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Carpenter ant facts you should know

A trusty hammer comes in handy when it's needed to do some fixing up around the house. Add a little duct tape, and you have the solution for just about anything! 

There is one household problem, however, that can’t be solved with a swing of the hammer and a strip of duct tape – carpenter ants. 

Carpenter ants are often confused with termites because both have a fondness for wood – usually the wood in your house! However, there is a big difference between the two insects; termites will actually eat the wood in your house while carpenter ants won’t feed on your home’s wood. Instead, they will move in and live there. 

There are two different kinds of carpenter ants. One has a reddish-brown head but features a black midsection. The other species is known as the black carpenter ant and they have a relatively uniform dark brown and black body. 

If you believe that your home has a problem with carpenter ants, contact the ant control experts at Western Exterminator and get a resolution fast.


What do carpenter ants look like?

  • As one of the largest ant species in the United States, carpenter ants range from 1/4-3/4" in length.
  • Carpenter ants vary in color, but are usually black or dark-bodied.
  • There are three general carpenter ant size classes, each with a different job classification. The major workers are the largest ants in a colony. Intermediate carpenter ants are mid-sized ants and minors are the smallest. Intermediates and minor ants gather most of the food and construct the colony.

Types of carpenter ants

Carpenter ant swarmers

Carpenter ant swarmers are winged ants that leave the colonies to mate and start their own colonies. At about 3/4" in length, these ants are larger than the average carpenter ant. Seeing carpenter ant swarmers may indicate a nearby colony.

Carpenter ant workers

Most carpenter ants in the colony are workers. Worker carpenter ants can be anywhere from 1/4-1/2 inch in length. They have a number of duties, including providing food to the queen and larvae and defending the nest.

Signs of carpenter ants

Winged carpenter ants emerge from baseboards, window molding or vents. This usually occurs in spring or summer and if they appear in large numbers, an infestation may be present. Be sure to note any of the following:

  • Sawdust - Small piles of wood shavings mixed with insect parts or insulation can be a sign that carpenter ants are establishing nesting locations.
  • Noise - Crunching sounds could indicate carpenter ants tunneling through the wood in your home.
  • Damaged wood - Carpenter ants create smooth ‘galleries’ in the wood as they tunnel. Check high moisture areas of your house (basements or crawl spaces) using a moisture meter, as these are prime nesting areas.
  • Foraging trails - Carpenter ants like to use the same trail over and over again.

Where do carpenter ants live?

Carpenter ants live in nests. Within each colony, there may be multiple nests - parent nests and satellite nests. Parent nests are home to the ant queen and the eggs and are usually found outdoors. Satellite nests house the worker ants, and may be found indoors or outdoors.

Initial nests are often building in decaying wood because it is weak. Indoor nesting spots can be found in voids of walls and insulation. Outdoor nests may be found in stumps, firewood, and rotting fence posts.

Piles of what appears to be sawdust may signify a carpenter ant nest somewhere in that area. If there are one more more carpenter ant nests inside your premises, get them treated as soon as possible. Left untreated, carpenter ants can weaken wooden structures and compromise the safety of your property. 


How do carpenter ants get into the home?

Carpenter ants can access your home through doors, windows, pipes, utility wires and by overgrown tree or shrub branches that provide an easy pathway to your house. Keep in mind that in many instances an interior nest is just a satellite of the main colony that is located outside.

And with mature colonies having upwards of 100,000 members, carpenter ants can pose a real threat to the structural integrity of your home as they hollow out their nests.

When do carpenter ants come out?

When spring arrives in the West, it is time to keep an eye out for swarming carpenter ants. It is possible to see them both inside and outside your home, as they forage for food including sweets, grease, meat and eggs.

Carpenter ants select wood that has been damaged by fungus or rot, wall voids, hollow-core doors or insulation in attics, basements and crawl spaces. Outside in your yard, they like old tree stumps and rotting firewood piles, fence posts, and landscape timbers.

Carpenter ant damage

Carpenter ants are not like termites because they do not eat wood. In fact, one of the telltale signs of a carpenter ant infestation is occurring is the sawdust they leave behind from excavating the holes. Carpenter ants are a little more similar to carpenter bees in that they use soft wood to create nests to lay eggs, store food, and raise their young.

Left to their own devices in wooden structures, carpenter ants can weaken wooden structures. If enough carpenter ants are left to build nests around wooden structures, they can cost property owners hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars in damage. Carpenter ant-infested wood needs to be removed and replaced. Infestations can occur in joists, joints and support beams which are crucial to a home or building's structural integrity.

The fortunate news for homeowners is that carpenter ants do not tend to create nearly as much damage as termites. However, carpenter ants will often have nests built right near other nests. The carpenter ant nest is not nearly as large as some other species, numerous nests in close proximity can expand the potential damage and may cause multiple areas of infestation.

Carpenter ants can chew their way through a lot of wood. Looking at tree trunks which have been damaged by carpenter ants shows elaborate, circular, corridors and chambers which turns the inside of the tree trunk into something resembling corrugated cardboard. This can weaken structures and all of the damaged wood will need to be replaced.

If you think you have carpenter ants, mitigate the damage by contacting your local Western Exterminator office today.

What can you do about carpenter ants?

There are measures you can take to help prevent a carpenter ant infestation from occurring. This starts with trying to eliminate or reduce their favorite food: plant pests. Aphids, scale, mealybugs and other insects that produce a honey dew. So first things first, check your plants. This includes shrubs and trees. Trim any of the plants back from your structure. Some other things you can to help include: 

  • Inspect and correct any moisture issues, including leaks in your roof or plumbing. 
  • Ensure any cracks you find in your structure are sealed. 
  • Cover food and store food in sealed containers.
  • Clean up food crumbs and spills.
  • Keep firewood far away from your building. 
  • Keep soil to a minimum near the structure. 
  • Check that your downspouts and gutters are truly diverting water away from you building to prevent moisture build-up.
  • Replace decayed wood and remove any rotting trees from your yard.

Western Exterminator carpenter ant specialists

Don't let carpenter ants do costly damage to your home or property. If you think that you have seen signs of carpenter ants, or seen ants themselves, then contact your local Western Exterminator ant specialist today.

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