Much like termites, carpenter ants are insect pests that infest structural and cosmetic wood sources located both within and on the exterior walls of houses. Also like termites, carpenter ants dwell within natural sources of dead and decaying wood, such as rotting logs, tree stumps and fallen tree branches. Unlike termites, carpenter ants only tunnel through structural and natural wood sources for nesting purposes, while termites both consume and nest within the wood sources that they inhabit. Both carpenter ants and termites are considered ecologically beneficial insects, as their activity in wooded areas converts dead wood into compost that promotes plant growth, but the insects are obviously considered pests when they infest valued structural and cosmetic wood sources. Several carpenter ant species can be found in various regions of the United States, but Maine is home to only two carpenter ant species, the red carpenter ant and the black carpenter ant, the latter of which is found infesting homes in the state far more often than the former.

Carpenter ants are not found infesting homes as often as termites, as carpenter ants only nest within particularly damp wood sources where rot has taken form to some degree. However, many homes contain structural wood that has become saturated with moisture, and factors such as pipe leaks, clogged gutters, and heavy lawn irrigation are just a few common ways in which parts of a home’s timber frame can become damp overtime. Carpenter ants are easy to recognize, as they are larger in body size than nearly all other known ant species. Both red and black carpenter ants typically grow to be an inch in body length, and they are notable for possessing an evenly rounded thorax, which is the central body segment where an ant’s legs and wings connect. Carpenter ants are particularly abundant and destructive to homes in the northeast US, and infestations are commonly detected within rotting wooden beams, window sills, door frames, and moist structural lumber located within kitchens, bathroom wall voids and baseboards.

In some cases, the occupants of an infested home can literally hear the sounds produced by carpenter ant pest activity, and they reportedly sound similar to the crackling of Rice Krispies cereal in a bowl of milk. It is also worth noting that these exceptionally large ants are often clearly seen invading homes in order to seek out sweet-tasting foods. Homes located near wooded areas are at a particularly high risk of becoming infested with carpenter ants.

Do you live in a wooded area of Maine where carpenter ants are likely prevalent?