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How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants (Both Inside & Outside)

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how to get rid of carpenter ants

If you’ve noticed signs of carpenter ants in your home – you need to act fast to eliminate them.

Despite their small size, these ants can cause significant damage to your home – even compromising its stability and structural integrity.

Fortunately, you don’t have to tackle the infestation on your own.

Here at Pest Dude, we have more than 20 years of experience in the pest control industry, and we’ve compiled that expertise into this comprehensive guide.

Before You Get Started

  • Prioritize Your Safety: Wear protective gear, including gloves, a mask, and long sleeves, to avoid direct contact with allergens or pesticides.
  • Plan Your Approach: Decide whether you’ll use natural deterrents, chemical treatments, or a combination of both. Gather the products and tools you’ll need to complete the job, depending on your approach of choice.
  • Prepare the Necessary Equipment: Gather tools such as a vacuum with a HEPA filter, sealant for cracks, and spray bottles for homemade solutions.
  • Understand Carpenter Ant Behavior. Carpenter ants are known for their intricate nesting habits, often establishing colonies within wood structures where they carve out smooth tunnels and galleries. These social insects have a complex hierarchy and communicate through pheromones, which they use to alert other colony members to food sources or danger. Carpenter ants are primarily nocturnal, foraging for food at night, with a diet that includes proteins and sweet substances. By understanding the basics of carpenter ant behavior, you can control them more effectively.
  • Consult Professionals if Necessary: If the carpenter ant infestation seems extensive, consider hiring a pest management professional to help you get rid of the ants.

6 Important Steps to Eliminate Carpenter Ants

important steps to eliminate carpenter ants

1. Identify the Origin of the Infestation

If you want to eliminate a carpenter ant infestation, the first step is to find out where the ants are coming from.

With that in mind, we recommend starting with a comprehensive inspection that pinpoints ant nesting and foraging areas and allows you to target your eventual treatment efforts.

Here’s where to look:

Inside the Home

  • If you notice large, winged ants emerging from crevices in your home, especially in the spring, this could signify a nest.
  • Carpenter ants are most active at night, so a nighttime inspection with a flashlight may reveal their movement.
  • If you notice an ant trail, try to follow the ants back to the source of the infestation.
  • Regularly inspect for leaks, particularly in roofs, attics, and basements, to prevent a welcoming environment for these destructive insects.

Outside the Home

  • Be attentive to any hollow-sounding wood, which may indicate the workings of a carpenter ant colony within. Carpenter ants typically favor moist and decaying wood to establish their nests. They can also reside in tree stumps, fence posts, and dead limbs of living trees. Carpenter ant infestations often originate in dead trees or stumps in the backyard. The ants live and nest in these areas, and then come inside to find food in the house.
  • Look for water damage. Carpenter ants are often found in areas with water damage, such as around poorly sealed windows or door frames, along roof lines, and within hollow spaces – like wall voids.
  • Look for obvious signs of nest locations, such as mounds in the soil or the presence of ant swarms in certain locations.
  • Inspect the perimeter of your home for any trails of ants, especially around doors, windows, and other entry points. Look closely at the areas where utility pipes and wires enter the house, which can serve as ant highways.
  • Check for any frassa mixture of wood shavings and fecal matter that carpenter ants expel from their nests. Frass is often found in locations where wood is moist or damaged, such as window sills, door frames, and around leaky pipes. Frass may also accumulate in basements, attics, or crawl spaces where wooden structures are compromised or in outdoor areas with tree stumps or unused lumber piles. You’ll often notice frass caught in spider webs near ant entry points.

