Ants, as a general species, are becoming more of an issue all the time. So, you may be in the same position as millions of other people, trying to find out how to get rid of carpenter ants. Well, you are in the right place. In this article, we are going to cover some of the ways of dealing with the pesky insects.
Before continuing with this article, then I suggest that you read our article about what attracts ants to find out a bit more. The link will open in a new tab, so be sure to come back here and continue after!
If you have ever seen a map of the carpenter ant habitats, then you will realize that they are almost worldwide. Therefore, you may want to know some more specific facts about where they live and what they look like.
What Are Carpenter Ants?
Carpenter ants are as the name suggests: Insects that live in nests that they build inside wood. They prefer damp and dead wood; however, you may well find them in any other age of the wood. There is a common misconception about these ants, though. A lot of people believe that they eat the wood that they hollow out in the same way that termites do. However, that is not true.
The primary habitat that you are likely to find these pests in is actually where they are not pests – that is in dead trees. While they are living in dead trees throughout the world, they help the environment by assisting with forest decomposition. However, when you find them in structures and wooden buildings, they are a huge problem causing real structural damage.
Differences Between Carpenter and Regular Ants
Generally speaking, carpenter ants are much more giant than regular ants. If you have never seen a carpenter ant before, you are sure to notice that it is not just your ordinary worker that you see in the gardens. It can sometimes be challenging to see the different sections of a worker ant, however, on a carpenter, it is much more apparent, and you can easily see the parts of the abdomen and head.
- Regular ants will not live inside your home. They create anthills, live at the base of walls, or under paving outside your home, and come inside to forage for food. Growing up to 1/5 of an inch long, they are quite small.
- Carpenter ants will live anywhere that there is wood. Preferably damp, deadwood. However, you only need a small section of that wood to be infested, and they will tunnel into healthier, dry wood. So, if you have damp wood in your home, you may well find yourself having an issue with them. Growing to 1/2 an inch long, they are considerably larger than regular ants.
Another difference between the two species of ants is that regular ants do not bite. However, carpenter ants have sharp mandibles that they will use to bite you if they feel threatened.
Do You Have A Carpenter Ant Infestation?
Of course, the first thing that you need to do is to determine if you have a carpenter ant infestation. Or if it is a problem with regular ants entering your home. Either way, they are not pleasant. However, the last thing that you want to be doing is treating for an infestation of pest that is not there.
By far, the easiest way of determining if you have a problem with this specific pest is to hire a professional to carry out an inspection. However, some people prefer to try to identify and get rid of the issue alone before contacting a specialist. If you are one of those people, which most of us are, then keep reading to find out how to identify and deal with the issue.
As we said earlier in the article, carpenter ants have a distinct difference to the other wood-dwelling pests that you are likely to find, termites. That difference is that carpenter ants do not eat the wood that they remove from structures to create their nests. They only chew it to create hollow galleries that you can see in the image below:
As you can see from the image above, if carpenter ant infestations are left untreated, they will cause a lot of damage. Rectifying that damage can become very costly. Because of the amount of wood that the carpenter ant will remove from structures, there are often some pretty good give away signs that you have an infestation. We will look at those next.
Carpenter Ant Signs
When you suspect an infestation of carpenter ants, you need to make sure that they are what you are dealing with. There are tell-tale signs that you can look for to determine if they are a carpenter or regular ants:
- Main Areas. – As we have said, carpenter ants do not start in dry wood. So, the first place to check is anywhere in your home that may be prone to damp and old. Unfortunately, the wood inside walls, under floorboards, and window frames are prime locations.
- Sounds. – If you tap the walls, you may be able to hear the ants behind it. However, bear in mind that it is only likely to be a faint sound
- Frass. – You may be able to see small piles of the excavated wood dotted around the home. That wood looks a lot like sawdust, and it is called frass. They are usually a good indication of where a nest is, as the ants do not carry the wood very far before dumping it.
- Seeing Them. – Of course, this is going to be the most conclusive way to decide if you have a carpenter ant issue in your home. However, they are not always that easy to see. The workers usually come out at night to collect food, so you may need to walk around your home with a flashlight at night to see them.
How To Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants In Walls
Now that you know if you have a carpenter ant issue, the next question is; how to get rid of carpenter ants. To do this, you have three main options:
- Professional Exterminator. – Now that you know that you have an infestation, it may well be time to call for help. However, it can cost a lot more money for a professional exterminator to do the work that you may feel like you can do yourself. Bear in mind, though, if you try any of the other methods, and they do not work, you may still have to call the professionals too!
- Home Removal With Chemicals. – If you would prefer to use your own time, and a little less money, then you can try some specific insecticides. We will go into these a bit further on.
- Natural Remedies. – As with most things now, there are natural home remedies that are meant to be as good as chemicals and professional extermination. Again, we will look into the options that you have in a minute.
Looking at the three options that you have, you now have to choose one to go with. Let’s have an in-depth look at what is involved in each of the two choices that do not include hiring a pro.
Home Treatments For Carpenter Ants Using Chemicals
Even using chemicals to destroy carpenter ant colonies, you have a few options to try. Which of these methods you opt for will depend on what type of infestation you have. Here we will tell you which of them may be best depending on your circumstance. They are:
- Baits. – Baits are useful if you do not know where the nest is, or if it is outside your home and the ants are roaming inside.
