What are carpenter ants?

While having an ant infestation is never a pleasant experience, no ant is worse to have in the home than the carpenter ant. Responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage every year, carpenter ants are second only to termites in terms of the sheer destruction they cause to the floors, walls, and foundations of the structures they infest.


group of carpenter ants on wood around home

How do I identify carpenter ants?

Physically, carpenter ants are typically black in coloration, though they can occasionally have a light red or yellow hue. Carpenter ants are generally much larger than other ant species, ranging from 1/8 to 1/2 inch in length.

Carpenter ants are most often seen in the springtime when reproductive members of the colony sprout wings and take flight in mating swarms. During this flight, pairs of male and female carpenter ants will take off in all directions in order to form new colonies. If you see a carpenter ant swarm from your home, it means that you likely have a severe carpenter ant infestation and should contact a professional immediately.

Winged carpenter ants are often mistaken for swarming termites, but they have a few subtle differences:

  • Carpenter ants have elbowed antennae whereas termites have beaded antennae.

  • Carpenter ants have front wings that are larger than there hind wings. Termites also have two sets of wings, but they're all equal in length.

  • Carpenter ants have constricted waists whereas termites' waists are broad.

Regardless of the differences between termites and ants, if you see a swarm in your home, it's important that you contact a professional pest control service immediately to help you identify the insect species and come up with a treatment solution.

Are carpenter ants dangerous?

Carpenter ants do not present the same direct threats to humans associated with other ant species. Carpenter ants rarely come into contact with humans. On the unlikely chance that they do bite, they are nonvenomous and are generally harmless to people. Their bites pinch, but they will not leave you with the typical painful red bumps that come with bites from other types of ants.

Though they don't directly threaten human health, the damage they cause to structures can pose indirect harm to the people living inside them. Beyond the cost of repairs, extensive carpenter ant tunneling can critically damage your home’s structural fortitude and create potential safety hazards for the people living inside.

Why do I have a carpenter ant problem?

Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not actually eat the wood inside your home. Carpenter ants excavate inside structures in order to create galleries where they establish their nests. Even though they don't eat wood, they can still cause extensive damage over time. Each nest they build can house anywhere from thousands to millions of ants, and if left untreated, a carpenter ant problem will quickly become overwhelming.

Carpenter ants must find sustenance somewhere, and if there are carpenter ants on your property, they will likely come inside looking for food and water. While carpenter ants in the wild typically infest dead or rotting wood, your home can provide an ideal nesting alternative, especially if you have rotting or water-damaged wood in your walls or foundations.

However, while carpenter ants prefer moisture-damaged wood, they will also attack healthy wood if it happens to be in the vicinity of their new colony. Ultimately, carpenter ants can attack any home at almost any time, so its important to take precautions to prevent them, and if you already have a carpenter ant problem, you should get rid of them as soon as possible.

How can I get rid of carpenter ants?

Because their tunneling takes place inside the hard-to-reach areas deep inside your home, carpenter ants are practically impossible for most homeowners to treat or defend on their own. Luckily, the professionals at Pestmaster® Services can treat any carpenter ants that may have come onto your property, destroying all the colonies and keeping your biggest investment protected for the future.