Identification & Treatment

  • Carpenter ants can be very destructive to a home or any other building, but how can you know if your house is infested, and what can you do to get rid of this damaging ant? Start by taking a close look to positively identify the ants and checking for signs of infestation, then eradicate the ant colony and correct the problems that likely invited the ants in the first place.

Carpenter Ants are easiest to identify with a magnifying glass. But to do this, you first have to catch one of the quick insects so that you can hold it still under the magnifying glass to examine it. Here's how to catch and examine an ant:

  • Collect one of the ants into a small  container with a lid, and put on the lid.
  • Place the entire container, with the ant, in the freezer for a few minutes.
  • Remove the container from the freezer and the ant from the container. Place the ant on a plain surface so you are are looking at its profile.
  • Look for two distinct characteristics:
    —a smooth rounded back with no humps.
    —a tiny pyramid, or pedicel, at its waist.
    If you see these, you will know you are looking at a carpenter ant. Note: carpenter ants can be of various sizes—from very large to very small—so the size of the ant does not matter.:

Carpenter Ant Behavior

Carpenter ants do not eat the wood in which they nest but rather chew it with their very large mandibles to create galleries and connecting tunnels to nest in (termites, by contrast, do eat the wood in which they nest). The ants damage structures through the excavation of their extensive galleries and tunnels.

Carpenter ants tend to nest outdoors in dead and decaying wood, such as hollow and rotting trees, old stumps, and even firewood. They can also nest in homes and buildings, in enclosed areas where the wood is damp, wet, or decayed. If infestations grow, the carpenter ant colony may expand into sound wood. These ants have also been found in foam insulation. They usually have more than one nesting site, including a parent and satellite colonies.

Carpenter ants feed on proteins and sugars, such as meats, sweets (syrup, honey, jelly, etc.), and honeydew produced by aphids. The ants may forage in the home for food, but this will occur primarily at night in the spring and summer. They can't sting, but they can inflict painful bites with their powerful jaws, and they will spray formic acid into the wound, causing a burning sensation.

How to Know if You Have an Infestation

You may have an infestation if you have seen the ants in your home or building during the late autumn, winter, or early spring. However, one or two in the spring or summer does not necessarily mean that you a problem. Be aware that what look like flying ants emerging from your home in the spring may, in fact, be termites. Ants found in or near wet or spongy wood, particularly around leaky pipes, drains, walls or roofing, are likely to be carpenter ants.


Carpenter Ant Control

Carpenter ants are controlled with chemical or bait treatments, but the most effective and lasting form of control is replacing any wet and damaged wood in which the carpenter ants are nesting and to repair the conditions causing the damage, such as roofing or plumbing leaks or other moisture issues.

To help prevent future infestation, eliminate any direct contact between the structure and surrounding soil, plants, or mulch. For example, trim trees and shrubs away from the home or building, keep any wood materials from contacting soil, seal cracks and openings in the foundation, and store firewood well away from the home.

If the infestation seems to be extensive, you are having difficulty finding or exterminating the ants, or you just don't want to do it yourself, contact a pest control professional.