We’re just past spring and entering summer, meaning it’s around this time when people start to notice carpenter ants appearing in and around their homes. If you’re wondering how to get rid of carpenter ants, don’t panic.
These are serious pests that can cause extensive damage if left unchecked, but they are not as destructive as termites and are often easier to control and get rid of.
Still, you’ll want to know how to get rid of carpenter ants and do it quickly once you discover them, as long term damage can be costly and large infestations can be upwards of 100,000 ants.
But how do you get rid of carpenter ants and keep them from returning? That’s what we’re here to find out. In this article, we will learn more about carpenter ants, what attracts them, and how to get rid of them once and for all.
What Are Carpenter Ants?
Carpenter ants are some of the largest of the ant species.
Though they do demolish wood, carpenter ants are different from termites in that they don’t feast on wood for nourishment. Similar to carpenter bees, carpenter ants use their large, powerful mandibles to carve tunnels and chambers in moist wood to build nests and homes for their colony.
These ants are some of the largest of the ant species in the world, growing to be between 1/4th and 3/4ths of an inch long. These large ants, which are often black, red, or a combination of both, are easy to see with the naked eye and simple to identify due to their size.
Carpenter ants can be found all over the world, though they prefer forest habitats. They can live both indoors and out and seek moist, decayed, or hollowed wood to build their nests and passageways.
If you’re wondering how to get rid of carpenter ants, prepare to get rid of a lot of them. Like all ant species, carpenter ants are social and live in colonies, with most colonies containing around 3,000 ants. However, a very mature colony can grow to be upwards of 100,000 carpenter ants.
But are carpenter ants dangerous to people or pets?
Though they are large and look quite formidable with their impressively large mandibles, carpenter ants are harmless to people and pets. They do not bite unless provoked and generally keep to themselves.
In fact, when outdoors, carpenter ants are considered highly beneficial as they are natural decomposers. Their omnivorous diet allows them to feed on anything from decaying organic material to insects and plant life.
Unfortunately, when carpenter ants enter your home, they can wreak havoc and cause serious structural damage to your walls, foundation, and home sidings. Even more alarming is that a very large infestation of carpenter ants may be a sign of another, more serious pest problem in your home.
So, how do you get rid of carpenter ants while also finding out what has brought them into your home in the first place?
What Attracted Carpenter Ants To Your Home Or Yard?
Carpenter ants do not eat wood and can be attracted by many different things in your home like natural food sources.
Before you start looking into how to get rid of carpenter ants, you should first try and understand why you have them in the first place.
While carpenter ants do seek wood to make their homes in, they don’t feed on wood the way termites do, as we mentioned above. With that being said, they may still be attracted to your home by the same things that attract termites.
The most common reason people get carpenter ant infestations is due to water damage in their homes. Like termites, carpenter ants prefer moist, decaying wood material that is easy for them to dig through and make their chambers.
This is why carpenter ants are often found near bathroom drains, in basements, or even in crawl spaces. Along with water damage and water leaks that have caused a decay in wood, carpenter ants are also attracted to food sources like dead insects and sweet foods like sugar and honeydew.
If you have a very large carpenter ant infestation in your home but don’t seem to have water damage, we suggest making sure you don’t also have other insects in your home that have lured the carpenter ants there to feast.
That said, it may not always be easy to identify the early stages of a carpenter ant problem, as these insects generally keep to themselves and hide away inside our walls. If they do come out, they tend to come out individually, so you may not realize how many carpenter ants you are dealing with until it’s too late.
If you want to know how to get rid of carpenter ants, you must first know how to identify a carpenter ant problem, which we will learn how to do below.
How To Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants – Identifying A Carpenter Ant Problem
Carpenter ants often leave behind ant trails outside when they travel to and from their nests.
Figuring out how to get rid of carpenter ants early is key to not only the success of eliminating the infestation, but saving yourself money in property damage and wood destruction.
The most common signs of an early infestation of carpenter ants include:
- Finding Ant Trails In Your Yard That Lead To Your Home
Carpenter ants aren’t very stealthy and they tend to leave behind pretty noticeable ant trails when they travel to and from their nests.
