How to Identify and Control Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are among the largest ants in the bug world. There are a number of different carpenter ants that will infest a building. Identifying these ants is the first step in ridding a building of the pests; calling a professional and helping to kill the ants follows. Preventing a new infestation is the final step, however, carpenter ants are diligent, and even the best pest control efforts may not keep them all outdoors. Continue reading our updated post on how to prevent carpenter ants.


Carpenter worker ants are sometimes black, sometimes red and black. They are typically up to 1/2 inch in length, and will be the first ants noticed, as they are the “scouts” that come out of the nest for food. The queen carpenter ants are winged, and as large as one full inch in size. They hide in the nest to lay eggs and care for young, so they are not as commonly found in the open. A typical colony divides itself between three different categories: workers, males, and queens.

The worker ants could be different sizes, as these ants have specific jobs, as mentioned above. Some defend the nest while others gather food for the colony. As these are the ants that will be seen first, it’s important to use these ants to positively identify that the ants are carpenters. Look for a waist with one node, and a thorax that has an evenly rounded upper surface. This is important, as other ants will look similar to carpenters, but are not. The thorax will be the biggest difference in knowing if you have carpenters or another breed of ant.

It’s important to know what ant is infesting a building before calling professionals, because different ant breeds require different pest-control efforts. For example, despite their name, carpenter ants do not typically infest wood. Any wood treatment will not affect the ant, and they will remain in the building.

Calling a Professional

Call a professional when you don’t know if the ant is a carpenter ant, or if you don’t know the habits of the carpenter ant, or both. Carpenter ants will have two types of nests, a parent colony and a satellite colony. The parent colonies will be outdoors, in moist trees, woods, rotting trees, roots, stumps, logs or boards on the ground. The important elements to a successful parent nest is moisture and decay. Nests have been discovered around bathroom fixtures, leaky kitchen sinks, in wall voids, and anywhere moisture may gather in the home.

Satellite nests will be indoors or out. They include workers, larvae, and ant pupae. Again, the important element is moisture; dryer satellites will only include worker ants. This is why satellite nests are often found in dryer locations, such as hollow areas or insulation. The worker ants will often move between the satellite and parent nests, moving food and supplies for the queen. Even though this movement can be followed, it’s difficult to do if you don’t see this activity every day, and calling a professional is the best course of action.


Controlling carpenter ants means finding and destroying all the nests, then replacing any damaged or decaying wood. Remove moisture issues to avoid future temptation for the pests, and seal entrances to the building. While it is possible for residents and business owners to control these pests, it is extremely difficult, and a professional is highly recommended to completely rid a building of an infestation.

The professional will treat the home internally with dust or spray insecticides, sometimes drilling small holes to reach the nests. This type of treatment is only approved for professionals; there are no insecticides of this type or strength available on the common market.

A professional may also lay baits for any remaining ants, which contain attractive foods for the ants to take back to the nests. These food sources are poisoned, and spread among all existing nests. This is because ants share food, and the toxin is time-released. It does not release until after the sharing process is completed. Baits strong enough to complete the job in a timely manner are only available to professionals; those available to consumers could take months to complete the job.

Treatments Outdoors

Preventing a re-infestation includes spraying the areas outdoors to get rid of the original parent colonies. It’s important to remove stumps, rotting boards, dead trees, and any other sort of wood that absorbs moisture around the home. In addition, ask a professional to treat the building’s exterior and surrounding trees with a residual insecticide.

It’s important to work with a professional to get the fastest, most effective pest control possible. When you work with a professional to eradicate the problem, then continue to care for the property on your own, you’ll have an ant-free building for longer, and re-infestation will be less likely in the future.

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