Carpenter Ants Come Marching In This Spring

The carpenter ants come marching in this spring

Carpenter ants get away with a lot, even for a pest. Whereas the termite inspires fear and indignation, most of the public doesn’t even consider the insidious carpenter ant. If someone had a termite infestation, they’d no doubt want it handled right away. Yet, despite the fact that carpenter ants destroy wood too, many infestations go unrecognized, much less treated!

We will not have it. We’ve warned you about the carpenter ant before, but now that spring is springing (kinda), the threat is real. This spring, thousands of carpenter ants are marching on your castle, and it’s up to you to stop them. That’s why we’ve put together this anti-invasion battle plan. Here’s everything you need to know to rout the rascally ruffians ready to rampage through your residency this spring.

What are they?

what are carpenter ants?Carpenter ants look like their sugar or pavement ant cousins, except bigger and darker. They’re typically brown or black and about ½ an inch long, though they could be red-and-black and even larger. Like most ants, carpenter ants are eusocial and live in a colony where members have specialized roles and characteristics. Unlike most ants, carpenter ants build their colonies by burrowing into moist wooden structures. Carpenter ant colonies could eventually inflict significant enough damage to compromise the structural integrity of the wood they inhabit.

There are three castes of carpenter ant: workers, drones, and queens. Worker carpenter ants build and expand the colony by cutting into and excavating wood to make “galleries” through it. Drones and queens are larger than workers, and have functional wings during mating season. Queens lay eggs to populate their colonies, and swarmers leave the colony to form new satellite colonies. Drones and queens only swarm in mating season, which typically occurs in early spring.

Why are they here?

why are carpenter ants here?Carpenter ants re-emerge from winter dormancy to replenish their energy and mate. Drones and queens emerge first in late winter or early spring. The more numerous drones swarm in large groups while seeking queens during mating season. You may notice these swarms around your home as early as mid-March. After mating, carpenter ant queens look for likely places to establish new nests. If they find a good place inside your home, they’ll lay 15-20 fertilized eggs there. These eggs will hatch into workers, which will begin to build a new colony.

Finding carpenter ants indoors doesn’t automatically mean you have an infestation. Sometimes queens or swarmers make their way indoors automatically, without intending to establish a nest there. Pay attention to how early you find carpenter ants indoors, as well as what caste those ants belong to. If you find numerous swarmers that seem to be trapped inside your home, it’s probably because they emerged from an indoor nest.

What do they want?

carpenter ants bore through woodUnlike many varieties of ant, carpenter ants are not primarily motivated to infest homes by the food inside. Carpenter ants feed on protein and sugar, primarily by foraging for aphids, live and dead insects, and honeydew. Contrary to popular belief, carpenter ants do not eat wood; they simply excavate it to build their colonies. Instead of food, carpenter ants are primarily motivated by moisture. They need water to survive, just like everything else, and excavating wood is thirsty work.

Carpenter ants tend to seek out and infest moist, wet, or decaying wood. Building into wet wood allows worker ants to stay hydrated while they work. It’s also easier to break down and transport wood when it’s already wet and piliable. Rotten wood is especially easy to burrow through, making it a favorite of carpenter ants. Queens tend to build nests into existing wood damage, as it provides shelter for eggs and a convenient starting point for newly-hatched workers.

How can I keep them out?

how can you keep carpenter ants out of your home?Preventing carpenter ants is all about wood management. Start in your yard. Look for any wood carpenter ants could conceivably build into. Remove stumps, dying bushes and shrubs, dead bark, and any other rotting wood. Keep firewood elevated off the ground or store it indoors. Walk the perimeter of your home looking removing and replacing rotting or cracked siding. Cover wood that directly contacts soil with hard plastic covers.

Inside, focus on moisture control. Identify and repair any plumbing leaks, especially if they could be leaking onto wooden structures. Monitor indoor humidity levels, particularly in at-risk areas like the basement, attic, or crawl spaces. Check for drafts around walls, doors, and windows. Make sure windows and pipes don’t “sweat” during particularly humid or cool days. Finally, replace any damaged wooden furniture or structures, especially if they’re showing signs of internal rot. If your basement is quite humid, consider moving any wooden items upstairs until you can install a dehumidifier.

 

You could probably use a little good news after all this bad news. We’ve got some… kind of: compared to termites, carpenter ants work slowly. The first year they establish a nest, the colony grows slowly and the damage it inflicts is minimal. After a year, however, the colony keeps growing at a consistently faster pace.

