Real Estate Investment Blog
Let's Put An Addition On The House Vol. 1 Planning

Preparing for the Annual Invasion

No, this article is not about tourists =)

Many of us Pocono residents live in the woods, so bugs and critters are a way of life.  Below find some common-sense advice from one of my favorite home inspectors, Jeff Remas, who happens to be quite the expert on the subject of the creepy-crawlies. As you might expect, Jeff tells us that when it comes to Carpenter Ants prevention is the best medicine. Read on....

From the Desk of:
Jeffrey A. Remas, President
REMAS Inspections, Inc.

Carpenter Ants are native to Pennsylvania, are here to stay, and can be a problem for your home. It would be a good idea to know a few basic facts about this voracious insect and what you can do to control them. 

For those who like to know the class, order and family (science geeks like me) they are: Insecta – Hymenoptera - Formicidae. You may need to brush to dust off your old text books. The Carpenter Ant gets its name from hollowing out galleries in pieces of wood for nesting purposes. They excavate the wood, they do not eat it. If you look closely at the scientific name “Camponotus pennsylvanicus” you can see we are in the trenches of the carpenter ant war.

Carpenter Ants are relatively easy to identify. They are polymorphic which in aBcarpant basic sense means that they are of different sizes. We typically see the large black ant and assume they are the Carpenter Ant and 99.9% of the time you are probably right. The queens are about 1/2 – 5/8+” long and the workers are approximately 1/8 – 1/2” in length. The Carpenter Ant has three sections that make up its body. They are the head, thorax & abdomen from front to back. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Carpenter Ant is a single node that sticks up between the thorax and abdomen. You will probably need a magnifying glass to see it. Although most Carpenter Ants are black in color, you will also find some with black & red or completely red or brown.

Has your home been invaded? 

The only external indication of infestation other than actually seeing the ants or swarmers is the appearance of small openings on the surface of the wood. Through these openings the workers expel debris with consists of sawdust like shavings and/or fragments of insulation or insect body parts including parts of Carpenter Ants. Did I mention they are cannibals? The accumulation of such debris is an indication of infestation. Unlike termites and powder post beetles whose galleries are filled with frass and excrement, the galleries of the Carpenter Ant are smooth and clean. They prefer to attack wood softened by moisture and fungus so let’s all keep our basements and crawlspaces drier. Soft, moisture-laden, unprotected wood is a prime target for the Carpenter Ant. If you find Carpenter Ants with wings inside your home, especially during the spring and early summer you can be pretty sure that they have set up a colony inside your home. This is not a good situation by any stretch of the imagination. 

What is their plan of attack in our area of the Poconos?

 Carpenter Ants set up camp or “colonies” in trees and stumps. In the early spring they are waking from a long winter’s nap and are in search of carbohydrates to get some quick energy and begin their plight to drive all Pocono residents crazy. A dry, clean home that is well maintained will not be a target for the ants. They may forage for food and when they can’t find any food or shelter to set up a “satellite colony” they will leave. In the summer they are building their colony, feeding, breeding and creating trails from the main colony to the food source. At the end of summer they are in search of protein to help them through their long winter hibernation period.

Defending your position.

There are several things you can to to protect your home and control an infestation. The first thing to do would be to reduce the moisture and humidity in the crawlspace or basement.

Next, make sure that all exterior openings and cracks are repaired and caulked, and keep a good finish on the exterior walls (ie keep up with the painting/staining) will help to keep the ants out. 

One of the biggest causes of infestation is lack of landscaping maintenance. Keep all trees and plants trimmed away from the home. This will help promote air flow, too, keeping the house drier.

And of course, keep all food and condiments in airtight containers.

All of this will reduce the chance of infestation. This is not an all-inclusive list but you will be well on your way to safeguarding your position.

Regaining the upper hand.

If your home already has signs of Carpenter Ants the best solution is a professional pest service. The market is flooded with home solutions. Just go to Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, etc. and you will see plenty of products for you to use. If these products are not applied correctly you can make the situation worse. One of the common mistakes is for homeowners to apply a repellent to the exterior of the home as a barrier. Good idea, right? Not if you are trapping the interior infestation inside of the home.

Proper pest control of the Carpenter Ant includes the application of several different products (each for their own reason) and the identification of the colony and/or trail that they take. Professional pest control services have access to newer, safer, ecologically friendly chemicals with a long residual. Some chemicals are repellents, some are not and they all have their place. Some are rated for interior use and some for exterior only.

Remember, Carpenter Ant prevention or treatment is not a one time occurrence; it is a constant battle. 


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