Flying and crawling insects can pose a serious problem for the homeowner. Some destroy building materials and others carry disease and  contaminate food sources.

Recognizing the insect and being aware of the damage they can do, and knowing what extermination methods are most effective, can reduce the risk of infestation.

Carpenter Ants:  In natural surroundings, carpenter ants are beneficial insects since they accelerate the decomposition process of dead trees and also feed on other insects. They are the largest of the domestic common ant, measuring from 6-13mm in length for  the brown or black workers, and more than 25mm for the queen. In late spring and early summer, mature colonies have wings and swarm in mating flights of ten, making a nuisance of themselves in and around homes. Unlike termites, they do not eat wood as a food source.

Location: Carpenter ants are especially common in the Northeast, including Ontario, and the Pacific northwest. Carpenter ants excavate damp wood to create a nest site. They also nest in untreated insulation materials. Carpenter ants will rarely do extensive damage to wood. The worker ants forage several hundred meters for food sources. Carpenter ants usually locate their nests in moist wood near a water source, such as a leaky roof, leaking or sweating pipes or behind or under a dishwasher.

Control : By locating the nest and using an insecticide, they can be eliminated. If the nest is not visible, sugar, honey or jam can be placed where the ants have been seen.They will gorge themselves and then return to the nest.(feeding occurs mostly in the evening, so a red or yellow filtered flash light works best for observation, as they do not disturb the ants). Another tell tale sign is the  sawdust-like grass that they eject from  the nest. They also make an audible sound while  excavating  that  can  be  heard  by humans. By spraying an insecticide directly into the nest or in a crevice close to the location, most colonies can be eliminated. When the nest cannot be located, the entire building is usually treated with insecticide.

Prevention:  Remove decaying wood from around buildings and store fire wood outdoors away from direct soil contact in well ventilated conditions. Ensure good drainage around the building so that wooden parts stay dry. Repair or replace leaky water and drainage pipes. Store food in closed containers and keep kitchen counters  and shelves clean of sugars and syrups.

Termites: Though there are several types of termites in North America, the most common in Ontario is the subterranean termite.

Termites, unlike Carpenter ants, actually feed on the wood itself. Workers can be recognized by their creamy white colour and are less than 10mm long. Swarmers have wings and are dark brown to black in colour and can be as long as 10mm. The soldiers  have neither eyes nor wings, are similar to the workers, are creamy white in colour and have enlarged heads and are sometimes brown in color.

Location:  Termites usually nest in the soil, but occasionally in humid conditions, above the ground. Subterranean termites make tunnels or tubes of soil and excretions that act  as a protection and gateway to the food source. Termites must maintain  regular contact with the soil, as they need the moisture to survive. These tunnels are a very distinctive clue to termite  infestation. They attack wet or dry wooden structures within the reach of the soil.  The damaged wood will resemble the pages of a book.

As a general rule, termites are found at or near ground level. Only seldom do they occur above the level of the first floor. Anywhere that wood is in close contact to the earth, termite damage can occur. Basements and crawl spaces  are especially  vulnerable.

Control and Extermination: Cavities in wood which are not visible from the surface can be located by tapping on the wood and listening for the hollow sound. Cavities can be detected by probing the wood with a tool such as a screwdriver or a pocket knife. Failure to locate termites in the tubes does not mean that they are not present in the structure.

Where the tunnels are moist and strong, termites are active. Extermination should be handled by a professional. The chemical treatment can be expected to last up to 20 years. It is injected into the soil around the building, through the basement floor and foundation, as well as through any posts or other penetrations. This creates a chemical envelope around the house.  The cost of treatment varies, but it typically is $1,200 plus the cost of any wood/soil breakage.

Powder Post and Furniture Beetles: These beetles are wide spread in Ontario and may cause serious damage to buildings, wood floors, furniture and wooden equipment. Furniture beetle infest softwood and hardwood, but powder post beetles infest seasoned hardwood. The first evidence of infestation by these insects is usually the appearance  of small holes, the size of a pinhead. The colony is capable of reducing the wood to an intricate network of tunnels, until the wood becomes as fragile as honeycomb. The surface of the wood may appear sound, but the value of the timber is destroyed. Floors   and other surfaces kept well waxed, painted or varnished are less liable to be attacked. The beetles emerge in late May and June, and for proper extermination, the wood should never be used for construction. It should be fumigated by a licensed operator, or by chemical treatment.

Carpenter Bees resemble bumble bees except that they have a smooth body and not a fuzzy one. They excavate brood galleries in seasoned wood. They can be found across Ontario, but rarely do extensive damage. The frass is coarse and fibrous like carpenter ants. They usually are found in vulnerable wooden areas, like under the eaves, and can be seen entering and leaving the galleries.

Carpenter Moths lay their eggs on the bark of trees. They enter buildings in infested lumber or firewood. They are not likely to remain within a building structure, and do not  re-infest after emergence.