If you think you have carpenter ants, take a look around your property. Keep in mind that most carpenter ant infestations begin outdoors. If you notice long pathways or ant trails around your lawn that lead to or from your home, you likely have carpenter ants.
The below video further discusses how to identify a carpenter ant trail outside of your home.
- Wood Shavings Near Baseboards, Window Sills, or Door Jambs
Finding wood shavings that resemble saw dust around the baseboards of your home is a telltale sign of carpenter ants. Because carpenter ants don’t eat the wood, they typically push it aside to make room for their chambers or tunnels.
- Hearing Sounds In Your Walls
When carpenter ants move about in your walls or woodwork, they make noise. The noise may not be as obvious as if you had a rodent or bat infestation, but if you have a large enough colony of carpenter ants digging around inside your home, you’ll hear it.
- Seeing Carpenter Ants In Your Home
Physically seeing a large black ant is often the most obvious sign of a carpenter ant problem in your home. Remember, these ants are social and though they do come out individually or sporadically, if you see one or two carpenter ants in your home, there are more.
- Seeing Large Winged Black Ants In Your Home
Another common sign that it’s time to figure out how to get rid of carpenter ants in the home is if you find large, winged black ants, aka swarmers, appearing around the ceiling, floor joists, or cracks and crevices in your home.
- Finding Discarded Ant Wings Near Window Sills, Vents, or Baseboards
Last but not least, look for ant wings. Swarmers often shed their wings after mating and leave them behind. Most shed wings can be found near window sills, baseboards, or vents, but you can find them really anywhere a swarmer may have been.
So, now that you know what to look for and how to identify the signs of a carpenter ant infestation, it’s time to get to work. Let’s talk about how to get rid of carpenter ants and keep them from coming back.
How To Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants – Most Popular Methods
There are several methods you can use to control and eradicate a carpenter ant problem.
While most experts do agree termites can cause more damage to homes in a shorter period of time than carpenter ants, it’s still just as important to know how to get rid of carpenter ants quickly and take them as seriously as you would any other home-invading pest.
Knowing how to get rid of carpenter ants quickly and early on in an infestation is often key to saving yourself time, money, and a lot of stress.
There are plenty of methods experts recommend for how to get rid of carpenter ants, including using natural products, insecticides, home remedies, and professionals.
Natural products are typically products you can purchase that contain ingredients which are safe to use around people, pets and the environment. Some natural products for how to get rid of carpenter ants don’t require any sprays or application at all and include instead sticky glue traps or ultrasonic pest repellers.
Insecticides have been used for years to control and manage pest problems in the United States and for how to get rid of carpenter ants. While insecticides are an effective tool for how to get rid of carpenter ants, they do contain ingredients and chemicals that can be toxic to people, pets and the environment and should be used only as directed.
Many people who are interested in do it yourself pest control prefer to use home remedies for how to get rid of carpenter ants. Home remedies often include the use of ingredients residents already have like vinegar, essential oils, and dish soap. If you are interested in learning about a few different methods and recipes you can use for how to get rid of carpenter ants on your own, scroll down.
When caught early, a carpenter ant infestation can often be completely taken care of with the above methods and remedies. However, a very serious infestation of carpenter ants may require the help of a professional pest control expert. We also suggest contacting a professional if you suspect that your carpenter ant problem is a symptom of a more serious pest issue in the home.
We will discuss when and why to call professionals for how to get rid of carpenter ants further down, but for now keep reading to learn how you can use natural products to take care of your carpet ant problem yourself.
How To Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants Using Natural Products
For those with children and pets in the home, using natural products for pest control may be preferred.
As we mentioned above, natural products are a popular method of pest control for how to get rid of carpenter ants and other pests like spiders, roaches, earwigs, stink bugs, ants, and more.
Many natural products for pest control work just as effectively as using insecticides and, best of all, they are safe to use in homes with children and pets.
That said, even some natural products for how to get rid of carpenter ants can be dangerous if not used correctly, so we recommend you do plenty of research and use the products only as directed.
