Ants in the winter?

Ever wonder what’s going on when you find ant activity in the dead of the winter? It’s usually a sure sign that you’ve got a nest somewhere in your home!

Every year around January and February we get a rash of calls from homeowners across central NY about ant activity in their homes. Of course no one likes to see uninvited six legged house guests in their bathrooms or kitchens, but when you see these little workers foraging in your home in the winter, you know you’ve got a problem.

Two species of ants account for the lions share of wintertime ant sightings, the black Carpenter Ant (camponotus Pensylvanicus) and the Pavement Ant (Tetramorium caespitum).

Big Black Ants

When you find “big black ants” in the home in the winter, you’ve got Carpenter Ants. Their presence is an indication that a nest has been established within the home. Even in the deepest coldest months of the upstate NY winter, enough warmth can stir the workers in one of these nests to activity. Often these winter time nest locations can be within south or west facing walls, window and door frames, or even up in eaves and attic crawlspaces. Because Carpenter Ants are so adaptable, almost no part of a home that has the right environmental conditions, is safe from the potential nesting activity of carpenter ants. In the winter however, the nest location is almost always in an area of the home that either receives plenty of sun or is warmed by the homes heating system.

Don’t fret however, you may just have a satellite colony! Carpenter Ants are known to maintain several satellite colonies for each brood nest. A brood nest is where the queen lives and the initial stages of reproduction take place. A satellite colony may have the later stages of development, most notably pupa, and a number of workers to maintain the colony. Satellite colonies are typically smaller than brood nests, though they may also destroy timber elements of your home. Satellite colonies can be established MUCH quicker (in as little as a week in some cases) and are most often the nest type that we find responsible for wintertime activity. I suspect (based on years of observation and no independent research!) that many of these satellite colonies are established in the fall to allow next spring’s reproductives (winged ants) to pupate. I base this on the fact that we often find winged reproductives in the very early spring in these nest sites, often right after the snow has melted. It is unlikely that these highly immobile (while crawling) winged ants entered the structure in the spring, therefor they must have been brought in by workers in the fall.

“What about the tiny brown ants?”

The other common winter ant invader is the Pavement Ant. These tiny red-ish brown to black colored ants are often found around kitchens and bathrooms. It goes by many common names like sugar ants, grease ants, and various other more unsavory names we won’t repeat in sorted company! Unlike Carpenter Ants, Pavement Ants are soil nesting ants. They are not destructive to structural elements of the home but can present a major nuisance to the structures occupants. Being a soil nesting insect, we often begin searching for wintertime nest locations where foundation slab or basement floor areas remain warm all winter long. In commercial buildings these ants often nest where water and drain or utility lines penetrate the slab foundation.

Control of Pavement Ants during the winter can present some interesting challenges. Due to their preferred nesting locations, a direct pesticide application can be somewhere between difficult and impossible. few homeowners appreciate drilling into a concrete floor to treat an ant colony! The most common application technique for Pavement Ants is a baiting program. They are readily controlled by gel and granular formulated baits during the spring, summer and fall. The problem with wintertime bait programs is that a very small percentage of the workers are ever active. This means that very little bait will ever make it to the colony. It is conceivable that the bait looses it’s effectiveness (because it dries out or becomes less competitive against other food sources) before enough ants become active with their springtime foraging duties. This means that often, treatments for pavement ants made in the winter require follow-up applications in the spring when the rest of the colony becomes active.

If you are seeing ants anytime when we have snow on the ground, its a good idea to call a professional for an inspection and service recommendations.

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What are wasp nests made of?

Here you can see the effects of wasp foraging for nest building resources.

Here, you can see the effects of wasps foraging for nest building resources. The light colored spots on this beam are from wasps chewing bits of wood to make their paper nests.

It’s mid summer and you are enjoying the warm weather on your back deck. You notice an impressive number of wasps lingering around the deck railings on the sunny side of your home. You are alarmed and assume that there must be a wasp nest that needs your attention in the area. After a cautious inspection of the area you turn up nothing. So what the heck is going on here?

This is a scenario that we are faced with every season. What you are observing is likely wasps foraging for nesting material. Most people don’t realize that wasp nests are made of wood pulp that they have gathered from the surrounding environment.

In the wild, this foraging happens on trees and woody plant material. In a residential neighborhood however, often the best wood resource often is weathered wood of decks, sheds, swing sets and fence lines. This brings wasps into close contact with people and causes all kinds of anxiety. In most circumstances wasps engaged in this activity are not highly aggressive and  pose little real threat.

What can I do to prevent this?

The best option is to seal the exposed wood with heavy exterior paint. Wasps prefer to utilize weathered and unprotected wood, covering this wood with paint or equivalent sealants will significantly reduce the availability of this resource. This is almost always our first recommendation.

The second option, though not ideal, is to treat the wood surfaces with a highly repellant pesticide.  This can be effective for wood surfaces where sealing/painting is not possible or practical. This type of pesticide application will provide relief temporarily but may require re treatments to maintain its efficacy. If you attempt this treatment protocol yourself, as always – READ THE PESTICIDE LABEL, IT’S THE LAW! There are no “safe” or “non-toxic” pesticides.

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4 Signs You’ve Got Bed Bugs!

