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How to get rid of carpenter ants

Although carpenter ants don’t spread disease, they can be a considerable nuisance and can cause damage to your home. Often confused with termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood, but they do tunnel through it to build nests. They can be difficult to locate and require professional treatment because of the damage they can cause to wood elements and foam insulation in your home.

Confirming that your house is being infested by carpenter ants is crucial to successfully clear your home of these wood-destroying pests. Carpenter ants require specialized ant solutions that differ from other types of ants.


What are carpenter ants?

Carpenter ants are one of the largest ant species found in the United States. They are usually most active during the spring and summer months and they forage for food at night. They vary in color but are generally black or dark-bodied.

Carpenter ants range in size from ¼ - ¾ inch in length. There are three size classes of these ants, each with different job classifications. The major workers are the largest ants in a colony and contain most of the large soldier ants. These workers have a number of duties, including feeding the queen and larvae and defending the nest. Media carpenter ants are mid-sized ants and minors are the smallest size category. Media and minor ants do most of the food gathering and colony construction. Carpenter ants feed on living and dead insects as well as anything people consume.

Winged carpenter ants (also known as ‘swarmers’) are sometimes mistaken for termites. These are winged ants that leave the colonies to mate and start their own colonies. Larger than the average carpenter ant, swarmers are 3/4 inch in size. If you spot carpenter ant swarmers, it may be an indication that a colony is located nearby.

Where do carpenter ants live?

Carpenter ants create parent nests and satellite nests in decaying, moist wood. The parent nest holds the ant queen and eggs and is typically found outdoors. The satellite nests include worker ants. For black carpenter ants, multiple satellite nests can be present in separate spots around your property. Their nests can be present indoors: in wood, voids of walls, and insulation, and outdoors: in stumps, firewood, and rotted fence posts. Sawdust with dead ants and parts of eaten insects can signify that carpenter ants may have made a nest in that area. It can, however, be difficult to find the nest for a couple of reasons:

  • Carpenter ants are nocturnal. You will often have to wait for nighttime to find a trail leading to the nest. However, carpenter ants do not tend to travel in large numbers, making a trail even harder to spot.
  • Carpenter ants don’t usually just set up one nest, but rather a whole series of ‘satellite’ nests, which ensures the colony’s survival even if one nest may be destroyed.

If a carpenter ant nest is inside your property, you will want to get it treated as soon as possible. Carpenter ants can do considerable damage to timber in your home. You should ensure that all the ants have been destroyed before you begin to replace any damaged wood in your home. For these reasons, we recommend that you contact a professional pest control company to get rid of the carpenter ants for you to be certain of a thorough and complete job.

Find the carpenter ant nest

Look for slits and holes in any wood parts of your property. Carpenter ants will often build nests in wood walls, cabinets, beams, hollow doors, and structural wood. They are also drawn to wood that is moist, so look for areas that are slightly damp.

Another telltale sign of a nearby nest is frass. Frass is the material that is left behind after carpenter ants dig into the wood. Frass is easily identified as it closely resembles small piles of sawdust.

Once you’ve found the general area of the nest, use a sugary fruit as bait nearby. A trail of carpenter ants will eventually form from the bait that you can follow back to their nest.

Destroy the nest

There are several ways to go about destroying the nest once you find it. The following are some of the most effective methods:

  • Use delta dust or drione pest insecticide – If the carpenter ant nest is located in an area you can reach, you can apply delta dust or drione pest insecticide directly to the nest to kill all of the carpenter ants. However, keep in mind that these types of chemical dusts do contain toxins, which means that if you have pets or children, you may want to avoid using this method.
  • Use diatomaceous earth – Diatomaceous earth is another type of dust that can be used to kill carpenter ants by applying it directly to their nest. However, unlike delta dust or drione pest insecticide, diatomaceous earth is natural and non-toxic, making it safer to use around children and pets.
  • Use boric acid bait – Pick up some boric acid from your local garden store, combine it with powdered sugar and place the mixture into bottle caps. Set these bottle caps around the area where the nest is. The ants will be attracted to the powdered sugar and will bring it back to their nest, where the boric acid will help to kill the rest of the ants. This ant removal method is effective if the nest is hidden.

One thing to keep in mind when tracking carpenter ants is to not spray them away from their nest. Carpenter ants can sense danger and may end up moving to a new location, which means you’ll have to start all over again.

Carpenter ant removal methods

Due to the structural damage carpenter ants can do, it is important to detect them early. Getting a carpenter ant inspection with Ehrlich is a smart way to see if you have an issue. A carpenter ant inspection includes examining walls outside your property along with those inside your attic and basement. Places with moisture and wood will be inspected as moisture makes wood weaker and therefore more vulnerable to attack.

Ehrlich Pest Control will utilize the below carpenter ant control methods depending on the specific nature of your infestation.

  • Dust material treatments - A very effective treatment method for carpenter ants indoors. Pesticidal dust materials both flush out hidden ant nests and remove the carpenter ants.
  • Nest & barrier treatments - The most common method of treatment for carpenter ants is the treatment of nests and barriers with residual insecticides.
  • Perimeter treatments - In addition to applying a treatment to any carpenter ant nests/barriers, a treatment is applied to the perimeter of your home with a liquid residual material.

Regular inspections of your home by a pest control professional are the best way to identify and prevent any issues in your home with carpenter ants or any other pest. The Ehrlich year-round protection plan offers regularly scheduled preventive services every four months. Contact your local Ehrlich office for more details on the year pound protection plan.


Signs of carpenter ants in your home

There are a number of signs that may indicate a carpenter ant problem in your home.

  • Winged carpenter ants (swarmers) - These will often emerge from around baseboards, window casings, or vents, usually in spring or summer. If you see any more than 20, it may indicate the presence of a large colony.
  • Noise - If you hear a crunching sound it could be the sound of rustling from carpenter nests in the wood of your home. Nests are usually built within wood structures and can also be found in wall or ceiling voids.
  • Sawdust - As nests become established in wood, carpenter ants often leave behind a trail of sawdust.

Damaged wood - Carpenter ants tunnel through wood to create their nests, creating "galleries" in wood, which have a clean, smooth, sandpapered appearance.

Prevent carpenter ant infestations

Carpenter ants often enter your home in an attempt to find food and they are particularly attracted to sweet substances. Below are a number of steps that you can take to prevent them from entering your home.

  • Always cover food and store food in containers.
  • Clean up food and liquid spills immediately.
  • Seal any cracks and crevices in your home which may serve as entryways.
  • Eliminate moisture problems in and around your home as carpenter ants prefer moist places to dry environments.
  • Replace any decayed wood as nests are often found in rotten wood.
  • Store firewood away from your home and keep it dry and elevated to allow air circulation. Firewood is one of the easiest ways to carry these ants into your home, so make sure you check the wood for signs of infestation.
  • Remove nearby rotting or dead trees in your backyard. These often provide ideal conditions for a carpenter ant nest.

Get rid of carpenter ants professionally

Ehrlich specialists have many years of experience in carpenter ant control. They understand carpenter ant habits and use that knowledge to develop a carpenter ant control program for your home.

Book a free inspection service online or over the phone at 800-837-5520.

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