Carpenter Ants in FloridaA decaying palm tree is not only unsightly, it may attract unwanted visitors to your yard. Rotten wood is the perfect material for Florida carpenter ants to excavate, an easy material to work with in order to create a comfortable nest. Unlike termites, carpenter ants don’t eat wood, but rather tunnel through it forming beautifully smooth galleries as a shelter for the colony.
Industrious carpenter ants – the kind that nest and excavate – are called workers. Large workers are called majors while small workers are, predictably, called minors. The largest caste are the alates, the winged females who can reach up to 20 mm in length. Workers will not sting you, but they certainly can bite you, and spray formic acid into the wound for further defense. If you experience a carpenter ant bite will likely feel immediate pain, along with a more prolonged burn from the formic acid. It may be small comfort to know that there should be no lasting harm from the bite, although that is small comfort when you encounter a defensive ant mistaking your stroll to the mailbox for an attack on their nest.
Carpenter ants typically swarm to reproduce from April through June (a.k.a. Easter through graduation), when you will find winged reproductive around windows and doors. These can be mistaken for termite swarmers, with the key difference being a constricted waist and uneven wing size for ant swarmers. Florida carpenter ants tend to forage nocturnally, with high activity around dusk and dawn. They have a definite sweet tooth, so sodas will attract them, as will landscape plants dripping with with honey-dew producing insects.
Carpenter ants have an excellent survival instinct, and it’s important to locate the nest to resolve an infestation. The best option is to follow foragers to their hidden location. Outside, they might be in rotting tree stumps, in the roots of citrus trees, in old wooden fences or even in that coconut that landed on the ground and never got picked up. Inside, it’s best to think like a carpenter ant – moisture and sweetness. Consider wall voids, in the bathroom fixtures, under the dishwasher or under a window that gets hit by the sprinkler every day.
Using what we know about carpenter ants, and their propensity for dawn and dusk feedings, either time may be a very good time to follow the trail and find the nest. If the nest cannot be located, and sometimes it can be very difficult, baits may be strategically employed along the foraging trail in an effort to induce the ants to take the product back to the nest.
The same methods of pest prevention apply to Florida Carpenter ants. Eliminate moisture sources, keep landscape plants healthy, trim “bridge” trees and plants away from your home, caulk openings and gaps, store firewood away from your house and conduct regular inspections. As we all know, and ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.