Carpenter Ant Prevention This Fall

Carpenter ants are active in the fall

It can be hard to tell regular ants from carpenter ants. Chances are you’ve seen carpenter ants or even had them in your home without realizing it! Although they may seem like regular ants, carpenter ants can pose a threat to your home.

Most carpenter ant infestations happen in the spring and late fall. If you find carpenters in your home during cold months, it’s probably because they’ve taken up residence. Carpenters can do significant structural damage over time, so it’s important to find and deal with them quickly. Here’s everything you need to know about how to get rid of carpenter ants in fall and all year-round.

Carpenter Ants 101

Carpenter ants are one of the largest and most prevalent ants in Michigan. Most species resemble a larger version of a regular ant. They come in a variety of colors including combinations of black, red, dull yellow, grey, or brown. Adult specimens are usually between ¼ and ½ inches long. Carpenters may resemble termites, but they have darker bodies, narrower waists, bent antennae, and a rounded thorax.

Colonies of carpenters are divided into castes, each with different distinguishing characteristics and sizes. Worker carpenter ants have large mandibles or pincers. Swarmer ants have two sets of wings–hind wings and front wings – and are the reproducers of the species. A female swarmer will become a carpenter ant queen and be solely responsible for populating the hive with workers.  

Carpenters remain a problem because their colonies can grow large quickly. Large colonies can inflict structural damage on homes in relatively short periods of time.

Where to Look for Carpenter Ants

carpenter ants build their colonies into wooden structures that have been naturally hollowed out or dampened

Carpenter ants gnaw the wood they want to move into a compact, sawdust-like material. Spotting this transported wood dust is one of the only reliable ways to find carpenter ants. Be careful, hollowed out wood takes on a dry, smooth, almost sandpaper-like appearance and may collapse under strain.

Outside, carpenter ants usually build colonies in wood that’s already been hollowed out. Most outdoor “parent” colonies are found in rotting trees, tree stumps, roots, fallen logs, or other decaying wood. As colonies expand, they require “satellite” colonies to continue to support a growing population. These expansion efforts are usually what brings carpenter ants into a house in fall and spring.

Carpenter ants prefer to inhabit areas with poor air circulation, access to soil and the outdoors, and condensation. During fall, carpenter ants want to nest in areas where they can keep warm. You’ll probably find them in your

  • Basement
  • Attic
  • Crawl space
  • Foundation
  • Roof
  • Porch
  • Doors and windows
  • Wood chips
  • Older siding

What Carpenter Ants eat

Carpenter ants do NOT eat wood; they simply move it out of the way. They subsist primarily on protein and sugar.

Unlike termites, carpenter ants don’t eat the wood they infest. Instead, these ants subsist on proteins and sugars, which they obtain from a wide variety of sources including:

  • Insects
  • Meat
  • Pet food
  • Syrup
  • Honey
  • Grains
  • Jelly

Carpenter ants are opportunists and will eat almost anything else they can find. They’re particularly attracted to the honeydew secreted by aphids and scale insects.

Worker ants have been known to forage up to 100 yards away from their colonies to find food. The workers bring any food they find back to the colony, where it’s distributed among all members.

Carpenter ants also require a source of moisture to keep hydrated. Usually, a carpenter ant colony will establish its main nest near some source of moisture outside. Satellite nests need moisture, too, but not to the same extent as the main nest does.

Why do they want to get into my home?

carpenter ants swarm over soft wood.

In the fall, carpenter ants seek food, shelter and ideal building conditions.

Carpenter ants prefer to make their colonies in moist, soft wood. Moist wood provides enough water to sustain the colony while they expand. Soft wood is easier to chew through, allowing for faster expansion. Rotting or damaged wood is an ideal nesting site for carpenter ants. If you see carpenter ants inside during fall, they’re probably establishing a satellite colony in wood inside your home.

Do Carpenter Ant Bites Hurt?

Carpenter ants will bite in self-defense. Their larger size and strong mandibles make carpenter ant bites potentially painful. They can also spray formic acid into bites, causing further pain.

If you are bitten, keep the bite clean and treat inflammation with ice. If you experience a severe reaction, see a physician immediately.

How can I keep them away?

keep carpenter ants away from your home by preventing mold growth, humidity, and leaks

Remove any environment that carpenter ants are likely to nest in. Look for mold growth and decaying and/or damaged wood, particularly near the ground level. Pull out and replace any rotten siding, rip out old baseboards and trimming, and look for condensation buildup. Pay particular attention to the foundation, siding and trim in your basement. Keep a close eye out for wood damage and have it repaired as soon as you notice it.

