By Dan Simms
Updated Jan 10, 2023
By Dan Simms
Updated Jan 10, 2023
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Carpenter ants can be a nuisance if you constantly see them scuttering around your house, but they can also cause massive structural damage to your home and should be exterminated as soon as you notice an infestation. If you’re wondering how to get rid of carpenter ants, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, you’ll learn:
Before we get started, it’s worth noting that carpenter ant infestations often require professional pest control services, especially given the damage they can cause to your home. We’ll include some information further down on the best pest management companies for dealing with carpenter ants.
Black carpenter ants (of the genus camponotus) are common in most parts of the world, but they’re most prevalent in North America and parts of Europe. They are larger than many other species of ant but are still quite small, reaching lengths of up to 13 millimeters. Most carpenter ants are black, but some can be yellowish or have a reddish-brown appearance.
Contrary to popular belief, carpenter ants don’t eat wood. However, they do burrow into it to create nests, thereby destroying it. They prefer decaying wood, like old trees, stumps, and log debris, but they will happily move on to your wall framing and other wooden structure pieces in your home if no decaying wood is available.
Carpenter ants swarm during mating season, and flying carpenter ants are often mistaken for termites. They can be differentiated by the distinct larger thorax, crooked rather than straight antennae, and a larger front set of wings than the rear.
There are some DIY pest control solutions for carpenter ants that you can try before calling in a professional pest control service. Most DIY methods require that you locate the nest first and then apply the selected product close to the nest.
In most cases, you can follow the carpenter ants in your home and watch for when they return to a specific area of your home, which could be under baseboards, behind door trim, or in another small entryway into your walls. You can listen for a rustling sound or knock on the wall to listen for hollow sounds. Once you determine where the nest is located, you can try one of the below methods to kill the ants.
One of the most popular methods of dispatching carpenter ant nests is to use an insecticide. Insecticides like pyrethroids work by shutting down the central nervous system of the ants, which kills them almost instantly.
You can get a liquid insecticide like spray-on Raid or an insecticide dust. Powdered insecticides are often best for application in or around outlets or other electrical work, which is sometimes where carpenter ants enter your walls. Liquid insecticides are a bit easier to use because they don’t require that you buy a separate applicator.
In either case, locate the nest and then apply the insecticide liberally. You might need to drill some holes in your drywall to do this properly. Make sure you keep kids and pets away from the application site until the chemicals have dissipated, and take care not to inhale them yourself.
Since carpenter ants will come out of their nests to search your home for food, ant bait traps are another popular option for exterminating them, especially if you can’t locate or reach the nest. Bait traps contain food — like honeydew scent or other sweet food smells — that entices carpenter ants to lay down a scent trail and bring the bait back to their nests. The bait also contains a slow-acting poison, so after the entire colony feeds on the bait, the ants will die off. You might need to try a few different carpenter ant bait trap options, as some colonies can be a bit discerning in what they will and won’t bring back to the nest, especially when it comes to bait meant for other ant species.
Desiccants are similar to pesticides in that they kill carpenter ants, but they don’t affect the central nervous system. Instead, they deteriorate the ants’ outer shells, eventually killing them. A popular DIY desiccant for carpenter ants is diatomaceous earth. This is a powder that you can leave on the ground near the entrance site to the carpenter ant nest. It should be available at your local hardware store.
Diatomaceous earth is non-toxic to humans and pets, but inhaling the powder can still be harmful to the lungs. Make sure not to inhale it when you’re applying it throughout your home, and keep dogs and cats away from the areas as well.
Boric acid is considered a natural ant killer, and it can exterminate carpenter ants on contact, much like pyrethroids. You can use boric acid powder and a powder applicator to apply it just as you would powdered insecticides.
Even if you know how to get rid of ants, you still need to be able to identify signs of carpenter ant infestations to have any chance of getting rid of them.
Most homeowners first identify a carpenter ant infestation in the spring, when the winged worker ants start to emerge from existing colonies to mate. If you see flying ants in your home in the early spring, the likelihood is that the colony is well established and needs immediate treatment. If you just see a few carpenter ants that aren’t winged, the parent colony is more likely outside near your home, so preventative measures should suffice unless a satellite colony is moving into your home.