Wondering which natural product would be right for you for how to get rid of carpenter ants? We have listed a few of our favorite natural products for you to consider below. Take a look.
Diatomaceous Earth Crawling Insect Killer
Diatomaceous Earth is a very popular product many people use for how to get rid of carpenter ants because it is natural and completely safe for people, pets and the environment. It is made from fossilized algae and works by penetrating the insect’s exoskeleton, which essentially dehydrates and kills it.
That said, Diatomaceous Earth only works on contact and requires the ants to crawl through the dust powder you set throughout your home. This powder works best when dry, but it can be effective against carpenter ants both inside and outside.
Harris Sticky Pest Traps
Though sticky traps will not be able to entirely eliminate a carpenter ant infestation, it can help you keep an eye on the severity of the infestation and allow you to know if you are close to getting rid of these pests or not.
The above sticky trap by Harris is ideal for homes with people and pets because it has a unique, folded design to help keep pets and kids away from the glue. That said, even if they do get into the glue, it is non-toxic and harm-free.
Neatmaster Ultrasonic Pest Repeller
We like using ultrasonic pest repellers as a natural form of pest control because they not only help reduce the chances of a carpenter ant infestation, but can also help repel other pests like mice, rats, bats, spiders, roaches, and more.
The product above by Neatmaster is ideal for how to get rid of carpenter ants because it plugs into a power outlet and uses ultrasonic sounds and vibrations to irritate these pests. It even penetrates walls, which is important when it comes to carpenter ant removal.
MDXConcepts Organic Home Pest Spray
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We love MDXConcepts spray because it is an organic form of pest control that uses peppermint oil for how to get rid of carpenter ants and other pests like roaches, spiders, ants, and even mosquitoes.
While this product does work against carpenter ants and can kill them on contact, it may need to be used alongside other methods of pest control in order to work effectively.
Boric Acid Ant Killer
Boric Acid is a natural dust insecticide that works for how to get rid of carpenter ants and other pests like roaches. However, it must be ingested in order for it to be deadly. You can sprinkle this product around wherever you notice ant activity or mix it with sugar and leave it on dishes for the ants to eat.
The boric acid will then expand in the ant’s stomach, killing it. Oftentimes, carpenter ants will take some of the poison bait back with them to their nest which can help further reduce the number of ants in the colony and help control the infestation in your home.
That said, boric acid can be harmful to people and pets in very large doses so use this product only as directed to ensure you are using it safely and effectively.
How To Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants Using Insecticides
Insecticides are a highly effective tool many people use for how to get rid of carpenter ants. That said, insecticides can be dangers and often contain harsh chemicals that can be harmful to people, pets and the environment.
Unfortunately, a very serious pest problem or a large carpenter ant problem may require the use of a more intensive treatment and require insecticides.
We have listed some of the best insecticides you can use for how to get rid of carpenter ants below.
Amdro Ant Block Granule
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If you’re wondering how to get rid of carpenter ants outside of your home or how to prevent carpenter ants from getting into your home in the first place, you may want to try an ant block like the one listed above.
This is an insecticide ant repellent that is made to be applied around the perimeter of your home to kill ants before they are able to get inside. Considered a perimeter protectant, this product is specifically designed for a number of different ant species and can last for up to three months after being applied.
That said, this product does contain a poisonous insecticide that can be harmful to people, pets and the environment so use it only as directed and keep it out of reach of children.
BIo Advanced Carpenter Ant and Termite Killer
The above product by Bio Advanced not only works for how to get rid of carpenter ants but also termites, ticks, fleas and spiders. It is a perimeter treatment designed to specifically fight against wood-destroying pests and can cover up to 10,500 square feet.
While this is an effective product that can control a number of pests including even carpenter bees, it does contain a harsh chemical insecticide as an active ingredient and should be used with caution.
Terro Carpenter Ant and Termite Killer
This is another product that works for not only how to get rid of carpenter ants but also termites. It is an aerosol spray that includes a targeted wand to help you reach those tough spaces where carpenter ants and termites like to hide like cracks and crevices.
