7 Signs of A Carpenter Ant Infestation

Carpenter ants can be hard to detect.

These ants tunnel and nest inside wood

They are also nocturnal and spend the daytime inside their nest.

That said, they are not impossible to detect.

You can identify ant infestation as long as you know what to search for.

In this post, we’ll go over all the signs that ants leave behind.

Here’s what you should watch out for:

1. Live ants

If you see carpenter ants in your home, especially in large numbers, you may have an ant infestation.

But it’s not definite.

If you only see one, it’s possible that the ant just hitchhiked in your shoes or backpack.

If you see carpenter ants in your home every day, that means that there’s a nest nearby.

It’s possible that the ant’s nest is located outside.

Carpenter ants can travel up to 100 yards from their nest in search of food and water.

Once they find food, they leave a chemical trail behind for other ants to follow.

Carpenter ants generally live in damp trees. They are more likely to infest a home if there’s damaged or rotting wood.

If you do not have rotting wood inside your home chances are they are living in wood outdoor such as trees. 

That said, if you see Carpenter ants in the same place and at the same time inside your home every day, it’s likely that their nest is inside.

2. Ant Trails at Night

Carpenter ants are nocturnal. These ants emerge from their nest and forage for food from dawn till dusk.

You’ll typically find them in your kitchens and bathrooms past 4pm.

If you see black or red ants foraging during the day, it’s likely not carpenter ants.

But if you see black ant trails around your home at night, it is possible that you have a carpenter ant infestation.

3. Hollow Wood

Carpenter build their nest inside wood by excavating tunnels.

These tunnels look like holes with a neat, smooth finish.

Because Carpenter ants live and burrow into the wood, they are confused with termites.

But, unlike Carpenter ants, termite tunnels are messy and rough.

Termite tunnels are also more extensive. You can find their tubes in different places in your home.

In contrast, Carpenter ants typically keep their nest localized. 

With larger infestations, carpenter ants can build multiple satellite nests to care for larvae and pupa.

4. Wood Shaving

When Carpenter ants burrow into the wood, they leave piles of wood powder behind.

You’ll typically find these shavings underneath windows, door frames, roof trims, rafters, etc.

The presence of wood shavings is one of the main differences between termites and Carpenter ants.

Termites do not leave wood shavings when they tunnel to the wood because they eat the wood.

So, instead of sawdust, they leave droppings. Termite droppings vary in appearance depending on the type of termite.

The closest termite dropping that looks like wood shavings is from Drywood termites.

Drywood termites remove their feces from their tunnels through “kick-out” holes.

These droppings look like hexagonal, egg-shaped granules.

They look like sand or coffee ground and feel a little rough if stepped on.

Resource: Termite Droppings: What do they look like?

5. Dead Ant Parts Falling From The Ceiling

Carpenter ants are known to create a nest in your ceiling, especially if there’s rotting wood.

When they die, carpenter ants release and an odor that signals to other ants they are dead. Living ants will then remove these dead bodies from their nest.

If you have any leaks in your roof and see dead ants falling from your ceiling, you likely have a carpenter ant infestation.

6. Overrun Food

Carpenter ants are attracted to sweet food.

If you see big black ants swarming deserts in your home at night, you may have carpenter ant infestation.

7. Weird Noises

If you think carpenter ants live behind your wall, you can tap on the wall with a hammer and listen very carefully.

You might be able to hear them react if you place your ear against your walls.

You may also hear quiet rustling sounds coming from the walls.

When worker carpenter ants create tunnels, they make noises.

You can typically hear them scraping your woodwork.

How to treat Carpenter Termites?

When treating ants refrain from using repellent sprays.

While they are a useful preventative tactic, they are not an effective solution to ant infestation.

1. Identification

Large, black carpenter

Carpenter Ant Identification
Size: 1/4″ – 5/8″ Antenna: Bent Color:  Red and Black 
Pattern: Golden Hairs Nodes: One Shape: Segmented 
Region: Coastal U.S States From Fl to WA Food: Sweets, Insects  Nest: Inside Damp Wood

Before you start treatment, make sure the ants you see at home are Carpenter ants.