A leaky pipe in your basement might be creating an ant utopia. Look for any plumbing leaks and repair them as soon as possible. Even if you don’t have leaks, check to make sure excess humidity isn’t creating condensation on pipes or walls. If it is, consider investing in a dehumidifier, or least check for drafts.

If you have ants already, your best method of eliminating them is to have a pest control technician locate and eliminate the nest with an insecticide.

 Michigan Ant Control for Home and Business

If you need some help managing a carpenter ant problem this fall or any time of year, give Griffin a call today. We’ll be able to tell you where the ants are, how they got in, why they want to be there, and how to get rid of them. A safer, more enjoyable winter is just one phone call away.

Fall Lawn Care to Help Keep Pests Away

How raking keeps pests away

If you’ve been following us, you already know fall is the most active season for pests. Unfortunately, we’re not just talking about indoor pests, either. All kinds of pests become particularly active as winter approaches–including the yard destroyers. A lot of people tend to scale back their yard maintenance as summer ends. Unfortunately, this can have disastrous consequences–and ones that last longer than a season.

Luckily, just like all pest problems, these consequences are preventable. Here are the top four simple lawn maintenance routines you should keep up this fall. If you’ve already stopped doing these things, don’t panic! Just get back on them before winter’s first frost, and you’ll go a long way toward preventing pest infestations.

Keep mowing

For whatever reason, many homeowners think they should stop mowing their lawns once summer’s over. Some stop mowing almost completely as early as September! Grass doesn’t stop growing as early as we tend to think it does. In fact, most yards keep on keeping on until frost. Your yard isn’t the only thing “keeping on,” either. All the pests that love long grass are hanging in there, too. If anything, they’re more active than ever.

Bugs like the Japanese beetle, European chafer, and Chinch bug all feed on long grasses. Japanese beetles also deposit their larvae, so it can feed on overgrown root systems. If you don’t stop pests like this, they’ll return to trouble you next spring and beyond. Grass does grow less quickly in fall, so you won’t have to mow as often. When you mow, make sure you set your mower to the appropriate length. Mowing too low could create its own problems.

rake up and remove leaves

Rake up (and remove!) leaves

Fallen leaves are a pest paradise. All kinds of pests feed on them, and they’re usually a great source of moisture, too. If you let leaves blow across your yard, pests could follow them all the way to your home. They also serve as cover for autumn infiltrators like roaches, boxelders, and even rodents. Beetles, spiders, and even termites–as in, wood-eating termites–are attracted to leaves. Whether they’re wet or soggy, leaves draw in pests from all over.

It’s not enough to simply gather leaves into a pile, either. In fact, if anything piles of leaves just allow pests to congregate in larger numbers. Laying out leaves in bags around the side of the house won’t cut it, either. When stink bugs or boxelders congregate in leaf piles, they give off a pheromone that attracts other bugs nearby. After gathering up leaves, put them in a plastic bag and take it to your local compost. Raking regularly will significantly help keep bugs at bay.

Declutter

Obviously, falling leaves aren’t the only clutter fall tends to bring down on your yard. As trees go dormant and winds pick up, all kinds of natural debris tends to swirl around. Chances are, a lot of it ends up in your yard. It gets stuck to fences, crumples up under decks, or gets hung up on ornamental plants and ornaments. Twigs, seeds, nuts, berries, fruit, bark, and garbage all have a way of… just collecting in your yard in fall.

However it got there and whatever it is, you should remove it from your yard. The more cluttered and messy your yard, the more inviting it is to pests. Rodents, beetles, stink bugs, and all kinds of other fall “favorites” love sneaking around under cover. The problem is, all those pests rarely stay outside. Once things cool down, they’ll be looking for somewhere warm. Somewhere like your home, conveniently located right there. You don’t want that, so you should keep your yard as clean as you can.

Keep weeding

Keep weeding

Yeah, we know this one isn’t fair. Remember how we said grass doesn’t stop growing just because it’s fall? Well, weeds really don’t stop growing in fall. It’s like they were looking for one last chance to make trouble for you. Weeding is arguably more important in fall than ever, because your yard is vulnerable. If you don’t pull out weeds now, they could do some serious damage before frost. Then there’s the pest problem. Always, the pest problem.

Different kinds of weeds attract all kinds of different pests. Everything, from flies to beetles to termites (again, ugh) are attracted to weeds as a food or moisture source. Even bees and wasps may be particularly attracted to pollen-producing weeds as a last-minute snack. You should keep weeding as long as you keep mowing: right up until frost. You’ll help preserve your lawn’s health and fend off pests at the same time.

