Carpenter Ants – A Safe Alternative Control Method

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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 Living in the mountains presents its own unique set of hazards. One of those hazards is carpenter ants.  In the Spring when they emerge from their nests; usually dead tree stumps or rotting wood  which are on the ground and holds moisture, they migrate in search of breeding new nests and colonies. You will suddenly notice carpenter ants all over the ground and crawling on everything. Their size ranges anywhere from a half inch to  one inch long, black in color and while some have wings others do not have wings or will shed their wings. We like to discourage them from hanging around the house area for fear they will find a suitable spot for a new nest. There is always some moisture around a home, either the foundation, septic tank or my garden which is watered regularly plus a host of other areas that may be  attractive to  them.  

To spray them with toxic sprays and chemicals has potential risk for our dogs and us.  Therefore we use a natural component that is non toxic to animals and humans but highly effective on insects.  In fact it is so effective that when sprinkled two days ago there are now no signs of any carpenter ants.   We use diatomaceous earth also known as diatomite.  It is ground into a very fine powder (finer than talcum powder) and when sprinkled where hard bodied  insects like carpenter ants frequent it seems to be magnetically drawn  to their bodies and the fine powder then absorbs lipids from the exoskeleton of the insect and they dehydrate and die.  Because it is also a mild abrasive it causes minute cuts to the exoskeleton and facilitates or speeds up the dehydration process.   
It is effective as an insecticide on most  insects with a hard exoskeleton, and  presents no harm to pets or humans. We use it in our garden also.    If you want to see instant results on eliminating insects when you use diatomaceous earth you may be disappointed because it takes time to kill the insect through dehydration.  After an area is sprinkled however, you should see some results in a couple days as mentioned above.  It is the sensible alternative to using harmful chemicals and toxic sprays that also have the potential to harm non target species. 
What amazes me is that some people move to the mountains, build a cozy log cabin, cover the outside with linseed oil (effective for keeping moisture out but also in) refuse to cut trees growing right next to their home, and stack their firewood right up against the side of the house or on/under the deck. More accessible and  convenient for them  and they don’t have to walk far or shovel to get to it in the winter, but all perfect habitat for carpenter ants. Then when they see saw dust cascading out of holes in the log walls they  wonder how the ants gravitated to their home in the first place. The option now is for  them to call the local pest control company.The professional pest control company will come out  and fill their walls, foundation and home with toxin’s and chemicals that can cause cancer or illness to them and their pets but will kill ants almost instantly, which is why it is often recommended that you stay away from the treated house for several hours or days   It seems to me that some people would be much better suited to remain in cities where they don’t have to concern themselves with coping with natural perils like carpenter ants. It has been my observation that carpenter ants do not thrive very well  in asphalt and cement like they do in a more native habitat.  Besides I suspect that there have already been so many chemicals sprayed in cities that no self respecting carpenter ant would want to try to live there. I know many people who have weekly chemical pest control done without a thought of the harm it does. I’m not against pest control companies, but how many people go to the store and buy chemicals to spray and never read the label, and just spread it around without a thought?  At least pest control companies will warn you against the potential hazards or at least most of them. Okay, I’ll step down from my soap box..
So if you don’t care to deal with or take appropriate  preventive measures when it comes to  carpenter ants, don’t move to where they live and thrive and expect to change the environment that so many of us love just like it is.  These ants have been here for  millions of years and if they are an inconvenience or threat that you don’t want to struggle with I suggest you stay in an asphalt and cement environment where you can avoid them. Please don’t move to the mountains where many of us have learned to co-exist with everything in our habitat and then try to pave our mountains to get rid of them  or bring your toxic and poisonous sprays with you in an effort to recreate the city environment.  If you want to prevent them in the first place,  a sensible way is to purchase some diatomaceous  earth (DE), sprinkle them and their concentrations when they appear, and then do the same the following year and the years after that.  DE is cheap and very effective and totally non toxic. It is easy to find by doing a search on the internet or most local garden stores will have a supply.  We prefer the food grade variety and you might want to consider an applicator to go with it because of its fine consistency it can be hard to properly apply otherwise.  
So as an alternative I recommend that you consider DE as a sensible non toxic alternative to chemicals.