Carpenter Ants

My father’s house has a problem with carpenter ants. Getting rid of carpenter ants can be one of two things: incredibly simple or incredibly difficult. An example of an incredibly simple Carpenter Ant problem is simply the infestation of a tree stump in the front yard. Sometimes the presence of swarmers (winged carpenter ants), which are often mistaken for termites, isn’t even indicative of an established colony in the home, but a colony found just outside of the home. In the case of my father’s home, however, I imagine it is going to be incredibly difficult because the shear number of swarmers (hundreds) coming up through the floor denotes a rather large, established colony. Chances are he’ll have to have some serious structural improvements made once the infestation is taken care of. Timbers will have to be replaced.

Sure they’re not termites?

If you’re not sure, you should read our article about termites.

Kill Carpenter Ants Now

Regardless of the perceived size of the infestation, if you see more than a few winged black ants in or around your home, steps should be taken to get rid of carpenter ants before they become a more serious problem.  Note that carpenter ants are much larger than the common sugar ant. They are also more likely to be seen by themselves. Sugar ants almost always travel in groups.

Carpenter Ant Damage

The one reason, above all others, for getting rid of carpenter ants is to prevent further structural damage do your home. Carpenter ant colonies expand ever outward, producing what are called satellite colonies. These satellite colonies will eventually mature into hundreds of members and will seek to create more satellite colonies. So, you see the pattern; once carpenter ants have established themselves in a home, constant progression of damage and size of the colony are inevitable. Usually they have made their nest in wood that was already rotted and probably needed to be replaced anyway, but sometimes they will nest in perfectly dry and healthy wood.

Best Ways for Do-It-Yourself Carpenter Ant Control

Protect Your Home

Getting rid of carpenter ants on your property requires that you do an inspection outside. Treat the outside of your home with a residual barrier insecticide like Knox Out, and clear brush away from the home. Kill any mature nest you may find (usually in rotting wood) by opening the nest and drenching it with boiling water or with a mixture of water and ant killer. Note that structural improvements like replacing aging and rotted siding and wood porches may be necessary to prevent establishment of indoor carpenter ant colonies.

Find Carpenter Ants

Getting rid of carpenter ants from your home is simple enough if you can find out where the Carpenter Ants are coming from. If the colony is large enough, nesting carpenter ants will actually make a crinkling or crunching noise. If detecting a carpenter ant nest by sound isn’t possible, you may want to try setting up a sugar or honey bait, and following them back to their nest during the night. This, of course, requires that you can stay up well past your bed time, but once you find the nest it’s just a matter of making one of two choices.

Best Ways of Getting Rid of a Carpenter Ant Infestation

Aerosol Pesticides

The first choice to get rid of carpenter ants in your home is to spray aerosol pesticides into the entrance of the nest and place sweet baits (boric acid or Terro) near the nest. This can be considered a first step, if you think the colony isn’t very large. Usually twenty or so winged ants found in the house during the spring is indicative of an established, but small, colony. Sweet baits and a simple aerosol spray may be able to take care of the problem, though ants in the nest have been known to survive for several months without feeding, and aerosol sprays may not make it far enough into the nest to guarantee complete ant extermination. You can pick up Terro Liquid Ant baits from Amazon.

Ant Killer

The second choice to get rid of carpenter ants in your home is to drill holes in the wall to penetrate the nest, and then dust and spray with ant killer.  The University of Minnesota Extension Service agrees that injected an insecticide directly into the ants nest is the single best way to get rid of them.

If you notice more than 20 winged ants in your home during the spring, then it’s possible that you have a larger colony established somewhere in your home, and if you want to get rid of carpenter ants the best way to do this is to find their nest, drill holes into the nest, and dust with boric acid or Knox Out (Diazinon), and spray with an aerosol insecticide. This is a big step for a lot of people because they don’t want to do any damage to their home, and if they’re renting, this may not even be an option.

Find granulated diazinon here, on Amazon.

Professional Carpenter Ant Control

A good pest control professional will do a very thorough examination of your home. Having all family members present may help the agent pinpoint the location of the nest more easily, so be ready for questions about sightings and recent ant activity. Once the nest is located, the pest control agent will drill holes, and treat the surrounding wood, moving outward from the nest’s location, eventually finishing the job with a residual insecticide spray of the perimeter of your home. With the number of carpenter ant infestations and the difficulty of getting rid of carpenter ants, it is relatively common to call in a professional to take care of your ant problem.

Best Natural Carpenter Ant Control Methods

Lawn Care

Proper lawn care, or lawn care the way suburbanites do it, is perhaps the surest natural way of controlling carpenter ant populations. Removing dead stumps from your yard, keeping wood piles away from your home, clearing brush, tree branches, and other foliage that are making contact with your home, keeping your lawn trimmed, making sure your home’s wooden structure doesn’t make contact with the dirt: these are all things that can be done to prevent a carpenter ant infestation. Carpenter ants will travel upwards of 200 yards from the original nest; keep this in mind when deciding how much lawn you should tend to.

Boric Acid

Dusting with boric acid is, as I’ve mentioned in other articles about getting rid of ants (see: ant control), a natural form of ant control. Boric acid is for the most part an innocuous substance for humans, but it shouldn’t be inhaled or ingested by the young or infirm, and definitely not in mass quantities by any healthy individual. Mixing 3 tablespoons of boric acid with 1 cup of warm water, and ½ a cup of sugar should make an appropriate solution that can either be put in a shallow dish for ants to get to or soaked up in cotton balls and set plastic around the nest. Terro uses boric acid as the active ingredient in their ant control products. Amazon sells ZAP-A-Roach Boric Acid Roach & Ant Killer as well.

White Gravel

White gravel, lined around a home, can be a natural form of carpenter ant control (and many other pests included). Carpenter ants prefer moist places, and white gravel’s dry texture and its positive effects on drainage around the home make it a natural barrier for carpenter ants and other pests that are attracted by dark, moist areas (see: pest control).

Remove Rotten Wood

If you have rotten wood laying near your house, such as from a downed tree, old landscaping timbers, or a woodpile that you keep thinking will come in handy someday, get rid of it.  Or, at a minimum, move it further away from your house.  You will also do your self a favor by getting rid of woodpeckers, too, because they are very attracted to rotting, hollow wood.


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About the Author

Julianne Ragland

Julianne Ragland