2. Seal Entry Points

Follow these tips to keep ants out:

  • Check your home’s foundation for cracks or gaps and seal them off using an appropriate sealant or caulk.
  • Install weatherstripping around windows and doors to close any gaps and prevent entry.
  • Use expanding foam or caulk to seal openings around utility pipes or wires entering the building.
  • Repair any damaged window or door screens to keep ants out.
  • Inspect the exterior walls for holes or gaps and seal them using a suitable patching material.
  • Consider installing door sweeps to block off gaps at the bottom of doors.
  • Use mesh screens or wire mesh to cover vents and openings to prevent pests from entering.
  • Regularly inspect and maintain the exterior of the building to identify and repair any potential entry points.
  • Keep tree branches and shrubbery trimmed back from the siding of your house – especially in areas where it could touch the roof. This prevents carpenter ants from using vegetation as a bridge to enter your home via your roof vents.

3. Treat the Infestation

treat ants infestation

Once you’ve identified the areas where ants are present, it’s time to treat them accordingly.

Chemical Options

  • Chemical barriers. For best results, we recommend starting with a chemical barrier (also known as perimeter treatments), which can effectively prevent carpenter ants that nest outdoors from invading your home.
  • Contact insecticides. While chemical barriers are an essential part of carpenter ant treatment, they’re not sufficient to solve the problem since workers from the original nest will continue to invade the building as soon as the chemical residue wears off. With this in mind, we also recommend focusing on colony eradication. Whenever possible, locate and treat the carpenter ant nest(s) directly with a contact insecticide that will kill as many ants as possible.
  • Non-repellent residual insecticides. In addition to using a contact insecticide, you can eradicate non-visible ants through the effective use of non-repellent residual insecticide sprays or ant baits.

For more information on which products to use, check out our video on this topic or consult our comprehensive blog on how to get rid of ants.

Non-Chemical Options

  • Repellents. Effective natural repellents include vinegar solutions, which disrupt their scent trails, and essential oils, such as peppermint, which acts as a deterrent due to its strong scent. To use these deterrents effectively, mix equal parts of vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spray this solution along the ant trails, entry points, and affected areas to disrupt their scent trails and discourage them from returning. To use essential oils as ant deterrents, dilute a few drops of peppermint oil in water and spray it in areas where ants are present. Remember to reapply these natural deterrents regularly to maintain their effectiveness.
  • Diatomaceous earth. To kill carpenter ants outside the home, use diatomaceous earth, which is a powder that compromises the exoskeleton of the ants. For best results, dust it around your home’s door and window casings, as well as around your foundation and in any other area where ants may be entering the structure. Remember to reapply after rain.
  • Desiccating dust. If you cannot find the nest, use boric acid or inorganic desiccating dust for indoor residual carpenter ant control.
  • Baits. Boric acid baits formulated with sweets, grease, or protein food bases are particularly effective for indoor infestations.

4. Identify and Eliminate Moisture Sources

Carpenter ants are attracted to moist environments. To make your house less attractive to them, repair these water sources:

  • Leaky pipes and AC units
  • Poorly ventilated bathrooms
  • Damp basements
  • Standing water near the foundation
  • Poorly drained gutters

Additionally, ensure that woodpiles and debris are stored away from the home’s exterior, remove potential nesting sites and keep all trees and shrubs trimmed away from the house. These approaches can prevent carpenter ants from using branches or leaves as bridges to gain access indoors.

5. Remove Food Sources

By eliminating ants’ food supply, you disrupt their feeding habits, making the environment less hospitable for them.

  • Store food in airtight, sealed containers, particularly sweets and proteins.
  • Wipe down surfaces to eliminate residues, and keep your kitchen and dining areas free of crumbs and spills.
  • Outdoors, try to determine what the ants are feeding on in the landscape and remove or reduce those food sources whenever possible.

6. Remove Wood Debris

Finally, eliminate potential nesting sites both inside and outside the home. Removing wood debris is crucial since it eliminates their preferred nesting grounds.

  • Inside, any water-damaged wood, such as window sills, door frames, and skirting boards, should be repaired or replaced promptly.
  • Outside, remove old tree stumps, rotting fence posts, and piles of firewood or lumber, especially if these are close to the house.

When to Call in the Pros

ant pest control

Sometimes, you can’t get rid of carpenter ants on your own – no matter how hard you try.