You can also identify a carpenter ant infestation by their entry holes in wood surfaces. If you find small holes in wood door frames, hollow doors, window sills, or other trim — and sometimes directly in the sheetrock in your home — you likely either have a termite issue or a carpenter ant problem. If you notice sawdust on the ground under the holes, then carpenter ants are probably the culprit. These wood shavings, called frass, are left behind by the carpenter ants as they burrow into your wooden surfaces.
Most of the time, it’s easier to prevent carpenter ants from infesting your home than it is to eradicate a large colony. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to keep carpenter ants from coming into your home and causing damage:
Carpenter ants damage can be massive and happen rapidly, so dealing with an infestation immediately is crucial. Carpenter ants are not only destructive but also pervasive, so many homeowners turn to professional pest control companies — like Terminix Pest Control — the second they identify a carpenter ant infestation. This ensures a swift solution and, in many cases, guaranteed results.
Unfortunately, some DIY “solutions” — like natural repellents — also end up causing the carpenter ant colony to relocate. Finding the nest once is challenging enough, but locating it twice and creating a new area for structural damage can be even more devastating. Hiring a professional is the way to go if you want to ensure the carpenter ants in your home are eradicated.
Most pest control companies will treat carpenter ants, but not all provide the same services and the same quality of service. Below, we’ll provide a quick breakdown of the best pest control companies to hire for carpenter ants.
Terminix is our all-around favorite pest control company. It has a massive footprint throughout the entire United States, it provides a satisfaction guarantee for all carpenter ant exterminations, and it’s more affordable than many competitors.
Terminix provides one-time solutions for carpenter ants, which come with a satisfaction guarantee and free re-treatment if the problem persists. You can also choose from quarterly treatments and annual treatments to keep the carpenter ants at bay all year.
Terminix only uses certified and well-trained professionals that know how to deal with a wide range of insects, so you’ll be getting true expertise. Best of all, the company has lower prices than many other exterminators, with a standard carpenter ant treatment totaling around $250. You can also choose from the company’s many comprehensive treatment plans for exterminating carpenter ants and other insects and pests and preventing their return. You can contact Terminix Pest Control for more information.
Orkin is another pest control company that ranks near the top of our list for professionalism, affordability, and effectiveness. Orkin also provides a satisfaction guarantee, which means you can rest assured that your carpenter ant issue will be taken care of.
Orkin provides one-time services for a variety of insects and pests, including carpenter ants. The baseline price for this extermination is around $100, but it can increase if you have a home that’s larger than average or if the infestation is worse than usual.
Orkin also offers customers year-round pest protection plans that keep your home safe from all of the most common household insects. These plans are more expensive, but they prevent issues rather than treat them once they’ve started. You can contact Orkin Pest Control for more information.
from our #1 recommended pest control company, Terminix.
There are a few different methods for DIY carpenter ant extermination. First, you should locate where the nest is by following the carpenter ants in your home to find the crevices where they enter your wall voids. Next, treat the area around the nest entrance with a pesticide, a desiccant, bait traps, or a natural pesticide, like diatomaceous earth. For the best results, you can hire a professional pest control company, like Terminix.
Some homeowners are able to treat carpenter ant infestations themselves. However, you’ll get much better and faster results if you hire a professional like Terminix, and you’re more likely to avoid potential structural damage the carpenter ants can cause to your home.
To prevent carpenter ants, you want to avoid pest attractions outside and inside your home. Remove dead trees, tree stumps, and log piles from your yard, make sure to fix leaks inside, and store all food in airtight containers. For the best results, have a professional exterminator like Terminix or Orkin provide perimeter pest control services.
Carpenter ants are attracted to food — including crumbs from human food and pet food — and they will seek out wet or damaged wood for shelter.
Our research process involves a multi-step process to get real insights into the customer experience for each company. We contacted each pest control company directly and spoke to representatives via phone and online chat (if available). This allowed us better understand the company’s treatment offerings and customer service. We also consider BBB accreditation and what customer reviews say about each company. Additionally, we fact-check and update company data regularly to ensure accurate and up-to-date information.
We developed a 100-point rating system to compare the companies numerically.
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