Carpenter Ants really dig wood, literally! They are large (sometimes up to 1 inch), black nocturnal ants that construct tunnels, or “galleries,” through rotting or moist wood to get to their nest. These tunnels create structural problems for buildings and homes, destroying the integrity and strength of wood, especially around windowsills, decks, and roof eaves. Carpenter ants do not eat the wood; instead, they eat dead insects, sweets, and honeydew excreted from aphids. Often the worker ants of a carpenter ant colony will forage for food up to 100 yards from the nest. A few occasional carpenter ants in your home is nothing to worry about; however, a constant stream of ants usually indicates an indoor nest.
Carpenter ants can be quite aggressive and bite the offender with a painful pinch combined with an injection of formic acid. If the bite breaks the skin, wash with warm, soapy, rub an antibiotic cream on the wound, and cover it with a bandage.
Carpenter Ant Control
You may be hoping there isn’t a carpenter ant nest in your home, knock on wood. It is quite difficult to get rid of a nest by yourself, so have a professional come check for signs of carpenter ants. The first thing a professional will do is locate the nest. After finding it, he/she will use one or more of the following methods to get rid of the ants.
- Direct nest access: This method involves drilling holes to penetrate the nest and then treating the wood with strong insecticide.
- Spray the perimeter of your home: Professionals will then spray the full perimeter of your home with insecticide to deter ants from coming in again.
Carpenter Ant DIY
The first step to getting rid of a carpenter ant nest is locating the nest. Since carpenter ants are nocturnal, you may have to stay up past your bedtime to do a little detective work. When digging through wood, carpenter ants leave a trail of sawdust behind, called frass, which can be helpful evidence to locate the nest. Sometimes you can also use your sense of hearing to follow a crunching noise to the nest; otherwise, you may have to use the carpenter ants’ sense of smell to discover some bait you have set out (such as peanut butter and honey on an index card) and follow them home. Once you discover the nest, try one of the following methods.
Homeland Security (indoors):
- Penetrate the nest: Drill into walls to locate the nest and then dust with insecticide.
- Stop them in their tracks: Deter ants from entering by putting a coating of insecticide on doorsills, windowsills, and other places of entry. Caulk and repair cracks or voids.
Behind Enemy Lines (outdoors):
- Outside insecticide: Spray aerosol pesticide around the nest and lay out baits near the nest entrance.
- Boiling water: Open the wood to expose the nest and pour boiling water inside (or a mix of boiling water and insecticide).
Carpenter Ant Green Solutions
If you’re interested in an environmentally-friendly way to rid yourself of carpenter ants, consider the following green solutions.
- Protect firewood: Only you can prevent firewood infestations! Carpenter ants love firewood. Make sure the wood pile is away from the house, elevate it above the ground, and cover it with a tarp to protect it from moisture.
- Trim the tree: Trim back trees and shrubbery away from the house to destroy any natural bridges.
- Stop the leak: Cut down on areas of frequent moisture, such as leaks from the hose spigot. Remove wet wood and materials. Basically, just cut and dry.
- Your mom was right; you need to clean your room! If you have a problem with Carpenter ants, you need to do some thorough cleaning. Sweep areas free of food crumbs, wash the floors, vacuum, clean recyclable containers before using, etc. You may even want to apply a vinegar-water solution on hardwood floors to destroy ant trails.