The spray can be used both indoors and out and is specially designed to protect your home against wood-damaging pests like wood wasps, carpenter bees, and more. It lasts up to a month before it needs to be reapplied.
That said, the spray does contain a harsh chemical toxin that can be dangerous to people, pets and then the environment so use it only as directed and keep it out of reach of children.
Combat Max Ant Bait
Baited gel works well for how to get rid of carpenter ants because it can be applied in hard to reach areas like cracks and crevices and even in areas where you suspect ants have made their chambers.
This gel comes in a child-resistant applicator, though it does contain chemicals that can be dangerous for people and pets so it should still be used with caution. That said, it works to control and eliminate the entire ant colony and you should be able to see a reduction in carpenter ants in as little as three to five days.
TERRO Liquid Ant Bait Stations
TERRO offers liquid bait stations for how to get rid of carpenter ants that are easy to use and small enough to place around your home discreetly. These stations can be placed around your home and will entice the ants to ingest the bait and also take some back to the colony.
This product is meant to help reduce and control infestations by taking out entire colonies, although it may need to be used alongside other ant repellent products in order to work effectively in larger infestations.
Best Home Remedies For How To Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants
Essential oils like lavender, eucalyptus and peppermint can repel carpenter ants naturally.
Like many pests, carpenter ants are sensitive insects who can be repelled and controlled using a number of ingredients you likely already have in your home. Some of our favorite methods of pest control include do it yourself options like the ones we have listed below.
There are a number of essential oils and essential oil combinations you can use for how to get rid of carpenter ants. Pests like carpenter ants are naturally repelled by the overwhelming scent of many essential oils, including:
- Lemongrass Oil
- Peppermint Oil
- Clove Oil
- Tea Tree Oil
- Orange Oil
- Lemon Oil
- Cinnamon Oil
- And Cedarwood Oil
You can make your own essential oil spray for how to get rid of carpenter ants by adding 10 drops of the above oil of your choice into two cups of water. Mix the solution in a spray bottle and spray it around surfaces where you suspect carpenter ant activity. While this spray will not typically kill carpenter ants, it does help to disorient them and repel them from your home.
Other people find that soaking cotton balls in different combinations of the above essential oils can help repel ants and often work as a good preventative. Soak cotton balls in the oil of your choice and place them around entry and exit points and anywhere you suspect carpenter ant activity to repel them. Replace dried cotton balls every two to three days.
Boiling Water and Vinegar
This is a home remedy for how to get rid of carpenter ants if you have discovered their nest and it is outside of your home but close enough to pose a threat. Experts recommend boiling water and adding a half cup of apple cider vinegar or a few drops of essential oil to the pot.
Take the pot outside and pour it directly into the nest to eliminate carpenter ants immediately. For this process to be most effective, we suggest doing this a few different times to ensure you have gotten the entire colony.
Sugar and Baking Soda
Because carpenter ants are attracted to sweet food sources, you can often kill them and reduce their colony numbers using a sweet and deadly homemade bait.
Simply mix equal parts sugar and baking soda in a flat dish and leave it where you suspect carpenter ant activity. The ants will eat this bait and often take it back to the colony for other ants to eat. Shortly after ingesting, the baking soda will expand in the carpenter ants’ stomachs and kill them.
Soap and Water
Liquid dish soap is toxic to carpenter ants as it coats their bodies and essentially suffocates them. You can make this people and pet-safe carpenter ant killer to take care of ants you see on contact by mixing one part of liquid dish soap with two parts of water in a spray bottle. Shake the bottle to mix the solution and spray the ants directly to kill them on contact. This spray can also help eliminate ant scent trails left behind by scout ants.
How To Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants – When To Call A Professional
A very large carpenter ant infestation may require professional help.
As we mentioned briefly above, sometimes very serious infestations of carpenter ants cannot be taken care of without professional help. If gone unnoticed, a carpenter ant infestation can grow to contain as many as 100,000 ants, which can lead to hundreds if not thousands of dollars of structural damage to your home and property.
