5 Effective Methods to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants

Mutant ants (as I like to call them) are often referred to as carpenter ants or big black ants. These giant ants are easily distinguished by their size. And there is a misconception that all of these ants are black. Some (but not many) carpenter ants have red bodies.

If you have these pesky pests in your home, you probably want to get rid of them.

How to Identify Carpenter Ant?

No one wants to share their home with ants. I know I don’t want to at least. Before you go into baiting ants and exterminating them, it’s important to be able to identify the ants in your home because there are numerous types of ants.

Carpenter ant on white background

Carpenter ants have these characteristics:

  • Red or black bodies
  • ½” – ¾” length

I’m not expecting you to pick these ants up and measure them. Just eye the size of the ant to determine its length.

Carpenter Ant Precautions

Carpenter ants get their name not because they eat wood, but because they bore into the wood of a home to make their nest. Ants are very protective of their nest, and they can be very aggressive, especially if you’re in the vicinity of the nest.

Carpenter ants can be even worse than termites in some cases, as their nest size expands.

The good and bad news is that carpenter ants prefer to build their nests in areas that are damp. The dampness is likely preferred because it makes the wood easier to bore into and make a substantial nest.

Homeowners face the problem of having to find leaks that are causing the dampness.

A few culprits for leaks are:

  • Sinks
  • Bathtubs
  • Badly sealed windows
  • Piping

Professionals recommend finding the source of the leak before trying to get rid of carpenter ants. The dampness is the root cause of the ants taking up homage in your home, and if the root of the problem is not remedied, the ant problem will come back even after the most diligent pest control measures.

Preventative measures should also be taken that goes beyond the measures listed above. A few preventative measures that everyone should take to keep these species of ants at bay include:


  • Remove old wood sources from near a building.
  • Ensure that shrubs and trees do not come in contact with the home and provide an easy path into the home.
  • Firewood should be kept away from the home and off of the ground.
  • Gutters, downspouts and roofs should be kept dry so that they do not attract carpenter ants which prefer damp areas.
  • Exterior wood surfaces of a home should be sealed or painted properly.
  • Moisture barriers in crawl spaces and under portions will provide more than enough protection against moisture buildup.

If you can prevent an infestation, it’s much better than finding about a large infestation several years after these ants bore holes into your home’s wood. In some cases, ants can cause significantly more damage than termites.

5 Best Ways to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants Naturally

You want to know how to get rid of carpenter ants, and there are four measures you can take (aside from fixing the leak) that will help alleviate your ant woes.

1. Hire an Exterminator

If you don’t want to take your chances with killing off the ants yourself, hire an exterminator. A professional will know which steps to take to kill the ants. The right company will recommend finding the source of the dampness in the home, so keep this in mind when hiring an exterminator.

The professional will:

  • Find the nest
  • Use poisons and traps as needed

The poisons used will not be safe for pets, so keep them away from the area where the exterminator sprays.

The cost of an exterminator can be $500 – $1000, as the job requires the exterminator to drill and dust. The dust consists of a pesticide that is put in the holes for the ants. Monthly maintenance visits until the issue is corrected can cost $250 a month on average.

2. Boric Acid

The nest and colonies need to be found and marked, so you can begin your assault on the mutant ants. Natural pesticides and ready-made pesticides are available to kill the ants. But a quick home remedy of boric acid and sugar often does the trick.

  • Add 1 tbsp. of boric acid into a bowl
  • Add 1 tsp of sugar into a bowl
  • Add 4 ounces of water

You can also add peanut butter or honey into the bowl. Mix the ingredients up well and spread the solution in a tracking area of the ants. The sweetness of the mixture will attract the ants that will perceive the mixture as food and carry it back to their nest.

Now, don’t worry – boric acid will kill the ants slowly.

It’s vital to keep the mixture out of reach of children and animals, as they can become sick if they come in contact with the mixture. All boric acid remedies will take time before sufficient results are experienced.

