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Carpenter ants may be small, but they sure do create quite a racket—their burrowing noises are described to sound a lot like crinkling cellophane. That’s only one of the signs that these houseguests are present and compromising the structure of your home. 

If you’re wondering if you have an infestation, keep reading to learn more about what carpenter ants look like, what kind of wood they find tastiest, how to get rid of them, and when it’s time to call in a professional pest control service.

Get help with your carpenter ants problems by calling the carpenter ants control pros at Hawx Pest Control! Dial (888) 372-9514 today.

What are carpenter ants?

Carpenter ants are large ants, around 1/8  to ⅝ of an inch, that burrow inside wood to build their tunnels and nests for their colonies. A distinct characteristic of carpenter ants is the sound they make when burrowing into wood—a crinkly-crunchy sound as well as telltale sawdust piles. They live throughout the U.S., but are most commonly found in the north.

Throughout the course of their lifetime, carpenter ants can be found in any cool, damp region involving wood. While they love the protection of trees, tree trunks, rotting fence posts, loose lumber, or even under stones, they will also opt for the protection of structural wood in houses. The main colony and nest with the queen can usually be found outside.

Carpenter ants are bigger ants with heart-shaped heads. They’re typically any combination of red, brown, or black in color. They have bent antennae, making them easily identifiable from termites that have straight antennae. Most are wingless, except for the swarmers, who take to flight to find a mate during spring and summer months. 

Large group of carpenter ants destroying wood

What do carpenter ants eat?

Surprisingly, they don’t actually eat wood, they just burrow into wood and move any pieces aside to make room for their tunnels and nests. 

Their diet actually consists of sugary foods left behind by humans as well as eggs, meats, and grease. Outside, they typically feed on arthropods or other small insects and plant and fruit juices.

Are carpenter ants dangerous?

Although you might experience some mild irritation if a carpenter ant bites you, these ants really only cause danger to your home. By extension, your family and you could be at risk of injury from structural damage due to compromised stability in your home.

What are the signs of carpenter ants?

The signs of a carpenter ant infestation can vary, but you can look out for some of most common ones below:

  • Small holes in wood around your house
  • Dry wood chips, sawdust, or wood clippings on the floor
  • An excess of winged ants in your space which may mean a colony is nearby because the winged males typically don’t hatch until 2 years after the creation of a nest

Carpenter ants are attracted to rotting, moldy wood with excess moisture, especially when establishing a new colony. Keep an eye out around your home for any signs of rotting wood in addition to the carpenter ant signs above.

carpenter ants chewing on wood

How can I stop carpenter ants from getting into my home?

Carpenter ants typically enter a home through any openings or cracks in the floors, walls, or doors. They can also get in through firewood or other wood you bring in and out of your house. Air conditioners and heating ducts also pose an infestation risk, but since we all need these things, it’s better to be vigilant and try some of the tips below than to avoid using your air and heat out of fear of spreading an infestation.

Here are some things you can do to stop an infestation:

  • Weatherproof your home with caulking or weatherstrips
  • Dry out any damp or wet places
  • Turn off any leaking hoses or other water access points
  • Keep waste receptacles away from your structure
  • Clean up any wooden debris around your yard so they can’t make nests
  • Keep food debris inside the home to a minimum possible and promptly clean any spills as this will help restrict foraging to the outside of the home.

How do I get rid of a carpenter ant infestation?

If the steps above aren’t working because the carpenter ants have already established a nest and colony inside your home, a professional pest control service is your next step.

At Hawx, we use a procedure that consists of a two-part treatment that first assesses the leftover scraps of the ants while placing bait and then treats the inside and outside of your home if needed. This process usually addresses existing carpenter ant colonies within 7-10 days.

What other insects destroy wood?

There are multiple other insects that pose significant risks to your home’s structure. These include:

  • Wood-boring beetles such as powderpost beetles and old house borers
  • Carpenter bees
  • Termites

All of these insects put your family at risk by harming the stability of your home. While knowing the difference between these insects might help you win Jeopardy, the habits and risks of each one are similar and may require professional pest control assessment and services to address the full problem. If there is any question or concern that your home may have an infestation, it is best to have a pest professional come to inspect and identify the problem.

What is the difference between carpenter ants and termites?

Although both carpenter ants and termites can be black in color and small, they can be distinguished by their appearance. 

  • Termites have straight antennae and carpenter ants have bent antennae.
  • Worker termites are extremely small and white while only the swarmer termites with wings are dark in color, whereas carpenter ants are red, brown, or black in color.
  • Carpenter ants swarmers have two pairs of wings that are different in size, and termite swarmers have four wings that are all the same size.

Another major difference involves the appearance of their tunnels in the wood. Think of carpenter ants like master craftsmen who carefully carve smooth, clean tunnels in your crawl spaces. On the other end of the spectrum, termites are less careful; their tunnels have a lot more soil, mud, and rough surfaces left behind. 

example of carpenter ant tunnels in wood

Both carpenter ants and termites do pose a significant risk to your home as they both burrow into wood and can damage and eventually destroy its structural integrity. If you think you have an infestation from either insect, it’s important to call a professional pest service to assess the situation, protect your home and keep down repair costs, and ultimately give you peace of mind.

Read more about carpenter ants

Pharaoh ant walking on a stem

A Guide to Pharaoh Ants

Found throughout the U.S., pharaoh ants can build large colonies and spread more than a dozen disease pathogens, not to mention overtaking households in the

Need help with your carpenter ants problem in Atlanta east, Atlanta westCharlotteRaleighRiversideSacramento, or beyond? Contact Hawx Pest Control today!


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