Different ants behave differently so it’s important that you know exactly what’s infesting your home.

2. Eliminate Rotting Wood

The main thing carpenter ants are looking for is rotten, damp, or damaged wood.

Damp wood makes it easy for them to make their nest.

Replace any wood that is rotting or has experience water damaged.

This will eliminate any attractive wood to your home.

3. Fix Plumbing Issues

Carpenter ants need to be close to water to survive. They are also most attracted to damp wood.

To eliminate both, make sure you:

  • Fix any leaks under your kitchen and bathroom sinks.
  • Repair significant condensation on your pipes.
  • Fix your roof and attic for any leaks when it’s raining.
  • Remove any faucet leaks in your kitchen and bathroom.
  • Fix any toilet leaks.
  • Check for floor water stains on your floor and find where it’s coming from.
  • Make sure your rain gutters, downspouts, and splash blocks are functioning correctly. They should keep the water at least five feet minimum from your foundation wall.

4. Find Ant Trails and Pre-Bait

Find out where the ants are coming from and where they are going.

In some cases identifying ant trails is easy, while in others, it can be hard.

To make this easy, I recommend pre-baiting.

Pre-baiting means placing non-toxic bait to see which one interests the ants the most.

Carpenter ants prefer sweets and protein.

But they are only attracted to one at any given time.

This is why you must test two different types of bait.

For protein, you can use peanut butter or dog food.

For sweets, you can use a 50 x 50 blend of honey and water.

Place the pre-baits where carpenter ants frequent such as:
Bathrooms and Kitchens

  • Baseboards
  • Near sources of water or leaks
  • Basements
  • Look in cracks, seams, edges, pipes
  • Along the foundation
  • Crawling up walls

Carpenter ants emerge from their nest after sunset to forage for food.

The optimal time to inspect your pre-baits is around one to two in the morning, when the ants are most active.

I also recommend using red light as not to disturb the ants.

Track the ant trails and determine how they are getting in or where their nest is located.

If the ants are walking on your kitchen counter, they may be nesting in a void inside your kitchen cabinet.

Do not kill the ants you see.

You want to use this time to prepare your attack.

If you find ants inside and outside your home, be sure they are the same ant.

One way to check is to capture one ant from each trail and place them in a container.

If the ants are not from the same colony, they will fight each other.

5. Use Baits Indoors and Outdoors

One of the best ways to eliminate ants is by using bait.

Bait is highly effective because of the high rate of horizontal transfer due to ants eating habits.

Ants will bring the bait back to the nest and feed it to the rest of the colony.

Place your bait in all the locations where ants were active around your pre-bait.

Depending on which pre-bait the carpenter ants consumed, you should buy bait with the same base.

For indoor baiting, the best option is to use gel bait or bait stations.

For outdoor use, the best option is to use outdoor refillable bait stations.

These are easy to refill and can be used for a lifetime to kill carpenter ants trying to approach your home.

Remember, when placing bait eliminate other food sources.

This will place all the ant’s attention on the bait rather than other food sources.

6. Apply Non-Repellent Spray

While bait should be enough to eliminate carpenter ants, using non-repellent is a great way to boost protection.

Unlike pesticides, the non-repellants spray is undetectable to ants.

They will walk right over it and bring toxic chemicals back to their colony.

The chemical will kill all members, including the queen.

To use non-repellant spray, apply it where the ants live and travel outdoors.

The non-repellent spray is often used to create a barrier around your home.

Any ants that try to approach your home and enter will be infected with insecticide and slowly begin to die.

You can also spray it directly on ant trails that. While this won’t kill them, it will deliver a large amount of insecticide back to the nest.

Avoid spraying or drenching ants nest with non-repellent insecticides.

These are slow-acting this can give ants sufficient time to leave the nest and form a new nest somewhere else before they all die.

