An infestation of Carpenter Ants in a Tree Stump

Do You Need an Exterminator for Carpenter Ants?

If you have carpenter ants on your property, you’ll want to get rid of these pests as soon as possible. So, can you take the DIY route to send these pesky critters packing, or do you need an ant exterminator for carpenter ants?

What are carpenter ants?

Carpenter ants are one of the largest species of ants that you’ll find in Canada, growing up to half an inch long. These ants are usually black, although some subspecies may be red or yellowish in color.

Why are carpenter ants such a nuisance in the home?

Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood. Instead, they create their nests within wooden structures, chewing through the wood to create a home. Generally, carpenter ants prefer moist, hollow, or decaying wood, but then also nest inside homes where there’s a ready supply of sweet food to be had.

Carpenter ants cut galleries along the wood grain, creating passageways that allow them to travel between nests and food stores. The ants build satellite colonies and parent colonies. The parent colonies contain the queen, her offspring, and the worker ants. Satellite colonies contain worker ants, pupae, and older larvae.

Often, there are several satellite colonies attached to the parent colony, especially in locations where there’s plenty of food and water available. Colonies of ants can be many thousands strong, and the creatures can do considerable damage, weakening structures, and causing extensive, costly damage to your home.

How do carpenter ants get into your home?

Carpenter ants typically use unsealed openings around wires and utility pipes to gain entry to your home, as well as using overhanging tree branches as a bridge to your roof.

Do you need an exterminator for carpenter ants?

Carpenter ants are notoriously difficult to get rid of once they’ve established a colony deep inside a wooden structure. For that reason, it’s recommended that you use a professional exterminator to remove these pests. An experienced exterminator will have the necessary equipment and expertise to tackle these problem pests far more effectively than most DIY methods can.

How to get rid of carpenter ants

Although you should really use a professional exterminator to tackle carpenter ants, there is some action you can take to get rid of the pests.

Indoor nests

Carpenter ant nests are identifiable by the small piles of sawdust that you’ll see around the entry points to the colony. Sometimes, you’ll spot parts of dead ants and discarded swarmer wings too.

To kill the ants and wipe out the colony:

  1. Carefully drill one-eighth-inch holes in the wall, every six inches or so, for three to six feet either side of the suspected nest location.
  2. Puff boric acid powder into each hole. The powder will gradually disperse inside the ants’ system of tunnels, killing them quickly before they have a chance to leave the nest.
  3. Block the holes, making sure that any potential entry points around pipes, etc. are well-sealed.

Outdoor nests

Carpenter ants like to nest outside too, especially in piles of mulch, wood stores, and the like.

Outdoor nests can be dealt with by drenching the area with a strong insecticide, such as carbaryl diazinon or chlorpyrifos. However, you must check with your local authority before you use toxic chemicals, as some insecticides are illegal in some states.

Also, chemical treatments are dangerous to children and pets, so we recommend that you leave the job to a professional exterminator.

Prevention is better than cure

The best way to prevent carpenter ants from inflicting damage on your property is to exclude them.

  • Have all leaks fixed, including around pipes, drainage systems, and on your roof.
  • If there are areas in your home where there are high moisture levels, take action to reduce moisture, such as installing dehumidifiers.
  • Where possible, move wood stores or wooden structures that are in contact with the soil outside your home. If you have a firewood store, keep it elevated up off the ground.
  • Cut back tree branches and undergrowth that overhangs or touches your house. That will remove potential bridges that could be used by carpenter ants to gain entry to your home.
  • Make sure that any cracks in your home’s foundation are sealed.

A good pest exterminator will carry out a home assessment for you and will recommend a carpenter ant exclusion strategy.

Final thoughts

Carpenter ants are destructive nuisance pests that can cause considerable damage to wooden structures in and around your home.

Take action to prevent carpenter ants from getting into your house, and if you suspect that these pests have made it past your defenses, hire a professional exterminator to deal with the problem.