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Carpenter Ants

Last Updated: December 30, 2016
‘Carpenter Ant’ is the name given to members of any of over a thousand species of ants in the genus Camponotus. The ants, found around the world, have been given that name due to their proclivity for living in dead and wet wood. It should be noted however that they do not eat wood. Carpenter ants are relatively large, ranging from a quarter of an inch to an inch. They range in colors depending on the species but are most often black or red and black. The queens and male ants capable of reproducing are winged. Due to their preferred habitat, carpenter ants are often mistaken for termites. Termites have light colored bodies and straight antennas whereas carpenter ants have dark colored bodies and ‘elbowed’ antennas. In addition, carpenter and tunnels are smooth and clean whereas termite tunnels have mud packed into them.

Carpenter ants live both in and outdoors in dead, decaying, damp, or hollow wood. They prefer moist wood because ants’ eggs dry out and die in conditions that are not adequately humid. The ants cut out hollow areas as nests and then cut tunnels and passageways through the wood to move between sections and out of different entrances and exits of the nest. In carving these passageways, the ants often leave behind a sawdust-like material, which can help in identifying their nesting areas. The tunnels are smooth in appearance and feel. They can cause structural damage to buildings and tend to infest areas of a building that are prone to be more damp such as windows, decks, and roofing. In addition, they will often nest in rotting trees, tree stumps, or large logs. A single colony may consist of a number of nests both indoors and outdoors. ‘Satellite nests’ do not necessarily need to be in moist areas as they may contain only worker ants that do not tend eggs.

As with many ants, carpenter ants are omnivores that gather protein and sugar from an endless range of sources. In nature, carpenter ants feed on insects, both living and dead, honeydew (a liquid secreted by aphids and other insects that feed on plants), and various other edible remains they find. Indoors, they feed mainly on food left accessible by the building’s residents including meat, grease, fat, vegetables, fruits, and sweet foods (syrup, sugar, jelly, candies, etc.). The ants generally forage at night. As mentioned previously, carpenter ants do not eat wood.

Finding a Carpenter Ant Nest

Carpenter ants may make their nests inside or outside of your residence and just seeing carpenter ants indoors is not necessarily a sign of a nest in the house. Discovering the location of the main nest is imperative if you have a carpenter ant infestation. Carpenter ants are resistant to cold, but cannot easily survive a winter outdoors. If you see carpenter ants in the house during the winter or early spring, chances are the nest is inside the building. During the spring and summer, nests are more common in homes. During the spring, carpenter ants reproduce by sending out swarms of winged queens and winged males. If you see such a swarm inside your house, you most likely have a nest in the house. Note that seeing a small number of winged carpenter ants does not mean you have a nest in the house and may simply be queens looking for a new place to nest. If you believe you have a carpenter ant nest inside your home, you will want to locate the nest and eliminate the infestation.

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How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants

Last Updated: December 30, 2016

Carpenter ants can be found both indoors and outdoors, particularly in hollow, moist, or decaying wood areas. Much like termites, these destructive ants cut galleries through the wood in order to create passageways that allow them to move from place to place within their colonies. Carpenter ants are much larger than most other ant species; measuring from ¼ inch to an inch in length. There are approximately 1,000 carpenter ant species found throughout the world; however in the United States, the most common species is the black carpenter ant, Camponotus Pennsylvanicus. In this guide covering how to get rid of carpenter ants, this is the species being discussed although methods, including those concerning how to get rid of carpenter ants naturally, will work on other species as well.

Identifying carpenter ants is quite easy, particularly if they have invaded your home or another structure. Though various carpenter ant species have black to brown bodies, black carpenter ants are a solid black to dark brownish black color, with long antennae. Worker ants, which you’re most likely to see, are an average of one to two centimeters in length, while queens and winged reproductive carpenter ants can be as much as an inch long.

These ants prefer to inhabit roof eaves, the areas under and around windows, and outside areas such as decks and porches, mostly because these areas tend to be most vulnerable to moisture. A large colony will produce crackling sounds as they chew; when thousands of individuals are present, this sound can be heard when other noises, such as TV and radio, have been muted.

Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not actually consume the wood they chew through; they leave little heaps of sawdust called frass behind, which can serve as a telltale sign that they are present within a structure. Carpenter ants are omnivorous, mainly consuming plants, plant juices, and other insects; they also eat meat, fat, and grease, and they have a strong preference for sweets, including honey, syrup, jelly, sugar, and fruit. They forage fairly long distances – up to 100 yards – in search of food sources, and are most active at night.

The first step in eliminating carpenter ants is to locate the nest and determine how the ants are entering. Look for damp areas, particularly places where wood is in contact with the ground. Areas where plumbing is present, points where condensation tends to accumulate, and moisture from air conditioners all serve as oases for carpenter ants, so be sure to look in these areas. In addition, check areas near gutters and downspouts for activity. Keep an eye out for small piles of frass, which are almost always present beneath entry and exit points; in massive colonies, bubbling paint can also serve as a signal that carpenter ants have invaded.

You can also watch for the ants themselves, either keeping an eye out for exiting foragers or watching for foragers as they return to their nests. You can set honey or sugar out for the ants in order to draw their attention; this can make your search easier. If you see winged carpenter ants, following them will typically be pointless as they are usually departing in search of a mate; however, the mere presence of winged carpenter ants indicates that you could have a serious infestation on your hands.

The second step in getting rid of carpenter ants is to create a plan for dealing with them. As with termites, killing visible carpenter ants is not sufficient to eliminate the nest. There are two ways to get pesticide into the nest, where it will kill the majority of the colony’s members:

  • Spray an aerosol pesticide into the nest’s entrance, and place sweet ant baits near the nest’s entry point. This is sometimes effective in completely eliminating a small carpenter ant infestation, and it is a good first step in getting rid of a larger nest.
  • Drill holes into the wall in order to penetrate the nest, being careful not to allow the ants to bite you in the process. They defend their nests aggressively and their bites are very painful. Spray carpenter ant pesticide into the holes and dust the area with boric acid or a powdered pesticide. This will need to be repeated until signs of activity have ceased.

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants Naturally

The most effective method for getting rid of carpenter ants naturally is to use diatomaceous earth (DE) which is a completely organic, natural substance, which has microscopic edges that are razor sharp, and that completely destroy the insects’ bodies. When shopping for diatomaceous earth, choose food grade DE rather than the type which is added to swimming pools. Food grade DE is safe for use around pets and children.

In order to eliminate carpenter ants with DE, the substance needs to be injected directly into the ants’ colony, either by drilling holes into the colony or by using a hand duster made specifically for applying diatomaceous earth and other granules to ants’ nests. Apply the DE every few days until signs of activity come to a stop, and be sure to reapply after rain, if applicable.

Preventing Future Carpenter Ant Infestations

Once you have eliminated the carpenter ants from your property, it is vital that you work to control the environment to prevent a future infestation. Any damp or damaged wood should be dried out or replaced. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around your home’s perimeter, and watch carefully for signs of carpenter ant re-infestation, and consider placing white gravel around your home’s perimeter, since this is an effective deterrent.

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Flies

Last Updated: December 30, 2016

Flies are insects in the Nematocera or Brachycera suborders of the order ‘Diptera.’ Diptera comes from Greek and mean two (Di) wings (Ptera). There are thousands of other insects with two wings. One of the main difference of flies in the Diptera order is that they have two wings for flight and two wing-like knob structures that are flapped rapidly during flight and act as gyroscopes, helping the fly balance in-flight. There are many species of insect with the word ‘fly’ in their name, but generally true flies of the Diptera order are written as two words. For instance fruit flies, crane flies, and flesh flies are ‘true’ flies; butterflies, dragonflies, and sawflies are not. Of the hundreds of thousands of families in the Diptera order, flies comprise nearly two hundred.