Here are a few times it’s important to call the pros:

  • If you notice signs of a severe infestation, such as large numbers of live or dead ants inside the home
  • The sighting of winged ants (which indicates a nearby nest)
  • The discovery of large amounts of frass (sawdust-like material) that accumulates as ants tunnel through wood, contact a pest professional right away

Remember that a “severe” infestation is characterized not just by the presence of carpenter ants but also by indications of structural damage, including faint rustling within the walls, wood that sounds hollow when you tap it, and sagging floors or ceilings.

Left untreated, carpenter ants can cause expensive and widespread damage to your home. Fortunately, pest control professionals provide a comprehensive solution to a carpenter ant infestation.

Equipped with knowledge about ant behaviors and access to more potent treatment options, a pest pro can identify the source of the infestation, destroy hidden nests, and implement measures to prevent future occurrences.

Professional exterminators can also help assess the extent of existing structural damage and recommend the appropriate course of action.

Are Carpenter Ants Invading Your Home? We Can Help!

Whether your DIY carpenter ant control methods have failed or you want a faster, more comprehensive solution, we’re here to help.

We work with a vast network of reputable pest control professionals in your area.

Call us at (844) 532-0076, and we’ll connect you with a local exterminator who can help you eliminate carpenter ants in and around your home.

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Give us a call today to receive your free, no-obligation pest control quote.

Carpenter Ants Control FAQs

Carpenter ants can appear suddenly for various reasons. 

They are often attracted to damp or decaying wood, so if you have any moisture issues or wood damage on your property, it could be a potential cause. 

Additionally, carpenter ants may be seeking food sources such as sugary or protein-based substances. 

If you’ve noticed the sudden presence of carpenter ants, we recommend contacting a pest control professional to identify the source of the infestation and take appropriate control measures. 

Carpenter ants can be identified by their large size, typically ranging from 1/4 to 1/2 inch long. They are dark brown or black in color and often have a smooth, rounded thorax. 

Additionally, carpenter ants have bent or elbowed antennae and strong jaws. The foraging workers are known for their large mandibles, which they can use to bite or pinch people and animals. 

They are usually found near sources of moisture and wood. While carpenter ants may nest inside homes, in areas like window sills, hollow doors, beneath baseboards, and inside out-of-use fireplaces, these are usually “satellite nests,” which do not contain egg-laying queens. 

As such, it’s essential to treat the indoor ant infestation while also understanding that the nest, which is the source of the infestation, is likely not inside the home itself. 

If you suspect carpenter ants, we recommend contacting a pest control professional for proper identification and treatment.

Carpenter ant damage is often mistaken for termite damage, but it has distinct characteristics. 

Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood; instead, they excavate it to create tunnels and nests or reach the insects they eat. This results in smooth, clean galleries that follow the grain of the wood. 

The presence of frass is a standard indicator of their activity. 

This frass often contains bits of dead ants and waste materials and usually appears in piles outside the nest’s entrance. 

Over time, the structural integrity of the wood may be compromised, leading to weakened beams and sagging floors, which can be a costly consequence of a carpenter ant infestation.

The primary difference between a termite and a carpenter ant lies in their relationship with wood and their appearance. 

Termites consume wood for nutrition, causing significant damage as they create sprawling colonies within wooden structures. 

These pests leave behind a maze of hollowed-out tunnels with a rough appearance. 

In contrast, carpenter ants carve out tunnels in wood to establish their nests, not for food, and as a result, their galleries are smooth and clean. 

In terms of appearance, termites have straight, beaded antennae and a thick waist, while carpenter ants have elbowed antennae and a pinched waist. 

Termites are typically lighter in color, ranging from white to light brown, whereas carpenter ants are darker, with black, brown, or reddish hues.

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Author Bio: Zachary Smith

Zachary Smith is the founder of PestDude.com. Zachary is a licensed pest control professional with 20+ years of hands on experience eradicating pests from homes and businesses. Zachary earned his Bachelor of Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2002. He specializes in rodent and insect infestation management of structures and landscapes. His passion is to share his extensive knowledge with the world.

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