Blog : Roommates Unwanted: Protecting Your Home from Carpenter Ants

By Craig | Apr 3, 2014 | in

April begins carpenter ant season here in New England, where ants are the most commonly reported pest. Tens of thousands of homes in New Hampshire are affected, causing millions of dollars of damage nationwide. Even seeing just one ant can mean an infestation. According to Tom Pray of Ecotech Pest Control, if there's one there's probably more. Lots more.

"You might see 20 one day, and none the next. But if you’re seeing them around the house, you have a nest in the house," says Pray.

Pray is the Sherlock Holmes of the insect world. Instead of solving murder mysteries, Pray specializes in solving insect enigmas. He searches homes for clues: where are insects coming from? How much damage have they caused and what's the best way to get rid of them? For Pray this is what makes the job exciting: every day is new and solving a customer's problem is what brings him satisfaction.

Soft spoken and calculated, Pray brings his education in entomology, along with over 25 years of experience to each job. Launched in 2000, Ecotech Pest Control Services aim is to help homeowners not only combat pest problems without using harsh chemicals, but by managing the environment responsible for fostering the infestation. Because of his background, Pray's confidence in pest control exudes a calm over his customers as he educates them about the most effective and sustainable approaches in safe guarding their property.

As a Business Partner of Green Alliance, Pray wears his sustainability credentials on his sleeve. Like all GA businesses, Ecotech has been green certified, and to date is the only pest control to become a member. The Portsmouth-based organization seeks to connect green-minded consumers with businesses who share the same values. That sustainability analysis is transparent and available to the public on Ecotech’s page on the Green alliance website.

Ecotech’s approach is green indeed. “As with all pest problems my first instinct is to disrupt the community and do it with as few chemicals as is possible." In addition to this Pray explains that the plan of attack for carpenter ants and most insects is “ Fully understanding their habits and life-cycle."

Homes are just satellite nests for carpenter ants. Usually, on a property, there is a main nest where the queen resides, sending out workers as scouts looking for other sites to provide shelter and to be used as incubators for the larvae that will become workers. You can sometimes see the workers carry the larva from one nest location to another.

"I've seen activity so heavy, the ants cut a swath through the grass because they traveled so much between the house and a tree," said Pray.

Large wooden structures, like houses, garages or barns, are excellent locations for ants to set up shop and often they will create multiple nests within one home. The ants usually source from a homeowner’s property, such as wood piles, or rotting trees. Those elements provide breeding grounds for the ants and serve as a launching point for queens to send workers on scouting missions to expand their colonies.

"The treatment I put down in the spring prevents that worker from coming up the foundation and finding your house and going back and telling everybody," said Pray.

The treatment Pray refers to is much like flea and tick medication for pets such as Frontline or Advantix. It's one of the ways he keeps his treatments safe for both humans and pets. But it’s really the integrated and holistic approach Pray takes to fully solving the pest problem rather than just treating it or putting a Band-Aid on. This means understanding the full life-cycle of the pest and using creative and thorough ways to disrupt that cycle.

Unlike termites, who eat wood constantly, carpenter ants are diggers, not eaters. An indication a home has an infestation is sawdust. Pray sees sawdust from carpenter ants 10 percent of the time and says it can be difficult to find if the sawdust is expelled outside, or falls inside of a wall void. But just because they don't eat wood in 24-hour cycles like termites, doesn't mean they're less harmful. Known by their Latin name, Camponotus pennsylvanicus, the large, all-black ants that are familiar are the most destructive. Because of their body size, these ants burrow larger pathways through wood.

“I had one guy who was going outside one morning to enjoy his cup of coffee, and when he stepped out on the deck it just gave way," said Pray. "Luckily it was only a few feet off the ground, but the ants had single-handedly detached the deck from the house.”

Though Pray enjoys his work, he is adamant about homeowners being proactive when it comes to protecting their home from invasion. Precautions are easy: cut tree branches away from the roof, never lay mulch directly against the foundation and shovel soil away from wood along the home. Long standing exposure to moisture can cause wood rot, which Pray refers to as an environmental cue for the ants to start a nest site.

“It’s always a challenge, and you have to remember that you’re dealing with people’s homes - their biggest investment,” he says. “But it’s worth it when you solve the problem and give someone back the peace of mind and the realization that something they believed was out of their control really isn’t at all – it’s totally in their control.”

Learn more about Ecotech at www.echotechpc.net

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