7. Treat Voids and Tunnels

Void treatment may be a good idea if the carpenter ants live behind a wall.

This method is a bit intrusive, so I recommend starting with the bait. If that doesn’t eliminate the ants, then void treatments is a great option.

To do this, drill holes ⅛ inch deep into your wall. Next inject the wall with a non-repellant spray.

Once done, make sure to fill the voids to prevent the ants from coming back.

One of the most popular forms of non-repellent spray is foam sprays.

You can inject these into any drilled holes, cracks, crevices, or voids you may find indoors or outdoors.

The foam will expand throughout the entire void, and any ants that come into contact with the foam will bring the insecticide back to the colony.

8. Prevent future infestations

To keep carpenter ants from coming back, make sure you:


Fill Any Voids 

Ants are tiny and can get through the smallest crevices and holes.

To prevent them from coming back, fill any voids on your walls and floors with the appropriate material.

Make sure to cover familiar places where the Carpenter ants live and travel, such as your bathroom and kitchen.

Trim Vegetation

Trim any branches that are touching your walls, windows, roof, etc.

Carpenter ants live in trees and can use its branches as a bridge to enter your home.

If you are confident that a near your house is infested with carpenter ants, make sure you treat it or consider cutting it down.

Keep Your Yard Clean

Piles of trees give ants an ideal shelter. They allow ants to hide undisturbed, as well as provide the moisture they need.

Remove anything that can collect water, such as stacks of wood and overturned plant pots.

Minimize Mulch

You’ll also want to minimize the use of mulch around your home.

Layers of mulch provide ants with the perfect shelter.

It traps moisture and insulates against harsh temperatures.

If you must use mulch at home, make sure to replace old mulch with new ones at least once a year.

You can use rock, gravel, pebbles, rubber as an alternative to mulch.

Pebbles or gravel is typically too dense and compact for ants to tunnel through. As a result, they won’t be able to access the perimeter of your foundation.

Store Firewood And Other Woodpiles

It’s common for homeowners to stack firewood against their homes so they can easily access them.

But doing so also gives carpenters easy access to your home.

To keep ants from entering through wood stacks, make sure to store them properly.

Other than firewood, you’ll also want to keep woodpiles away from your home. These include dead stumps and fallen branches.

Eliminate Any Earth-to-Wood Contact

Remove any soil-to-wood contact in your home.

Wood sidings, fences, decks, doors, and window framing should never touch the soil because ants can penetrate them and tunnel underneath them.

Keep wood siding, stucco, and foam board at least six inches away from the ground.

Removing wood-to-soil contact may require removing soil back from the foundation, cutting the bottom off the wood, or applying a barrier at the base of the wood.

A simple barrier to prevent soil from coming into contact is a great way to prevent ants from coming in contact.

This barrier can include metal covers, concrete base, or gravel barrier to prevent ants from tunneling through your exposed wood.

If wood must touch the soil, use pressure-treated wood for protection.

Properly Ventilate Attics And Crawl Spaces.

High humidity and moisture create the perfect environment for Carpenter ants.

These conditions are common in crawlspaces and attics.

To reduce the humidity in your attic, use vents or s dehumidifier.

Running a dehumidifier will make the air less attractive to Carpenter ants.

If you have a crawlspace, make sure to install vents and a vapor cover.

A vapor cover involves applying a vinyl or foil barrier to the floor and walls of your crawlspace.

This barrier will reduce the amount of humidity accumulated from the soil and keep your foundation as dry as possible.

It will also reduce the number of vents you need in your crawlspace, with around 1 square foot of vent for every 300 square feet of crawl space.

If you already have vents installed, it’s essential to make sure nothing is obstructing them.

Keep your vents clean, so they can adequately ventilate.

The standard building coder requires 1 square foot of vent for every 150 square feet of crawl space.
Make sure your crawlspace is following this standard.

Periodic Inspections

Periodic inspection is vital if you have a carpenter ant colony outside your home

Make sure that the Carpenter ant colonies are not getting too close to your home.

