9 Steps On How to Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are large black ants that tunnel through wood to nest.

While they generally live in trees, they would move into your home to create sub-colonies.

Carpenter ants are a major destroyer of wood, particularly in the Northern and Western US.

If you are looking for a comprehensive guide on how to eliminate these ants in your home, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’re going to go over how to get rid of Carpenter ants step by step.

Let’s dive in.

1. Identification

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.

What Do Carpenter Ants Look Like?

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

What Do Flying Carpenter Ants Look Like?

flying carpenter ant-up-close

Flying Carpenter ants have two sets of unequal, light brown, veined wings.

The front pair is shorter than the back pair.

Female flying Carpenter ants are larger than their male counterpart and can get as large as ¾”.

Male winged carpenter ants are approximately ⅝”.

Female flying ants have similar body characteristics as traditional carpenter ants, except they have larger abdomen and head.

What do Carpenter Ants Eat?

Carpenter ants prefer sweets and protein. They like honeydew and sweet plant saps.

Carpenter ants typically get their protein from living and dead insects.

Signs of Carpenter Ants

Live Ants

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 4 pm.

If you see black ant trails around your home at night, you may be seeing carpenter ants


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.


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.

2. Inspection

Doing a thorough inspection is the first step in effective ant treatment.

Look for any ant trails inside and outside your home.

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

They are the most active around 10  PM and 2  AM. If you can, try to do your inspection around this time.

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.

Once you find a trail, make sure you follow it back and try to find the ants’ source.

You’ll typically find carpenter ants near food and water sources.

As such, the first place you should inspect inside your home is your bathroom and kitchen.

Outside, you want to check anything made of wood, such as trees, fences, and pots.

Places to inspect inside your home:

  • Attic
  • Around and under the tub
  • Kitchen and bathroom sink
  • Inside Cabinets
  • Ceilings 
  • Floorboards 

Places to inspect outside your home:

  • Spaces under roofs
  • Rain Gutters
  • Driveways
  • Foundations
  • Retaining Walls
  • Overturned Plant pots
  • Fences
  • Trees

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

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.

Do not kill the ants you see.

You want to use this time to prepare your attack.

3. Sanitation

Eliminate food and water sources around your home.

Removing these sources will help make sure that the ant will consume the bait you’re going to apply later.

Store your food items properly.

Place open food in airtight containers to minimize their scent.

Storing sweets such as honey and syrup is particularly essential.

You’ll also want to keep your pet food appropriately stored, as they are particularly appealing for Carpenter ants.

Do not leave empty soda bottles around your home.

You’ll also want to wipe the surfaces where you placed them to eliminate any sugary residue.

Finally, remove the garbage out of your home regularly.

4. Prebaiting

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 are known to live and travel mentioned above.

5. Baiting

Ant baits are regarded as the most effective way to treat Carpenter ant infestations.

Baits are a mixture of attractant and insecticide.

When a worker ant finds the bait, they take a portion of it and tell other workers to bring it back to the colony.

The ants will then place the bait in their food storage area, contaminating the rest of the food.

Eventually, the contaminated food and the bait will kill the entire colony.

The key to a successful bait strategy is using bait that ants are attracted to and placing them in the right locations.

Place ant baits in all the locations where ants were active during pre-baiting.

Also, use the same bait that the Carpenter ants consumed during pre-bait.

Indoor Baiting

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

When baiting indoors, there are two options gel bait or bait stations.

One of the most effective and cost-effective indoor bait stations is the Terro liquid ant bait station.

It uses a borate and fructose solution, which is highly effective against ants.

Another great option is the Rescue Ant Bait, which offers protein and sugar to the ant and uses borate as the active ingredient.

When using gel baits, Maxforce Ant Gel Bait is one of the most effective brands.

Both of these baits are sugar-based gel baits.

It uses fipronil as an active ingredient, which is a non-repellent that is extremely effective against ants.

Outdoor Baiting

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

Knees or Bait No More bait stations are easy to use and will last a lifetime so you can continue killing any active ant infestations around your home. 

To get started all you have to do is insert the stake into the ground and then add the bait. 

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

It’s also important that you place the bait outside, make sure to put it in the shade, as extreme to sunlight can reduce its potency.

