carpenter ant on a piece of wood

How to Kill and Get Rid of Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are given their name due to their salacious appetite for wood. They are often found in areas where trees and decayed lumber are readily available. However, this ant can also find its way into the average household too. Unlike termites, they do not eat wood, but they use the chewed out, dead timber to build their nests. You may find them in a tree’s trunk, where they have hollowed out a section to live. Wooden buildings and other structures are a common resting place for this widespread nuisance. Given time, they can cause major structural damage. There are over 1,000 different species of this insect, but the most common form found in the United States is the black carpenter ant.

Identifying Carpenter Ants


Before taking on any extermination process, you must identify what you are dealing with. There are many different types of ants, so you want to target the right type of treatment. You must move quickly as they spread very fast. To identify this insect, you must first look at their size. They are one of the largest species of ants. They have an antenna, and they are about 3/8”-1/2″ in length. In most cases, they will be red or black. Though there may be some shade variations depending on where you live. Their abdomen is oval, and their thorax is thin and boxy. In general, the worker ants do not have wings, but the male drones can have them.

The Habits of the Carpenter Ant


If you live in a wooden home, you are more apt to have an ant problem than those who live in other types of structures. The nature of this insect is to bore tiny tunnels into the wood, so a structure with cedar siding and wooden beams is very appetizing. Many times, these ants will build a network of colonies on the outside of the home. They go back and forth between these colonies through any cracks. Those that build colonies are often found in tree stumps, in landscaping timber, discarded wood piles, and any wood laden with moisture. It is easier to locate carpenter ant trails in the early morning hours. You can see the trails between the colonies as the ants are foraging. They leave tracks in a thin line.

Looking For Frass


As the ants tunnel back and forth, they leave a substance behind known as frass. This substance is like tiny wood shavings. When people see this sawdust, they often assume they have a termite problem. Within the frass substance is dead insects, and it can give you clues about their nesting location. If the piles of sawdust are inside the home, look for any wooden structures in or around the area. Take a screwdriver and probe around wooden pieces in that area. If the wood has been hollowed out the screwdriver will quickly detect it.

Finding Their Resting Place


You must know where to look for the activity, and it may be hard to find it. If you have carpet in the home, check around the doors and fireplaces. These areas allow the ants easy access to the outside. If you have a patio, check around any wooden beams. If you have a garden or other areas with lush vegetation, be sure to check for nests in and around these structures. Are there any old tree stumps or fallen branches in your yard? If so, these are a prime location to build a nest for an ant.

Once you spot ant activity, follow the ants back to their colony. This will give you a good indication of where you need to treat. Be careful in areas where there are mulch and leaf litter. Not only do carpenter ants love to nest here, but also fire and Argentine ants prefer this type of dwelling. Using a rake, remove the mulch down to the bare ground, it could help you uncover a nest. Any potted plants or compost bins are also highly attractive to the insects. Once you find their home, you can kill the ants with ease.

carpenter ant damage

wood truss destroyed by carpenter ants

Destroying The Colonies


When dealing with these ants, you must use caution. Never handle their nests directly. While they are not aggressive in nature, they will bite if they feel threatened. They spray an acid as they bite, and the pain is quite extreme. Though a bite from these insects will not send you to the hospital, it can be avoided when taken proper precautions. Make sure to wear longs sleeves, and always use gloves around their colonies.

The smaller colonies are usually easiest to access. In many cases, you can dispose of the colony to rid the problem. Using a tarp is a good way to dispose of the ants and the colony all at once. This is great if the ants are outside. When they are inside, you will need to use a vacuum cleaner to suck up all the ants. If you use your vacuum cleaner, make sure to dispose of the bag to keep them from surviving. Seal the bag properly to ensure they cannot escape. Dealing with an inside issue in the wood of the wall can be more difficult. Do not cut out the affected section. This can compromise the structural integrity of the home. You will need a professional to help in this situation.

Using Bait Traps To Catch What You Cannot See


It is not always possible to find all the colonies. For these cases, you need to put out bait traps. They are available at any hardware store. These little plastic boxes have bait inside that attacks the ants. Most stores have a wide variety of products available. The sprays can be effective too, but they release toxins into the air. When using sprays, spray the foundation of the home to avoid them coming into the perimeter. Don’t spray near children or pets. It is always better to use the baits as they are safer.

When To Call For Help


Dealing with carpenter ants can be a real problem. If you have done all the aforementioned steps and still have an infestation, you need professional assistance. Some methods used to kill these ants may require that you leave the home for a couple of days. A professional has the training and experience find and eradicate these ant infestations. The longer you delay your call for help, the more structural damage your home can experience. Ants are not as difficult as some insects, but they can be as dangerous as the termite.

Non Toxic Spray

Non-Toxic Spray


This non-toxic spray kills larvae, eggs, and adult insects by breaking down their exoskeleton. It is safe to spray around the home and works only on the insects. Feel good about spraying indoors around pets, plants and children.
All Natural Non Toxic Insect Killer Spray by Killer Green