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All About Carpenter Ants

Ah, the beauty of springtime! And, as with all good things, come some not-so-good things. Let's learn about carpenter ants!


Carpenter Ant

carpenter ants

(Photo by Ingrid Taylar)

As inspectors, we are always on the lookout for wood destroying organisms (WDOs), of which carpenter ants are included.  Consider this list of characteristics of the carpenter ant, and be aware they have been known to exist in all 50 states:

  • Carpenter ants are considered social insects and their presence, although not frequently seen, can be large in number ranging from 10 to 20,000 workers.  They mate in the Spring and are most active at night.
  • They do not eat wood, but carve out or excavate wood material for use as a nest. They prefer moist wood to nest in, but will excavate through dry wood. The telltale shavings left behind are called frass.
  • Carpenter ants feed on a wide variety of foods, including other insects, such as aphids, scales, and mealybugs; as well as dog food, seeds, bread, and honey, to name a few.
  • Evidence of carpenter ants may exist as small openings on the surface of wood, wood shavings, wings, or bodies.
  • These predators are typically 1/4"-5/8" in size and can be black, red and black, brown or red in color and may have wings or be wingless.
  • They usually will enter buildings through cracks around doors, windows, or where utility lines pass through walls, and will travel over tree branches onto a structure.
  • A colony must have a continuing source of moisture to survive.  Outdoors this may be dead wood, or inside an overly wet or poorly ventilated crawlspace or attic.
  • Workers have been know to travel up to 300 feet from the colony in search of food.
  • Ridding your property of these pests is best left to a professional extermination company.  Attempting to exterminate with unproven remedies usually results in only partial elimination of the colony.
  • Treatments typically exist of barriers, drilling wood members, pressure injection, or applying dust.