Yeah, we know this sounds like a lot of work. And we know it’s probably not how you pictured spending your fall. Look at it this way: you worked hard taking care of your yard all summer. You shouldn’t let all that hard work go to waste in a couple short weeks. If you care for your yard now, it won’t just prevent pests this fall–it’ll save winter and spring, too.

If any of those outdoor pests decide to invite themselves inside, give Griffin a call anytime. Our experts will wipe out indoor pests and make sure you have a safe and secure winter and spring.

The Pests in Your Basement this Fall

Seal openings in your home to keep pests out.

Fall is prime pest season. All kinds of pests know winter is coming, and they’re scrambling to sneak into a warm place. Basements are a pest’s favorite hiding place. They’re dark, damp, temperature-controlled, and secluded. You’ll deal with more pests in fall than you do during other seasons. You’ll find more pests in your basement than you will in the rest of your home. You… probably see where this is going.

It’s unavoidable: all kinds of pests are going to try to get into your basement this fall. They’ll sneak, squeeze, and scramble in from any tiny opening they get as if their lives depend on it. Just because you can’t stop them from trying doesn’t mean you have to let them succeed, however. If you take action now, even the most audacious autumn pests won’t be able to bug you this fall. Here’s what you’re up against, and how to come out on top.

Silverfish

Silverfish are small, wingless insects with silver-grey, segmented bodies and bristled tails. They require highly humid environments to survive, so they’re a common basement-dweller all year long. During fall, they’re particularly attracted to your basement as a source of warmth. Silverfish prefer environments that are 70 to 80℉. They feed on starchy materials like wood, paper, glue, and linen. The silverfish in your basement probably huddle beneath a food source in a particularly damp, warm area.

If silverfish can’t access moisture, they’ll dry out and die. Try to figure out where the high humidity in your basement comes from. Look for drafts coming from windows, door frames, hatches, or vents. Make sure your sump pump works properly and doesn’t leak. While you’re at it, look for plumbing leaks and other sources of stray humidity, too. Controlling humidity won’t just help with silverfish; it’ll help repeal all kinds of other pests, too. Pests like…

cockroaches in your basement this fall

Roaches

Like silverfish, roaches are very attracted to humidity. They’ll often seek out kitchens, bathrooms, or basements in order to access the moisture they need to survive. The most problematic roach in Michigan–the German cockroach–also highly prefers warm temperatures. Like rodents (we’ll get to them), they’re very good at following the warmth back to its source. Once inside, roaches tend to hide near food sources during the day and come out to forage at night.

Unlike silverfish, roaches don’t stick to one area in your basement. Instead, they’ll migrate throughout your home. Since they’ll go anywhere, you’ll have to check everywhere. Look for plumbing leaks under sinks, against basement walls, and near utility lines. Roaches love hiding near leaks and food, so depriving them of cover helps, too. Elevate boxes and other storage materials and keep them in dedicated, organized spaces. The clearer and cleaner the floor, the fewer places roaches will have to hide.

Spiders

Michigan’s many spider species have similar habits: they follow the food. The best way for spiders to feed in fall is by following their prey into overwintering locations. Whether you have orb-weaving or hunting spiders, chances are they’re in your home chasing prey. Michigan’s spiders can’t survive winter without taking drastic steps, so infiltrating your home kills two birds with one stone. Spiders are highly proficient climbers, so they can find access points from any angle or elevation.

Spiders generally build their nests near bug “highways” in your home, where they’re most likely to catch prey. In fact, by tracking down webs you can track down these “bug highways” and do something about them. Look for access points such as small cracks and crevices near the cobwebs in your home. Patching these gaps denies pests a way in and spiders a food source at the same time. Keeping your basement clean and cobweb-free will help disrupt spider hunting, too.

mice and rats in your basement this fall

Rodents

Rats and mice are the fall pest to watch for. Rodents are extremely attuned to changes in temperature and air pressure. As soon as they feel summer temperatures changing, they start preparing for winter. They have to: rodents and mice need to spend winter in warm places in order to survive. As such, rats and mice spend pretty much all fall looking for ways into warm structures. Unfortunately, they’re… very good at it.

Rodents can actually track warm drafts or food smells around a home’s perimeter until they find small openings. Rodents primarily find openings near utility lines, window and door frames, and vents. Check around these areas and seal them off with caulk or steel wool as necessary. Replace old weatherstripping and worn vent covers. Finally, vacuum, mop, and sweep your home diligently all fall and winter. It’s difficult to keep rodents from smelling your food, but you can keep them from getting it.

Even in the midst of pest season, it’s important to remember: keeping your basement pest-free is never impossible. It might seem like there’s “always another way in,” but there’s not. If you keep following pest control tips like these, you can make your basement a pest-free zone.