A bottle of vinegar on the wooden table top.3. Vinegar

An eviction sign won’t work for ants, but you can tell them that you don’t enjoy their company – with vinegar. White vinegar and apple cider vinegar are both equally as potent for this case. Mix the vinegar with water and spray it on all of the ant trails you come across.

Peppermint or eucalyptus oil (just 1 tbsp.) can be added to the mixture to make it more potent, too.

This is a solution that will not kill the ants, but it will stop them from wanting to be in the home. In many cases, this will prevent future nests from being built in the wood of the home, too.

4. Ant Traps

An affordable solution to ant problems that is a little more professional than the DIY methods above is to buy ant traps or bait. This bait is often in the form of a gel that is inside of an ant trap that works to attract the ants to the location.

Often sweet in flavor, these traps will be able to lure in hundreds of ants and allow them to take the bait back to the queen and the rest of the colony.

Slow-acting, these traps and baits will keep the ants alive for a few days to allow them to make it back to the nest. An issue that I’ve found is that there can be so many ants going for the bait that some of them will die prematurely.

The death, I assume, is due to the ant overindulging in the bait. Many ants will be found inside of the bait where they lay dead. But you will find that after a few ants begin to pile up, the other ants will start to take notice that something is amiss.

Eventually, the trap will no longer work and most of the other ants will walk by the bait without even a thought to go to it.

I’ve found that a quick way to remedy the problem is to place a new trap down. You may even want to put the trap a good distance from the last trap for best results.

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5. Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

DE is a product that has been mentioned on this site time and time again. And it’s here again as one of the best, all-natural methods to treat carpenter ants. If you want to know how to get rid of carpenter ants in trees, walls, yards or anywhere else, DE is the answer.

Natural and organic, this substance is made from the fossilized remains of algae.

Your pets and other animals will not die when they ingest it. Insects may die, but humans and animals will not. The key is that DE is not a poison or some harsh substance that kills anything that comes in contact with it.

DE is actually food grade, and it works because it has razor sharp edges.

These edges won’t hurt you, but when ants walk into it, the edges will rip through their exoskeletons. Shortly after, the ant will start to dry out and eventually die. The insides of the ants are shredded.

Applying this natural carpenter ant killer is rather simple, too:

  • Pour DE around the ant mound in a circle
  • Pour DE on top of the ant mound

I have also heard of people that have added DE to a spray bottle with water and used it effectively. I recommend that you use a direct application instead because it will be far more effective and will not reduce the efficacy of DE.

If you want to attract the ants to the substance, place a mixture of sugar water in the middle of the DE. Ants are naturally attracted to sugar water, so they will enter the DE circle and consume it in the process.

DE does not kill the ants immediately, so they will be able to bring some back to the colony to share it.

I want you to be very cautious if it rains or there are heavy winds outside. DE works great, but it will be far less effective and may even become ineffective if it rains. Wind can also blow the DE off of the mound, so this is something to consider when placing on a windy day.

Every week, go back to the area and see how your treatment method is working. You’ll often find that the DE needs to be placed again. Be generous when applying and keep applying often.

It may take a few weeks, but you’ll eventually find that the ant mound has been killed off. Keep a close eye on the mound to see if any ants are entering or exiting.

DE doesn’t work immediately, but it is a very quick method to kill ants of all species. And it’s never a bad idea to have a little extra DE in your house because it is one of the world’s most effective insect killers.

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants in Walls?

We discussed how to get rid of carpenter ants naturally, but when they’re in your walls, you need to take drastic measures. The reason is that as the ants remain in the walls, they will have more time to bore through wood and significantly damage your home.

That’s never good.


The first course of action is to try and find mounds outside. You’ll want to get rid of these mounds promptly to try and slow down the ant population. A strong insecticide or ant bait will do the trick.

Bait should be placed along the ants’ foraging trails, and you should try and fill any cracks or crevices with an ant bait that is made of gel. These gel-based baits work very well, and they will be able to stop ants from entering the home.

