Yellow Jackets | Flying, Stinging Insect Specialists | Acton, MA

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Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are among the largest ants. There are several species of carpenter ants that may be found infesting homes and other buildings. Winged queen ants may be as large as one inch. However, size is not a reliable characteristic to identify carpenter ants. Ants are divided into different castes, i.e. workers, queens, and males. The best method to separate carpenter ants from other ants is by the following characteristics: a waist with one node and a thorax with an evenly rounded upper surface.

Carpenter ants differ from termites by having dark-colored bodies, narrow waists, elbowed or bent antennae, and if present, hind wings shorter than front wings. Carpenter ants feed on sources of protein and sugar. Outdoors, carpenter ants feed on living and dead insects. Indoors, carpenter ants feed on meats, as well as syrup, honey, sugar, jelly, and other sweets. Carpenter ants DO NOT eat wood. They remove wood as they create galleries and tunnels.


Carpenter ants nest in moist wood including rotting trees, tree roots, tree stumps, and logs or boards lying on or buried in the ground. They can also nest in moist or decayed wood inside buildings. Wood decay may be caused by exposure to leaks, condensation, or poor air circulation. Nests have been found behind bathroom tiles; around tubs, sinks, showers, and dishwashers; under roofing, in attic beams, and under subfloor insulation; and in hollow spaces such as doors, curtain rods, and wall voids. Carpenter ants may also nest in foam insulation.


Carpenter ants damage wood by excavating and creating galleries and tunnels. These areas are clean and they do not contain sawdust or other debris, and are smooth, with a well-sanded appearance. It is common to find carpenter ants in homes during spring. You may also see carpenter ant swarms. When carpenter ant nests are indoors, mating swarms become trapped inside. Finding large numbers of winged ants indoors is a sure sign that an indoor nest exists and may give the approximate location of the colony.


Finding one to several winged queens does not automatically mean a nest is present indoors. It is more likely the queens have just mated and have entered the home, searching for nesting sites. Wingless queens found walking indoors are new queens that have recently shed their wings but are still searching for nesting sites. They are not an indication of an indoor nest.


Workers may become active during winter if the nest receives sufficient warmth from sunlight, mild outdoor temperatures, or from indoor heat. It is not clear whether just a few workers break dormancy or the entire nest becomes active. When ants are active during winter they will forage at night, searching for moisture. Common places to sight them are cabinets, sinks, dishwashers, rolled-up towels, bathroom tubs, sinks, toilet areas, or other places where moisture is abundant. On a bright sunny day, ants may be seen walking randomly through different areas of the house.


It is also possible for a carpenter ant nest to exist in a house during winter but not be noticed. If the nest exists at a site that does not receive sufficient indoor heat or sunshine, e.g. a north-facing outside wall, the ants will remain dormant until spring.


An important method for preventing carpenter ant problems indoors is to eliminate high moisture conditions that are attractive to them. Also, replace any moisture-damaged wood. Be careful that wood or lumber that is stored in a garage or near the house is kept dry and, if possible, elevated to allow air circulation.


Store firewood as far away from buildings as possible. Remove tree and shrub stumps and roots. Trim branches that overhang the home. Prune branches that touch electrical lines or other wires that are connected to the house; carpenter ants can travel from branches to lines and use them like a highway to buildings.


The best method to control carpenter ants is to locate and destroy the nest, replace damaged or decayed wood, and, if they exist, eliminate moisture problems. Eliminating a carpenter ant nest is a difficult and challenging task. Parameter treatments keep ants out and people inside! We at Bee Busters, Inc. do not believe in spraying your baseboards but rather treat chemically outside unless indoor treatment is needed. Indoor treatment can consist of poking holes in walls as needed or going to the extreme and exposing a nest by cutting the wall open. Also, we may suggest ant bait gel, ant traps or a combination of the two. We openly suggest an ant parameter treatment for any kind of ant problem because it works!


Often carpenter ant nests found indoors are satellite nests that can be traced back to a parent colony outdoors in trees, stumps, roots, fence posts, landscape timbers, and other wood structures. When possible, remove wood that contains carpenter ant nests, or destroy the colony. A treatment with a residual insecticide around the building’s exterior helps keep them out of your home.

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Understand the difference of European and Brown Hornets

  • Build in protected areas such as hollow trees, hollow posts, shed partitions, barns, porches, and attics

  • Mature nests consist of 6 to 8 horizontal combs with a papery covering

  • Nests can be very large (2 to 3-feet in length, 20-inches in diameter) and can have 800 to 1000 or more workers

  • Nests are annual and die out in winter

  • Hornets have a large stinger and a large poison sac, the stings can be very painful

  • Try to locate the next by watching flight patterns to and from an area

  • Hornets abandon their nest at the end of each year

  • A single queen starts a new nest in the spring with few workers. Limited damage to nest area is noticed in early spring due to the minimal size. At the end of summer, however, these nests produce more damage and are easily spotted either visually or by the amount of workers flying to and from the hive entrance

european brown hornets
  • Stout hornet is approximately 1-inch long

  • Color of head and thorax is dark reddish brown with deep yellow and brown markings on the abdomen. Abdomen markings are similar to those of yellow jackets

  • Resembles the Cicada Killer wasp but is more robust and has more hair on the thorax and abdomen

  • Damage is most extensive in late summer and early fall when large colonies have developed