If you ever need help removing your current pests or keeping future ones out, give Griffin a call. We’ll help make sure you can enjoy your fall to the fullest–without worrying about pests in your basement.

Preparing for Fall Pests

Preparing for fall pests

Earlier this month, we listed four of the most common pest infestations that happen in late summer. Each of these pests had something in common: they were all trying to get out of the cold. Unfortunately, these pests don’t stop trying to sneak their way to warmth just because it’s fall. In fact, they only try harder.

Fall is the perfect time for preventative pest maintenance because it’s warm enough that you can still go outside and get work done without freezing. The earlier you pest-proof your home, the fewer pests will be able to use your home as their own personal winter vacation pad. Here are four simple things you could do this fall to minimize your risk of a winter-long pest infestation. Winter is rough enough on its own!

Yard Work

doing yard work this fall will help prevent pest infestation

If your yard gets bogged down in long, dying grass, fallen leaves, or untrimmed bushes and shrubs, opportunistic pests WILL find it. It would be bad enough if hordes of pests just hung around eating your yard and making themselves a nuisance, but they won’t just stay there. When it starts getting colder, they’ll be all-too-happy to move right in.

Rake up fallen leaves to avoid having soggy piles build up in your yard. Mow your lawn short until it stops growing, and don’t forget to trim your bushes. Pests often use decorative yard plants as ladders, so it’s a good idea to keep a border of at least 3 feet between the edges of your home and plant life. As winds pick up and temperatures drop, pick up fallen debris from nearby trees and shrubs. Finally, make sure your yard isn’t absorbing too much moisture. There should never been puddles of stagnant water on your property.

Border Maintenance

reinforcing borders and other entrances to your home will help prevent pest infestation this fall

While you’re outside, take the time to walk the perimeter of your home. Look for any small cracks or gaps pests could use to get inside. These cracks won’t always look the way you’d expect. One common way pests get into homes is by crawling up utility lines like pipes and electrical wires. They follow the line and squeeze through small gaps where the utilities enter the home. Pests like spiders and cockroaches can even crawl through plumbing vents and chimneys on the roof.

First, caulk over the gaps around utility lines. Then, check each window and door frame and sill. Replace old weatherstripping, make sure doors and windows are seated correctly, and check for drafts. Window frames tend to be particularly vulnerable, so check them thoroughly and repair them as necessary. Don’t forget about windows in the basement or attic, either. Make sure you’ve got all the entrances covered–big and small, high and low–and you’ll go a long way toward a pest-free winter.

Decluttering

cleaning up your basement can help prevent pest infestations this fall

Clutter doesn’t just help pests while they’re outside. The messier your home is, the more places pests have to hide and nest. Cluttered, junk-filled basements provide all kinds of the dark, confined, humid places that pests love, and they’re really good at seeking them out. It’s easy to let things pile up in your basement, attic, or storage place, especially in the winter. Remember, however: the longer you go without cleaning, the more comfortable pests will feel living in your home.

Everyone knows about “spring cleaning”, but no one ever talks about “fall clean up”. You should change that. Go through your basement, attic, closets, and other storage places this fall. Clean out anything you don’t need. Organize everything you’re keeping and make sure it’s in a safe, secure place. Pests are shy by necessity, so the harder it is to find shelter in your home, the less they’ll want to stay. We guess you could say you’re making your home “scary” clean!

Good Habits

Developing good anti-pest habits will help prevent infestation this fall

Probably the most important thing you can do to keep pests away is to develop some good anti-pest habits. It’s not enough to spend a couple days in fall over-preparing for pests like a student cramming the night before a test. You’ll experience much more success (and fewer pests!) if you keep up with your anti-pest regimen all fall and winter long.

First, don’t let clothes, food, boxes, or other junk pile up in your basement, mud room, or garage. Take the garbage out to the dumpster as soon as it’s full, and keep it in plastic bags. Dispose of anything pungent or compostable in the dumpster right away, instead of letting it sit in the dumpster. Get routine maintenance problems like plumbing leaks dealt with as quickly as possible. Pick up yard clutter in the snow every now and then, even if it’s cold out. Store firewood away from the house, never up against it.

 

Fall is pest season crunch time. Our rodential rivals and insectoid irritants will be doing absolutely everything they can to stay warm over the winter, so we’ve got to do everything we can to keep them out.

Following steps like these during your “fall cleanup” (yes, we’re making it a thing) will go a long way toward keeping even the most desperate and creative of pests out of your home. And remember, in the unfortunate event you do end up with an infestation, don’t panic! Just give Griffin a call. We’ll seal things up and get pests out.