Obviously, that means it’s very important to find and snuff out carpenter ant infestations quickly. Luckily, you don’t have to do that alone. Your kingdom always has an ally in Griffin Pest Control. Give us a call with your carpenter ant problem anytime. We’re always ready to answer the call to arms.

What Are Those Bugs in Your Basement?

Bugs in your basement

Bugs LOVE a basement. They’re dark, quiet, warm, and usually pretty humid to boot. If you have a bug infestation in your home, chances are they’re hanging out downstairs. Basements are a little spooky even under better circumstances, so we’re guessing you’re not terribly pleased to hear this.

There’s more bad news. Some bugs like basements more than others. The ones that really like basements are some of the freakiest-looking bugs around. Before you burn your house down, however, consider: these bugs are mostly terrifying because you don’t understand them. They aren’t the most dangerous pests in Michigan, or the scariest, or even the most stubborn. They’re just the freakiest ones that are here. This is everything you need to know about the monsters in your basement. The more you know, the less afraid you’ll be (we hope).

Earwigs

earwigWe’ll grant you: earwigs look like they crawled directly out of a nightmare. They’re about two inches long, with dark brown, reddish bodies, creepy light orange extremities… and GIANT PINCERS ON THEIR BACKSIDES. Earwigs are actually harmless to humans (and definitely don’t crawl into people’s ears) but… yeah, we get why you’d want to give them a wide berth. These insects love basements because they’re attracted to darkness and humidity. They feed on decaying plant material and sometimes hunt other insects.

Earwigs can’t fly or climb very well, so if they entered your home, they did it from the ground level. They usually find cracks near window wells and frames, or cracks in the foundation of the home. Earwigs often end up behind wallpaper or crammed into basement insulation after they sneak through low gaps. If you have earwigs in your home, it’s probably because your basement has a humidity problem. Consider investing in a dehumidifier and look for leaks.  

Silverfish

silverfishSilverfish are those tiny, silver-grey insects that really look more like shrimp than fish or bugs. Their long, thin bodies wiggle back and forth when they crawl, making it look like they’re swimming. “Silver” because of the color. “Fish” because of what they look like. Like earwigs, silverfish love moisture. They’re also attracted to warm and dark places where they can move around without being bothered. Silverfish are nocturnal, so chances are you’ll only see them at night.

Silverfish eat the starch naturally found in materials like paper, cotton, glue, carpeting, and other common household materials. They may also destroy clothing. Silverfish make use of their tiny size and thinness to get into homes. Usually, they sneak through narrow gaps in baseboards or flooring. They may even live inside walls if they can find a wide enough pathway. Humidity control is important for controlling silverfish, as is temperature control. Silverfish need temperatures of over 60℉ to breed.

Pillbugs

pillbugPillbugs are very small, black bugs that are about as wide as they are long. Their backs are made up of seven overlapping, segmented plates that look hard and shiny, like a beetle’s shell. Pillbugs roll into a ball to protect themselves when threatened. These “bugs” (they’re actually related to crabs!) are a common sight in gardens. They consume decaying vegetable matter beneath the top layer of soil. Most pillbugs live bury themselves several inches under soil, because they’re very temperature sensitive.

Pillbugs can’t climb sheer surfaces, so they only enter basements via the ground level of the home. Usually, they’ll find gaps under the soil, around baseboards, foundations, or siding. Once inside, pillbugs generally cover themselves by hiding under furniture, boxes, or other clutter. Pillbugs can only survive in a basement if they have a source of moisture. Check for plumbing leaks, condensation, or puddling, especially around corners and the bottom of the wall.

House Centipedes

house centipedeIf basement pests are monsters, then you probably think of this guy as the “big bad”. House centipedes are inch long, tan-yellow bugs with very long longs. Those legs enable the bug to move very quickly, often in a rapid, darting motion. House centipedes are nocturnal predators that use their speed and venom-injecting claws to hunt other insects. These centipedes are capable of using these claws to “sting” humans too. The venom injected isn’t serious, but it hurts like a bee sting would.

House centipedes commonly follow their prey into homes through gaps near windows or cracks in the flooring or siding. Once they’re inside, they spend their days hiding and their nights hunting. Like most of the pests on this list, house centipedes love moist environments. Check for leaks and puddles in your basement, and consider a dehumidifier. Patching gaps may help with the humidity problem and deprive bugs of their access points at the same time.

