Insects are generally unwelcome house guests, but there are certain species that are particularly objectionable, especially those that are harmful to your home itself. Experts say there’s a common bug that does just that by gnawing through the wood within your walls to make room for their colony’s nest — and it’s not a termite. But like termites, these insects can cause serious structural damage, but still unlike termites, they shouldn’t ring alarm bells when you see them. To make matters worse, experts say if you see one in your home, especially at a certain time of year, chances are you’ll see many more soon. Read on to find out which bug means you should call the exterminator immediately and what else you can do to keep your home free of these harmful pests.
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It’s not uncommon to see ants in your home – just like any other creature, these unwanted pests will go anywhere they can find food, water, and shelter. But experts warn that there is one species of ant you should not ignore if you find it indoors: the flying ant, also known as a winged carpenter ant.
This type of insect only develops wings when they are sexually mature, meaning a flying ant is ready to breed. Since winged carpenter ants swarm to mate, seeing one in your home could mean you’re in big trouble in no time. Unless you want a lot more ants in your house soon, it’s time to call an exterminator — and fast.
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Experts say that while it’s never ideal to see a winged carpenter ant in your home, you could have a particularly pressing problem if you see one in the winter. “In winter, especially in colder parts of the country, ants do not live and breed in the open air,” reports the FIR. “So if flying ants are seen in your house during the winter, it is very likely that the ants live in the structure of your house and, worse, it is very likely that there is a carpenter ant nest in the structure.”
On the other hand, if you see a winged ant in your house in the summer, it’s more likely that it flew into your house through an open window or a crack somewhere. Watch out for more bugs though, which can indicate a problem in any season.
Flying carpenter ants are often confused with termites – another type of insect that warrants a call to the exterminator. You can distinguish a flying carpenter ant from a termite by the dark color of its body, narrow waist, curved antennae and short hind wings. Termites are lighter in color, have no defined waist and have longer wings of uniform length.
You can also spot a carpenter ant problem by signs of damage in your home. “Of all ant species, carpenter ants are one of the most problematic. They can cause serious property damage to homes and other buildings,” explains the National Pest Management Association. “Carpenter ants get their name because they excavate wood to build their nests. Their excavation results in smooth tunnels in the wood. Like termites and other wood-destroying insects, this excavation can affect the structural soundness of the wood over time. “
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To get rid of winged ants in your home, experts from the FIR recommend a three-pronged approach: stop the immediate swarm, attack the colony, and deal with all the damage they’ve done.
Start by vacuuming any swarms of ants with a handheld vacuum or a full-sized vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment. Empty the vacuum cleaner bag immediately outside, preferably somewhere far from your house, so that they don’t just go back into the room.
Next, it’s time to get rid of the ants you can’t see – the ones behind your walls. To do this, experts say you can put an ant bait that they take back to the nest; this is usually made from borax, which disrupts an ant’s reproductive cycle, and a sweetener to lure the insects. Your exterminator may also spray an insecticidal substance into the nest, if you know where it is.
Finally, you will need to repair any damage they have already done to your home, as rotting wood is an ideal home for an ant colony. Once you’ve done that, you can finally say your home is yours again, and yours alone.
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