Captured in a single square inch, here you can see all four of the indications of a Bed Bug infestation

Captured in a single square inch, here you can see all four of the indications of a Bed Bug infestation

These days it’s one of the most common questions I’m asked when I am giving a presentation to an audience; “How do I know if I have Bed Bugs?” Here’s what I look for when performing an inspection or before staying in a hotel bed.

#1 Live Bed Bugs


A live nymph or adult Bed Bug is “smoking gun” evidence that there is a problem. Adult Bed Bugs are small but visible with the naked eye. The one pictured here has the common red/amber hue, but they can also appear milky to clear especially when in the nymph stage.


#2 Blood Droppings


Bed Bugs will leave small black “dots” of blood droppings in the areas where they spend time. Look for these around mattress seems, night stands and headboards. The presence of blood droppings indicates, at the very least, a history of Bed Bug activity in or around the bed in question.


#3 Cast Skins


As a Bed Bug grows from nymph to adult it sheds its exoskeleton several times. These cast skins are often left behind in areas that the insect frequents. Finding cast skins indicates that Bed Bugs have been present and developing in the area for some time.


#4 Bed Bug Eggs


These are much harder to locate because of there small size and clear to milky white color. They will often be clustered in seems and areas that Bed Bugs are resting in between feedings. This is the worst of all to find since it indicates active breeding in the area.



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What is your advice on ridding my house of ladybugs?

What is your advice on ridding my house of ladybugs? I want something safe for kids and something that my daughter won’t notice…she loves them! – Sarah

Large accumulations of Cluster Flies, Ladybugs and Box Elder Bugs can pose a major problem to your home.

Large accumulations of Cluster Flies, Ladybugs and Box Elder Bugs can pose a major problem to your home.

Great question!

Why are ladybugs getting into my home?

Insects, like cluster flies, box elder bugs, stink bugs and the loveable lady bug or Asian Lady Beetle, have this annoying habit of moving into our eaves, window frames, behind siding, etc. to find shelter from the the approaching winter. This starts to happen about the time when school starts up again in September each year.

All too often, many of these insects become lost and accidentally find their way into your home. As long as these “over-wintering” insects aren’t found in huge quantities you should not worry about them. However, if you have a large buildup of these insects (like those in the above picture) you could face several problems including secondary infestations from Dermestid Beetles, or even food resources being provided for rodents.

So what can be done?

The first step we recommend is exclusion. The following exclusion measures should be done in June or July – before over-wintering insects begin to find suitable locations.

  1. Screen off soffit vents to prevent access of over-wintering insects
  2. Seal cracks and crevices around window and door frames
  3. Ensure that all window screens are tight fitting and in good repair
  4. Screen off window weep holes
  5. Fix loose fitting siding wherever possible

Because total exclusion is often impractical, an exterior preventive application of a highly repellent residual pyrethroid can be extremely effective. This application should be provided between August 15th and September 15th. This treatment is highly effective at discouraging over-wintering insects from choosing your home in the first place. When choosing a service provider for this type of application be sure to confirm that they are using appropriate application techniques like low pressure application equipment (60 PSI or less) for all of their work. This will ensure that there will be little if any over-spray or drift that might endanger kids, pets or the environment – plus it’s the law!

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Spring is Carpenter Ant Season. 5 Steps to Protect Your Home Now!


Are you seeing large black ants in your home this spring? You’re not alone! Here in Syracuse, NY ants are a common issue that homeowners face every spring. The presence of unwanted ants are annoying enough to most, but what causes the most concern is the damage that may be done by Carpenter Ants specifically. Here’s a few things to consider to help make these unwanted house guests feel unwelcome…

1. Solve Plumbing Problems: Carpenter ants love humid, enclosed environments. That water leak you solved last year may still be providing enough humidity in the structural timbers of your home to provide the perfect environment for an ant colony. Solve the water issues and dry out anything that has a greater than 60% humidity.

2. Eliminate Vegetation Against Structures: Most homes have landscaping that has overgrown its space and is making contact with the structure. Cut back ALL vegetation that touches your house. Ants have this troublesome proclivity to walk on these bridges as convenient pathways onto your home. Don’t make their job so easy!

3. Reduce Cover: Remove all piles of leaves, firewood, bramble and other debris that may have been placed or accumulated around the foundation of your home. Don’t forget about the build up of years of re-mulching your landscaping as these layers of decaying plant material provide fantastic habitat.

4. Check Windows and Doors: The frame of doors and windows are one of the most common locations for water intrusion and thus, provide great nesting sites for Carpenter Ants. Pay special attention to your front door and sliding glass doors. Look for failing or improperly installed flashing that may allow water damage to go unidentified for years.

5. Check Overhead: Roof valleys, vent penetrations and gutters that no longer drain are bountiful ant habitat. Look for sagging roof lines, water leaks or shingles with moss growing on them. A weak roof could become catastrophic with the rite amount of time and some industrious ants.

Keep a sharp eye on your home’s condition and you could stop many ant issues before they begin. If you find that even after your best efforts you are still having activity, please call us for a free site inspection for additional help.

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Finally Blogging!

Welcome to our first blog post…Thanks Amy!

Amy from “Tech Geekery” came by to help us set up our new blog. She was knowledgeable and patient! We would recommend their services to anyone needing help with IT infrastructure. Check out their site here…

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Welcome to Perimetek’s new Blog!!! We are very excited to launch this venture and we hope that you will find all of our content as useful and interesting as we do!

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