 

We hope this blog helps you feel less afraid of venturing into the dark abyss that is your basement at night. Even if it doesn’t, however, at least now you can take action? Remember: your basement is your turf, not those bug’s. Even if house centipedes are just about the scariest things ever.

If you ever decide you need a little help with your basement monster slaying, feel free to call Griffin Pest Control anytime. We’re always happy to lend you our sword.

Why Are These Pests Coming to My House?

Hand gripping cockroach outside of house

It’s true: pests are more drawn toward some houses than others. Common house pests like rodents and bugs gravitate toward houses where they can hide, feed, and stay hydrated easily. If your house is particularly old, dirty, cluttered, or humid, it’ll draw more pests than most.

Luckily, we started with the bad news. Now for the good news: no matter how “good” your house is at attracting pests, you don’t have to let them in. These are the four main reasons why any house attracts pest infestations, and what you can do about each of them:

Old houses tend to attract more pests than newer constructions - Why are these pests coming to my house?

Age

As house ages, it starts to wears down. Cracks and gaps open in wood, sealing, plaster, or insulation. Decks and siding start to peel or warp. Paint chips away, weatherproofing rubs away, screens tear. You get the idea. Wear-and-tear is natural, and bugs, rodents, and other pests can exploit it or even make it worse.

If your house is older, start looking for pest vulnerabilities around twice a year. Check on siding, weatherproofing, windows, doors, foundation, and sealing every spring. Patch up little cracks and gaps. Repair or replace damaged housing materials. Look for rotting wood or chipped paint. Pay special attention to pest-prone areas, like the basement, attic, or crawl spaces, plus window frames and utility lines. All this work may seem somewhat futile, but you’d be surprised what a little extra maintenance can do for your pest infestation. Your house is worth it!  

If you leave out food remains, pests will always find them - Why are these pests coming to my house?

Food Remains

Pests enter a house for three reasons: food, moisture, and shelter. The easier it is for them to get these three things, the more they’ll want to move in. Consequently, the best way to keep them out is depriving them of these things. The easiest thing to deprive them of is food. Most of us leave food out all over the place. We throw out leftovers, leave dishes out, leave crumbs on tables, or don’t put away snacks. While we may forget about scraps like these, pests never do.

Invest in hard plastic containers to keep pastas and cereals in. Do dishes immediately after eating, and wash down eating surfaces after meals. Seal household garbage cans and take them out frequently. Keep your dumpster away from your home or seal it off. These sound like small chores, but they can make a big difference, especially if your home is particularly prone to pest infestation.

cluttered homes are easier for pests to sneak inside than tidy ones - Why are these pests coming to my home?

Clutter

You’d think living in your home would be enough shelter for these ungrateful pests, but they want even more. Pests are surprisingly shy little buggers. Even when they’ve infiltrated your home, they’re looking for hiding places. If they can get into cardboard boxes, drawers, cabinets, piles of clothing or fabric, or any of the rest of the stuff that just sort of accumulates in your basement, they’d be thrilled.

The other reason pests like clutter is it gives them places to hook up and nest. Pests want to hide their offspring to maximize their chances of survival. When they have a good hiding place, they can foster generations of “family.” What may seem like pest infestation after pest infestation may just be Pest Attack: The Next Generation. Finding and removing eggs is an essential step toward preventing pests permanently. The fewer places they have to hide, the easier that step is.

Humid homes attract more pests than dry ones - Why are these pests coming to my home?

Humidity

All living things require water to survive. Most pests need to actually drink water, though some pests like crickets can absorb it through their bodies. Unfortunately, however, bugs need a lot of water. Humidity attracts pests because they can get all the water they need from puddling or condensation on windows or walls. Most bugs also feel a lot more comfortable in moist places, where their bodies won’t dry out as quickly.

Ultimately, humidity is probably what brings pests to your home. A dark, moist, quiet spot is prime real estate for pests looking for a place to live. Find the areas of your home that naturally get humid and consider investing in a dehumidifier. Look for places that puddle or gather condensation and keep them dry. Patch up plumbing leaks and dripping. When they run out of places to drink inside, pests will have to leave.

 

We know: pest infestations aren’t fair. They can feel like the consequence or negligence or carelessness, or even like punishments. The fact of the matter is, however, that sometimes even the most diligent homeowner might wind up with a pest infestation under the right circumstances. It’s nothing to feel guilty about.

Instead, just give Griffin a call. We can help you figure out how and why pests got in and what you can do about it. When we solve pest problems, they stay solved–no matter how big a pest magnet your house might be!