I recommend doing inspections once a month.

Don’t spray them with insecticides until you feel like they are most likely going to be a problem.

Spaying ant colonies with pesticides will only make carpenter ants panic.

Their queen will produce more eggs and Alates (reproductive), giving you more problems.

It will also most likely force the ants to move into your home.

If the ant colonies get to close, treat them with the same methods as above.

Carpenter ants vs Termites Damage

Carpenter ants create tunnels that have a neat, smooth finish.

On the other hand, termite leaves tunnels that are messier and have a rough finish.

Carpenter Ant Damage

  • Kickout holes
  • Difficult to open windows and doors
  • Bulging walls
  • Sinking ceilings
  • Hollow Wood
  • Warping Wood
  • Entry and Exit Holes in Wood

Termite Damage

  • Kick-out holes
  • Hollow wood
  • Bubbling paint
  • Difficult to open windows and doors
  • Timber beam of door damaged by termite
  • Creaking floorboards
  • Large holes or gaps on wood termite hole in wood
  • Large tunnels on wood
  • Texture wood from termite tunnels
  • Visible tunnel patterns through paint
  • Warping or sagging wood
  • Crumbling wood

Carpenter Ant vs Termite Droppings

Carpenter ants’ droppings look like little brown or black stains or patches.

These patches are hard to come by in nature since ants only poop inside their nest.

Even if you were to come by a nest, ants droppings would blend in with the nests.

Unlike Carpenter ants, termites droppings are easily identifiable.

They vary in appearance depending on the species of termites.

There are three common forms they can take: Pellets, Mud tubes, and Patches.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why Am I seeing Carpenter Ants in My House?

Carpenter ants prefer to make their nest in trees.

But they will invade your home if it provides the ideal environment.

Here are some of the main reasons they move in:

1. You have a growing colony outside

Carpenter ants invade homes to create subcolonies.

When the carpenter ant’s main colony reaches maximum capacity, they will scout an ideal place for one or more sub-colonies.

The sub-colony will provide more places to store food, infantries, and a backup territory should their main colony perish.

Ants fight each other for territory and resources. As such, there is constant pressure to expand colonies.

2. Rotting Wood

The main thing carpenter ants are looking for is rotten, damp, or damaged wood.

Damp wood makes it easy for them to make their nest.

3. Plumbing Issues

Carpenter ants will be attracted to ant leaks in your faucets, dishwasher, toilet, tubs, etc.

A leaky roof creates the perfect environment for carpenter ants.

The wet wood in the attic floors and walls makes it easy for them to tunnel through.

It also provides them with the moisture they need to survive.

A leaky tub or sink is also attractive to Carpenter ants.

Kitchen and bathroom are perfect because it provides them with easy access to water.

If you have a leaky tub, then they might set up a colony under it or in the void behind the bathroom wall.

If you have a kitchen sink or faucet, Carpenter ants will be drawn voids in your walls and under your sink.

4. Food

Carpenter ants can travel as far as 100 yards to get to food.

If you have unsealed food in your home, a worker ant may stumble upon it and lead other ants to it.
To avoid ant infestation, make sure to store your food correctly.

5. You Have Termite Damage

Carpenter termites are known to move into termite nests and call it their home.

Using termite nests means less work for the ants and makes it convenient for them to move in.

Are Carpenter Ants Bad For Your House?

Carpenter ants tunnels into the wood to create their home.

These hollowed-out wood can present a compromise to the structural integrity of your house.

For instance, if they tunnel into a support beam, they can weaken your house’s structure.

That said, Carpenter ants will not damage your house as extensively as its ancient rival–termites.

Carpenter ants do not eat wood, and their colony is tiny compared to termites.

Do Carpenter Ants Come Out At Night?

Carpenter ants are nocturnal. They forage food from dusk until dawn.

Carpenter ants can travel hundreds of feet for food and water.

But they are not very good trail followers.

Instead, they use the moonlight to remember landmarks, such as pebbles and sticks, to help them navigate back to their nest.

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