that have been pre-treated to reduce the risk of insect damage.

New condo? Save money and stress. We offer over 20 stylish furniture packages delivered right to your development. Sheryl Novak is an expat from Canada who sells furniture throughout Mexico. Request a free catalog at furniture@solutionsmexico.com.

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