Treating the outdoor area is key, so bait should also be placed along the exterior of the home.

But drastic measures do need to be taken. Your walls are under attack, and this means that the interior of the home is at risk of structural damage. The key is to call on an exterminator. Yes, it will cost a lot of money, but it’s a small price to pay when compared to making repairs in your home.

What the exterminator will do is:

  • Drill 16” holes into the walls in the center of the home.
  • Spray insecticides in the holes to kill the ants.
  • Foundation treatments will often be applied to the foundation stem.

While the exterminator is at your home, you’ll also want to take this time to have him look for any outdoor carpenter ant mounds. These mounds can take two years to mature, and since the queen can live for a decade, you may be dealing with the same source of carpenter ants for over 10 years.

A professional exterminator will be able to tackle all of these problems for you.

Once you’re ant-free, you’ll have to have the home examined for damage. A general contractor may be able to come in, patch the holes in your wall and also look for any structural damage that may have occurred in your walls.

It’s important that you have the home repaired as soon as possible to ensure that the damage isn’t allowed to remain.

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants in Trees

Trees are living, so you don’t want to use a very potent poison to kill ants because you may actually kill the tree, too. Instead, you’ll want to take other measures that are a little tedious, but the measures will be worthwhile if you’re able to save the trees.

The goal should be to find where the colony enters the tree.

You’ll need to look at the entry points diligently, and this is so that you know exactly where you’ll be placing the bait. This is very important if you want to know how to save a tree from carpenter ants.

I recommend marking the entrance using your phone.

Take a picture with your phone and mark where you see the ants entering. Some ants will notice if the entryway has been disturbed, so they’ll start to avoid these areas in the future.

Now, you’ll want to use something that is stronger than the natural methods that we mentioned above to kill the entire colony.

It can take up to two weeks to notice the colony decline in population. You’ll want to keep a close eye on the colony to ensure that the methods you’re following have been effective.

You’ll want to gather the following:

  • Liquid insecticide
  • Dust insecticide

I recommend both of these options be used together, but others recommend using them separately. You’ll want to do the following:

  • Grab the dust and spread it thoroughly near the entrance that the ants are entering the tree from. The goal is to make it so that the ants have no other means to enter the tree but to go through the dust and bring it back to the queen.
  • Liquid insecticide should then start to be sprayed from the bottom of the tree up the entire trunk.

The rest is a waiting game. If it rains, you’ll want to re-apply the insecticides following the steps outlined above. Keep a close eye on the tree and try to determine how your methods are working.

Follow the steps above as often as necessary until the tree has been saved.

Bait systems should also be placed around the tree. There are outdoor baits that work well, and they will be able to infiltrate the colony over time. Soon, the queen will get hold of the insecticide and die.

Once the queen is dead, the colony will be well on its way to dying.

Check the bait systems every week to ensure that they’re not depleted and that they haven’t dried up. If they need to be replaced, replace them. Bait may be harsh on insects, but the tree should be more than fine.

If the tree is now rotted, you’ll want to remove it. You’ll also want to go around your yard and examine all of the remaining trees for rot. Trees that are rotted will be prime areas for future carpenter ants.

Removing rotted trees is recommended.

What Insects or Animals Provide Natural Protection Against Carpenter Ants?

Sometimes, nature is the best way to fight against pests. You see, nature has its own cycle, and if you can use nature to control pests, you won’t have to use ant baits or poison.

The main problem is that scientists don’t know what predators that are against the carpenter ant.

Interestingly, the nocturnal foraging of these ants has offered them protection from many predators. Scientists do have reason to believe that insectivorous birds may be a predator to the carpenter ant.

But we don’t know for sure.

We have observed the carpenter ant fighting with other ants, but the end result never gets rid of the colony. Rather, a bunch of the worker ants end up severely mutilated or dead in the process.

These ants will lunge forward at the other ants with their mandibles open. And since the carpenter ant’s size can be rather large, it’s a very interesting spectacle to watch.

