While some ants are just a nuisance, others are more problematic. Carpenter ants are one species you don’t want taking up residence in your home or yard. We’ve gathered information to help you identify and eliminate a carpenter ant infestation.
What Are Carpenter Ants?
Carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) get their name from their excavation habits. These ants build nests in wood both indoors and outside. Though they remove wood when tunneling, they don’t eat it. Instead, these ants feed on plant juices, insects, honeydew, and crumbs from your sweets and meats.
How Do You Identify Carpenter Ants?
Depending on the species, carpenter ants will vary in color and size. In general, they range in size from ½ʺ-5/8ʺ. Most species are black but some are brown and can have a red tint. Carpenter ants have large mandibles that help them when tunneling. Their waist is pinched and they have two pairs of wings. The back pair of wings is shorter than the front pair.
Where Are Carpenter Ants Found?
Carpenter ants can be found throughout the United States. They construct their nests in wooden objects. They usually build nests in damp or rotting wood. They’ll also look for wood that has been damaged by other pests. After they begin tunneling, it’s possible these ants will move onto dry wood. Outside you can find their nests in trees, logs, and roots. If they’re in your home, they’ll be in an area with damp or damaged wood.
Why Am I Seeing Carpenter Ants in My Home?
Whenever pests enter your home, there’s usually a reason for their arrival. Here are a few reasons carpenter ants could be marching through your home.
Moisture Damage: Carpenter ants prefer wood that is damp or rotting. If you have a carpenter ant infestation, there’s a good chance moisture damage is present.
Foraging for Food: These ants may be in your home looking for food. Worker ants leave the nest to find food sources, which they then carry back to the nest to share with the colony.
A Nest is Nearby: Unfortunately, carpenter ants could be in your home because their nest is somewhere nearby in your home or yard.
Can Carpenter Ants be a Serious Problem?
When carpenter ants begin tunneling through wood, it weakens it. Their tunneling can result in cosmetic damage to your home. Carpenter ant colonies can become quite large. Some colonies will send workers to form a new nest known as a satellite colony. If carpenter ants go unnoticed, especially in large numbers, structural damage can occur. Carpenter ants are also known to bite. Though this isn’t typically serious, it is painful.
Carpenter Ants vs. Termites
Carpenter ants are sometimes confused for termites. Both pests damage wood, but they are different and should be controlled differently. Unlike carpenter ants, termites eat wood. Carpenter ants have wings with different lengths while termites have pairs of wings that are similar in length. Their antennae shape is different as well. Termites have straight antennae while carpenter ants have bent antennae.
Signs of a Carpenter Ant Infestation
Catching a carpenter ant infestation early is important to avoid damage to your home. Check out a few signs that these ants have invaded.
Ant Sightings: Worker ants will leave the nest to forage for food. Spotting these ants is the main sign of an infestation.
Finding Ant Wings: After mating, swarming carpenter ants lose their wings. Finding discarded wings near doors and windows is often a sign of an ant problem.
Wood Shavings: As carpenter ants tunnel, they remove wood and dead insects that are in their way. These wood shavings are called frass and can be found near walls, on the floor, and under wooden objects.
Hollow Wood: The longer carpenter ants go unnoticed, the more damage they produce. To check for this damage, tap your walls and see if it sounds hollow.
Small Holes in Wood: Though most carpenter ants are hidden, the ants may leave behind small clues to their presence. Finding small, round holes in wood can indicate a carpenter ant infestation. This hole is used to remove wood debris from their nests.
Can You Hear Carpenter Ants in Your Walls?
It’s possible that you’ll hear carpenter ants crawling around in your walls. The process of tunneling can cause rustling noises. It’s often heard at night coming from behind woodwork or walls. Carpenter ants also make rustling noises when disturbed to communicate with others in the colony. Tap any areas where you suspect they are hiding, and then listen.
How do I find a Carpenter Ant nest?
Locating the nest will be helpful in eliminating the infestation. Here are a few tips for finding the location of the nest.
Check Damp Areas: Check your home and yard for spots where moisture accumulates. When examining the interior of your home the wood near doors, windows, sinks, showers, and appliances should be inspected.
Look for Signs of Infestation: If you spot holes in wood or unexplained piles of sawdust, there’s a good chance a nest is nearby.
Listen for Them: If you notice rustling noises, see if you can find the source. Tap your walls to see if you can locate hollow areas.
Follow Their Trails: If you come across a trail of foraging ants, follow them. There’s a good chance they will lead you to the nest. Carpenter ants are most active in the evening, so this will be your best chance to spot them.
How Do You Prevent Carpenter Ants?
Preventing a pest problem is always easier than fighting an infestation. Check out a few things you can do to keep carpenter ants away.
Eliminate Moisture: Carpenter ants need moisture to survive and build nests. Eliminating moisture build-up and water damaged wood is important. Check your home for leaky pipes, ensure gutters work properly, and use a dehumidifier in areas where moisture tends to accumulate.
Trim Trees & Shrubs: Make sure plants and tree branches aren’t touching the side of your home. Carpenter ants use these as a bridge that allows them easy access to your home. You’ll also want to keep firewood several feet from your home.
Perimeter Treatment: Spraying the perimeter of your yard with a plant-based insecticide spray, like our Yard Bug Spray, can help prevent these ants. It has repellent properties that act as a barrier helping to deter ants from entering your yard.
How Do You Get Rid of Carpenter Ants?
There are different approaches to getting rid of carpenter ants depending on the severity of the infestation.
Sprays: Sprays can be used indoors and outdoors, work well as a spot treatment for ants you see, and they also work well on a Carpenter ant nest, especially if it is exposed (more visible areas to spray). Maggie's Farm Ant & Roach Killer spray not only kills Carpenter ants, it also kills other species of ants, bed bugs, cockroaches, spiders, ticks, fleas, and a variety of other crawling pests.
Bait: Baiting is generally the best long-term solution for any ant problem, as it can kill off an entire colony, rather than just the ants you can see. Workers consume the bait and take it back home to share with other ants, eventually killing off the entire colony.
Dusts: Dusts also work well as an ant contact killer, if you can find the colony/nest. Try Maggie's Farm Spider & Insect Dust. For Carpenter ants, cover the nest with dust and gently puff dust into the nest entrance, doing your best not to disturb the nest. Repeat a few days later if there is still ant activity.
You May Need to Call a Professional
There's a lot you can do yourself to help manage Carpenter ants you may find in your home or yard. If an ant invasion is more than you are able to handle, call a pest control professional.
Remember, a large and long lasting infestation can result in serious damage to your home!
How do you control Carpenter ants? We want to hear from you! Leave us a comment below!
For scientifically-tested, effective Carpenter ant control in your home, yard, and garden that is friendly to the environment, try Maggie’s Farm pest control products. Our promise is that our plant and mineral-based products are developed by scientists and seasoned pest control professionals to be the most effective.