How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants live on every continent except for Antarctica. Unless you grew up in a research tent, there’s a good chance you’ve had to deal with ants invading your home at least once.

Carpenter ants live in colonies up to 3000 ants, and the wooden frame of your home makes a perfect nest for these annoying pests. Unlike termites, carpenter ants don’t eat wood. They often burrow through wet or damp wood to build their colonies. If you see trails of wood shavings in your home, there’s a good chance you may be dealing with a carpenter ant invasion. Keep reading to find out the best way to get rid of carpenter ants yourself without having to call an exterminator.

1. Confirm You’re Dealing with Carpenter Ants

Before you start taking steps to manage the carpenter ants in your home, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re dealing with ants and not another pest. Carpenter ants leave a trail of sawdust called frass behind them as they burrow through wood. If you haven’t seen any ants but you’ve noticed these wooden trails, it’s a good chance that you have ants and not termites or another insect.

If you find out that you’re actually dealing with termites, you’ll need to change your removal strategy. Learn all about how to get rid of termites that have taken over your home.

2. Find the Carpenter Ant Nest

Ants are social insects that share food with each other. Often the nests in your home are satellite colonies of a larger colony living in damp or rotting wood outside your home. Creating satellite colonies allows the ants to quickly access the food crumbs left inside your home.

If you want to get carpenter ants out of your house, you must pinpoint where they’re nesting. A good way to find where they’re coming from is to put a few drops of honey or another sweet food near where you think the nest is. Carpenter ants are most active at night, so the best time to draw them out is after the sun goes down.

Carpenter ants create chemical trails between their food sources and their nest. Once you see ants marching from your honey back to their home, you should be able to locate the colony

3. Bait the Carpenter Ants

Once you’ve found where they are coming from, the next step is to put down a slow-acting toxic bait near the nest. If you notice multiple trials of ants, you may have multiple colonies in your home. It’s a good idea to bait each trail individually.

The majority of the ants in the colony will be in the nest at any given time, so killing individual ants is usually futile and may be counterproductive. As tempting as it may be to stomp out the ants you notice, it’s better to let them carry the bait back to their nest.

The back of your package of ant bait will give you specific instructions about how to use it. Usually, the instructions will ask you to mix the bait with sugar or honey.

Baits such as Terro Liquid Ant Baits may temporarily increase the number of ants around the bait. However, after a few days, the bait will interfere with the ants’ digestion and should kill them off after about three days. Temper-resistant baits are also good options if you have pets or children.

4. Try Alternative Methods

If you’ve followed all the steps we’ve listed but find the ants aren’t going for the bait, it may be because they’re following chemical trails to other food sources. Cleaning other potential food sources from your home may encourage the ants to go for the bait instead.

If the ants still aren’t going for the bait, you may want to consider an alternative method or calling an exterminator.

You can also try directly dusting the nest with an insecticide if you have direct access to the nest. This guide on the Terro website lists the steps of how to properly dust an ant nest.

5. Prevent the Ants from Coming Back

It’s likely that ants in your house are a satellite of a larger colony in your yard. If you don’t take care of the colonies outside, the ants will likely return to your home.

Carpenter ants like to nest in damp and decaying wood. If you have a lumber pile or rotting trees around your property, removing them away from your house may help prevent the ants from returning. You may also want to target sources of dampness in your home such as plumbing leaks or cracks in your roof.

Making sure that you keep the food in your home in sealed containers can also prevent more ants from investigating your home. Ants feed on sugars and proteins. Breadcrumbs, sugary spills, and uncovered items in your pantry may all invite ants and other insects, so be sure to clean up thoroughly to prevent more unwanted “guests” in your home.