Carpenter Ant FAQs

What are the Signs of Carpenter Ants in the House?

Spring rolls in, nature comes back to life and homeowners should be worried about carpenter ants getting into their homes. Carpenter ants in a house are never a good problem, but keep in mind that these ants play a vital role in the ecosystem, devouring wood and providing compost.

But when that wood is in your home, it’s time to take action and learn how to kill carpenter ants once and for all.

Since carpenter ants cause devastation to a home, it’s important to know the warning signs.

  • Look for shedded wings in key areas: vents, baseboards and window sills.
  • Noises inside of the walls or ceilings.
  • Sawdust, or what looks like it, beneath your door jams or baseboards.
  • Winged ants entering the home.

Keep in mind that carpenter ants are going to damage your home, so if you do notice these signs, you need to take action quickly. These pests will munch on your home’s wood, and it’s often easy to overlook their existence because they’ll be in the walls of the home.

If you have sawdust or what looks like wood dust near the three key areas mentioned previously, chances are that you have a carpenter ant infestation that needs to be corrected immediately.

What Do Carpenter Ants Look Like?

These ants are what is known as polymorphic. What this means is that the ants vary in size, and they can range from 3.4mm to 13mm in length. As the colony matures, these ants will also change.

Maturity often takes two years, and the ants may be a variety of colors:

  • Black
  • Dark brown
  • Red and black
  • Red
  • Yellow

There are black carpenter ants, but as you can see from the above, they come in multiple color options. If you want to know how to get rid of carpenter ants, it’s important that you be able to identify them.

But how?

One key way is to look at the ant’s thorax. The thorax will be round, and the head is often described as heart-shaped. Hairs can also be seen on the hind quarters of the ant. If the ants do have wings, they will be larger than their hind wings, which is another characteristic of the carpenter ant.

I also suggest you look at pictures of carpenter ants and try to use the picture as a reference.

What Do Carpenter Ants Eat?

Every insect needs to eat, and carpenter ants are no exception. These ants have scouts that will leave the colony and search for food. A very important job, the scouts are responsible for keeping the colony well-fed.

A dance is performed when food is found to alert the entire colony that food has been sourced.

It’s a very impressive display of nature. I was always under the assumption that carpenter ants ate wood. I was wrong. Insects, honeydew, nectar, fruit, fungi and any food that humans leave behind will be a treat to these ants.

What Causes Carpenter Ants?

Nature. You can do a lot to try and stop carpenter ants, but they’re a vital part of the ecosystem. There’s really nothing that you can do to stop them completely. You can put out insecticides and repellents, but these ants will continue on in other locations.

The environments that we mention below are where you’ll find winged carpenter ants swarming during mating season.

Where Do Carpenter Ants Live?

Temperate and terrestrial climates are best for the carpenter ant. And these ants will want to be near wood. You’ll find that these ants are native to the eastern United States and Canada.

They can be found in:

  • Parks
  • Buildings
  • Fields
  • Trees
  • Decaying logs
  • Grassy areas

You may even find these ants living alongside rivers.

How Long Do Carpenter Ants Live?

Carpenter ants have a very interesting life cycle, and they can go from being born to adulthood within six to twelve weeks. These blank ants have a very varied lifespan. Queens are responsible for the colony, and the queen can live up to 10 years or longer.

Males have a very short lifespan.

The male ants have one key role which is to mate. Males can live for weeks or a few months, but they will die shortly after they have mated. Sterile females are a different story. Researchers have found that these sterile females can live for a few months, or sometimes, these females can live up to seven years.

The carpenter ant queen will stay in the colony with one key job: continue reproducing.

Do Carpenter Ants Have Wings?

Yes, some do and some don’t. Queen ants have wings and so do reproductive males. Wings are either light brown in color or transparent, and the winged ants will come out in the fall or spring.

The ability to fly makes it much easier to fertilize females and grow the colony.

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