Plus, a very large carpenter ant infestation may be a sign of a more serious problem in your home including severe water damage or even a secondary pest problem.
Luckily, most professional pest care experts are well versed in how to get rid of carpenter ants and will be able to assist you. On average, professional pest care experts charge between $100 to $500, but sometimes more depending on your region and the severity of your infestation.
Once you do manage to figure out how to get rid of carpenter ants, your next step should be focusing on preventative measures to ensure you won’t have to battle this pest problem again in the future.
How To Prevent A Future Carpenter Ant Problem In Your Home Or Yard
You can prevent carpenter ants from becoming a future problem by following some routine home maintenance steps.
Knowing how to get rid of carpenter ants is one thing, but keeping them from returning is an entirely different process. Luckily, preventing carpenter ants is generally about practicing good habits and keeping up with routine home maintenance, which will not only help prevent carpenter ants from returning in the future, but other pests as well.
Let’s take a look at some of the best steps you can take to prevent carpenter ants from returning.
Repair Water Leaks Or Water Damage Immediately
Since carpenter ants are attracted to damp and decaying wood materials, it’s incredibly important to take care of any water leaks or water damage as soon as you notice it. Repair leaky pipes, replace damaged wood, and keep up on your plumbing maintenance around the house.
Get Rid Of Excess Moisture Inside And Outside Your Home
Along with making sure you fix leaky pipes and repair any water damage around your home, it’s also best to remove excess moisture inside and outside of your home. Only water when necessary, remove unused stagnant water sources like bird baths, and keep the perimeter of your home both inside and outside dry and clean.
Dispose Of Excess Wood Around Your Property
Excess wood and debris around your property can be prime real estate for carpenter ants. In order to keep these pests from making your home their home, remove wood and debris from around your home. This includes leaf litter, dead trees, stumps, decaying logs, and wood piles.
Clean and Sanitize Often
Inside your home, try and practice good housekeeping. Stay on top of chores and clean and sanitize surfaces often. Doing this will help reduce the chances of carpenter ants being lured in by any crumbs or spills left behind on your counter tops. We also recommend you vacuum and sweep at least once or twice a week, and clean up any spills that happen right away.
Store Food In Airtight Containers
Storing food in airtight containers is another important step you can take to prevent future carpenter ants. Make sure you also keep perishable foods in your refrigerator and don’t leave fruit out in your fruit bowl to become overripe or rotten.
Do Not Leave Dirty Dishes In The Sink Overnight
Leaving dirty dishes in the sink overnight is basically a calling card to pests like carpenter ants, roaches, mice, and more. Put dishes away in the dishwasher or clean them as soon as you finish eating, especially if you live in an area rich in pests like carpenter ants.
Invest In Garbage Bins that Close And Take Your Trash Out Regularly
Carpenter ants are attracted to all kinds of food sources, including whatever may be smelling up our garbage bins. One of the best ways to keep them from our homes is to invest in a garbage bin that closes and seals, and to routinely take out your trash.
Practice Routine Home Maintenance
You can also help keep carpenter ants at bay by making it difficult for them to enter. Though they do chew through wood, they often look for easy access into our homes before doing so. With that in mind, caulk and seal all cracks and crevices you notice around your home. Make sure doors and windows close securely, and fix or repair ill fitted or ripped screens.
Keep Vegetation Three Feet From The Premier Of Your Home
Last, try and keep plant growth like trees, bushes, and flowers at least three feet from the perimeter of your home. Doing this will help reduce the chances of carpenter ants from getting close enough to your home in the first place to cause problems.
And remember, though carpenter ants can cause serious problems when they get inside our homes, they do play an important role in our ecosystem and are natural decomposers. So let’s try and appreciate them and keep them where they belong, which is outside of our homes.
Best of luck and we hope you are able to enjoy an ant free summer!
Jack founded our blog after two decades of working in the pest control industry. His vast experience dealing with a wide array of pests allows him to diagnose issues quickly and get to the heart of pest problems quickly and effectively. He has serviced more than 2,000 homes over his career and there is hardly any pest situation that he has not seen before.