Flies are small and have short aerodynamic bodies that allow for fast takeoff and flight and very rapid changes in direction. The have large ‘compound eyes’ that give them an extraordinarily large range of vision, which is highly useful in evading threats. Flies have no teeth or equivalent thereof and are therefore unable to consume solid foods. They eat liquid food or very finely ground small pieces of solid foods. Flies are extremely effective at mating and, for that reason, fly infestations can very rapidly reach very large sizes. Female flies lay their eggs as close as possible to their source of food and very often inside the food source itself. Eggs hatch into larvae (also known as maggots), which consume the food source around them rapidly. After about a week, the larvae transform into pupae, out of which the adult fly is then hatched. Adult flies have short life spans ranging from a few days to a month, depending on the species. The adult fly’s life is spent searching for new food sources and reproducing.

Flies in populated areas are a serious health concern. Flies have small bristles all over their bodies to which hundreds of pathogens and diseases ranging from colds and flus to typhoid and cholera can attach. In addition, their taste for garbage and animal wastes means they spend most of their time in areas where diseases are common. Flies generally stay near their birth areas, but are capable of migrating several miles in the search of food and, as such, can be very efficient transporters of disease. For this reason, it is crucially important to identify and control a fly infestation as soon as it is noticed in the home, the business, or in agricultural contexts.

If you have a fly infestation in your house, it is important to identify what type of fly you are dealing with. There are hundreds of species of flies, but a few are more common:

Fruit Flies

There are several species of flies across the world known as fruit flies. Fruit flies feed on decaying fruits and vegetables and are thus often found in houses (particularly in kitchens and garbage areas), restaurants, and hotels. They are also common agricultural pests. The flies are generally tan or beige colored, are small (around 1/8th of an inch) and are ovular in shape. Depending on the species of fruit fly, they may have darker abdomens or black horizontal stripes across their abdomen. Fruit flies have short lifespans (roughly thirty days in ideal conditions) and thrive in hot weather (low eighties Fahrenheit). Females lay up to four hundred eggs at a time directly into rotting fruit, vegetables, or fungi.

House Fly

The common house fly is one of the most prevalent flies in domestic settings around the world. Certain studies have shown that it accounts for over ninety percent of all flies in human-habited areas. Beyond its prevalence amongst flies, it is also one of the most common insects in the whole world. Significantly larger than fruit flies, house flies can reach half an inch in length. They are grey in color and have black stripes that run vertically over their backsides. House flies feed on liquid and well refined substances found in garbage, feces, and other decaying materials. Their ideal place for laying eggs is in feces, and the species is prevalent on farms due to their affinity for horse manure. The flies are active only during the day.

House flies are a serious concern when it comes to the spreading of disease. They are able to carry hundreds of serious diseases and conditions including typhoid, cholera, anthrax, and parasitic worms. They tend to stay near where they were born, but are able to travel dozens of miles in search of food. Lesser house flies and stable flies are often confused for house flies. Lesser house flies are generally smaller. Stable flies are capable of piercing skin and suck blood for sustenance.

Horse Fly

Horse Flies (often confused with Deer Flies) are relatively large blood sucking flies ranging from ¾ of an inch to 1-1/4 of an inch in size. Female horse flies feed only on blood (mostly mammalian) and male horse flies feed on pollen and nectar. Horse flies are large, very noisy in flight, and can have a painful bite. For this reason, and due to the fact that they can carry disease, they can be serious pests to people and animals. A horse fly feeds by cutting open the skin with its mandibles and then sucking on blood from the wound. Horse fly bites can be painful, itchy, and often will swell.

Horse fly eggs are generally laid on plants or stones close to water. Once the eggs hatch and become larvae, they feed on nearby insects. Horse and Deer flies are notoriously hard to control by conventional methods. However, it is important to know that more so than other flies, they avoid colder temperatures.

Other Flies

As noted before, there are hundreds of families of flies containing hundreds of thousands of species. Flies including the flesh fly, stable fly, lesser house fly, robber fly, and crane fly are only some of the common flies found around the world. Each fly has its own unique characteristics, including different feeding and reproducing habits. While this is the case, and while it is important to find out which kind of fly you are dealing with in an infestation, the three mentioned earlier (fruit fly, housefly, and horse fly) are the most common types to find in an infestation.