- Insecticides. – If baits are not sufficient enough, you may want to consider poisons.
- Treatments. – These are used for when you have an indoor infestation after you have found it.
Carpenter Ant Baits
Ensuring that you use one of the best carpenter ant baits that you can buy is a necessity if you have an infestation. Baits are designed to be placed along a known trail so that the ants collect the bait as food and take it back to their colonies to kill them off. Some great kits are available; however, you need to ensure that you keep them away from any repellants that you may use. Also, do not let pets or children near them.
When the ants are searching for food, they will (hopefully) find the bait and take it back to the colonies, as I have said. It is best practice to try and track their routes so that you can place them along that route; however, that is not always possible. So, buying a few baits, and placing them around the home may be a better option.
- Recommended Carpenter Ant Bait Gel: Syngenta Optigard Ant Bait Gel
- Recommended Carpenter Ant Bait Traps: TERRO T300B 2-Pack Liquid Ant Baits
Insecticides For Carpenter Ants
Perhaps you have tried the baits, and they are not working, or you want to try a more vigorous, initial approach to removal. They are a more proactive way to treat your infestations, but they indeed work if you get the right products.
If you have an outdoor nest that you have spotted or not, then you can spray insecticides around the outside of your home to stop them coming into the house at all. Here are some recommended products for you to try:
- Recommended Carpenter Ant Insecticide: Bayer Advanced Carpenter Ant and Termite Killer Plus Concentrate
- Recommend Carpenter Ant Insecticide With Sprayer: Spectracide HG-96375 Terminate Termite & Carpenter Ant Killer, AccuShot Sprayer
Treatments For Carpenter Ants
Now for the severe treatments of severe problems. Of course, as we have said, your initial call should be to an exterminator. However, if you are willing to try yourself or unable to get an exterminator quickly, then you may want to try this.
- Firstly, you need to find out where the nest is.
- Next, find the holes that the carpenter ants have created, mark them for reference.
- Drill a few holes surrounding the nest. That may need you to drill a few holes to find the edges.
- Use the insecticide in all of the holes and openings that you found and all that you have drilled.
The best type of insecticide that we have found for carpenter ants is an expanding foam style such as this. We do not recommend that you use liquid pesticides on indoor nests.
How To Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants Naturally
Some people do not want to use chemicals at all in their home. However, we have to say that the products and methods that we have explained are proven to work. Whereas, the home remedy style, natural ways of dealing with carpenter ants may not be as effective.
Still, if you are more keen on using natural methods, then we will take a look at them now. There are three ways that you can try to remove your issue naturally. They are:
- DIY Bait
- DIY Spray
- Diatomaceous Earth
First of all, as we did with the chemical section, let’s have a look at a DIY bait that you could make and use. We know that sugar attracts ants, and boric acid kills them. Therefore, you can try the following:
- One cup of warm water.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 Tbsp Boric acid
Soak cotton balls in the solution and place them in small containers along known trails of the ants. Try to get the cotton as close to the nest as you can to stop them from traveling too far.
Instead of adding the boric acid in a solution of sugar water for the ants to carry back to their nests, you may want to spray it directly onto ant nests, and where they travel.
Be careful not to spray the acid onto electrics, or where pets or children play.
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a 100% natural compound that is a soft sedimentary rock that crumbles into the powder that you buy. However, before you rush out and buy the first thing that you find, ensure that you are not purchasing the pool filter aid.
Diatomaceous earth works because the particles are so small and sharp that it will destroy both the insides of the carpenter ants and their exoskeletons.
As with all home remedies, they are not likely to work as well as the chemicals that are designed to do the job. You may have to treat the affected areas a few times to completely irradicate the infestations.
If you do not already have infestations, or you have finally got rid of the carpenter ants, then you will want to know how to keep them at bay. Well, read on.
Carpenter Ant Infestation Prevention
Prevention is always better than a cure, and carpenter ant infestations are no different. So, let’s have a look at some of the preventative methods that you can employ to stop them from becoming a recurring problem or a problem in the first place.
As you have seen throughout this article, carpenter ants start their habitats in damp decaying wood. Therefore, here is a little list of what you need to look at:
- Ensure you replace any wood that is not dry.
- Fix any leaks
- Seal cracks and openings in the home. (Window frames, utility entrances, etc.)
Your garden is likely to be where the ants come from in the first place. So:
- Keep all of your trees and bushes trimmed to stay on top of possible nests.
- Remove dead wood from your garden and around the home.
- Do not let branches touch your house.
If you use firewood and bring it into or by your home, you need to:
- Store it as far away from the house as possible.
- Keep the wood elevated on metal stands.
- Check any wood you take into your home.
Staying on top of your perimeter pest control by using some of the things that we have spoken about already will minimize the risk of carpenter ants entering the home n the first place.
If you think that you may have a carpenter ant infestation, then you need to act as quickly as possible. Doing so will keep the repair costs and times to a minimum. If you see ants traveling through the home, try to follow them to find out where their nests are.
The first option should be to call an exterminator. But, as we have said, if that is not an option, then you may want to try one or more of the options that we have given you here.