When using bait stations, you can use either liquid or granular bait to attract ants.

Liquid bait options include Thiquid, which is a borate and sugar-based solution.

Granular options such as the Maxforce complete granular bait are excellent options for baiting with fructose, while Advance 375A Granular Bait is a great option for protein-based baiting options.

Depending on which pre-bait your carpenter ants were consuming, choose the appropriate granular bait.

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.

This is typically done by spraying a 3-foot wide area around the foundation of your home, as well as 3 feet up the walls of 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. While this won’t kill them, it will deliver a large amount of insecticide back to the nest.

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

These are slow-acting and 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 inside the walls or ceiling of your home. 

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. Keep Carpenter Ants Out

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 experienced water damage.

This will eliminate any attractive wood to your home.

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.

Fill Any Voids

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

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

Caulk cracks and crevices that offer any entrance from the outside of your home. 

9. Prevention Carpenter Ants From Getting Inside

We’ve all heard the maxim: prevention is better than cure. And when it comes to Carpenter ants, this is undoubtedly true.

Here are some of the best tips and strategies to stop Carpenter ants from invading your home:

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 wood piles away from your home. These include dead stumps and fallen branches.

Eliminate Any Soil-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 dehumidifiers.

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.

Regular Monitoring

To prevent Carpenter ants from infesting your home, make sure you do regular monitoring and inspections.

I recommend doing inspections once a month. Here’s how:

  1. Monitor any areas around your home that have food water sources, such as the kitchens and bathrooms. Check your sinks, pipes, dishwashers, cupboards, and electrical wires.
  2. Make sure that the Carpenter ant colonies are not getting too close to your home.

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

Frequently Asked Questions FAQ)

How Do Carpenter Ants Build Their Colony?

A mature Carpenter ant colony has about 10-20,000 to 50,000 members.

They generally only have one wingless queen per colony.

Once the colony matures, it will produce reproductives, known as Alates, to build new colonies.

Alates are flying ants whose primary purpose is to reproduce.

A Carpenter ant colony generally produces Alates between and from February to June in the Western US and May to August in the East.

Are Carpenter Ants Nocturnal?

They are nocturnal and will forage for food from dawn to dusk.

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

Although they are not very good trail-followers, Carpenter ants have an excellent vision for ants.

When foraging for food, they use moonlight to remember landmarks, such as pebbles and sticks.

These landmarks help them navigate back to their nest.

On nights when there isn’t enough moonlight, they keep their bodies close to structures and feel their way back to the nest.

Do Carpenter Ants BIte?

Yes. Carpenter ants bite.

While their bites don’t sting, they can cause a burning sensation. That’s because when these ants bite, they release formic acid into the wound. This acid can cause a painful, burning sensation.

How Do Carpenter Ants Communicate With Each Other?

Carpenter ants can communicate with vibrations and saliva.

When carpenter ants find food, they tell other workers by doing a vibration type dance. The hungrier they are, the more vigorous the dance.

Carpen ants also use vibrations to communicate danger. They signal alarm by drumming their heads against the floor.

They also use exchange saliva to communicate.

When worker ants exchange food they use saliva to communicate with other member of the colony.

Are Carpenter Ants Bad?

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.

Will Bleach Kill Carpenter Ants?

Bleach is a corrosive chemical that will kill most insects that it comes in contact with, including carpenter ants.

Bleach only kills carpenter ants on contact, and there is no residual effect.

While it can kill Carpenter Ants, it is not an effective insecticide.

It does not have a transfer effect, nor does it repel ants.

Why Do Carpenter Ants Come Into 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 the 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.

Do Carpenter Ants Have Wings?

Reproductives or Alates are the only type of Carpenter ant that have wings.

Their only purpose is to reproduce.

If you see one, that means there’s a mature ant colony that’s expanding nearby.

Ants colonies release flying ants during mating season.

The particular time of the year varies per region.

But the purpose is all the same: to mate.

Flying ants emerge from their nest to participate in an event called the nuptial flight.

During the flight, virgin queens mate with males.

The males die shortly after mating, and female ants go on to start a new colony.

If you have an ant infestation inside or around your home, here are some factors to consider.

Additional Reading

1. 7 Signs of A Carpenter Ant Infestation

2. Carpenter Ants vs Termites

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