Carpenter Ants

You can talk about coyotes, bears, birds, yellowjacket hornets, or whatever animal or insect you want, but the insect that causes me the most grief are little black carpenter ants….

Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants

We’ve been battling carpenter ants at the cottage and at home for about as long as I can remember. Last year we ended up ripping out a kitchen wall and hiring an exterminator to help get rid of carpenter ants.

It worked for a year, but they came back this week. Yup, apparently it takes more than couple visits from an exterminator to get rid of carpenter ants.

Carpenter ants starting showing up in the kitchen again, not by the hundreds, but it seemed every time we entered the kitchen there was one on the floor or counter.
carpenter ant
So tonight I took the fight to them. With the help of my son Kevin, we went outside armed with a flashlight and jug of ant killer.

We found carpenter ants travelling along a privacy fence between us and the neighbors. The fence joins our house at the side door deck, close to the kitchen, exactly where we have been finding them.

Some patient investigation and we found one of the ants heading along the fence with something in his mouth. Aha! Taking food back to the nest, to the queen ant.

So we donned our insect investigators hats and followed it, and sure enough, he entered the last deck post closest to the door through a small crack. He was certainly taking the food home.

Close investigation of the post proved us right. The post was crumbling from the inside out and from the top down. I was rather surprised as it was a pressure treated 4 X 4, which I thought would have discouraged carpenter ants. Wrong….
"deck post"
Although the post looked OK from a casual glance at it, a close look showed the entrance hole in the top and the related sawdust from the ants tunnelling.

We tore the post open with hammers and pry bars and whooo hoooo…ants started dropping out by the dozens. Many of them were carrying little white “eggs” trying to escape with the holy grail I guess. It’s rather amazing to see them try to escape with the unborn young.
"deck post carpenter ant damage"
Fortunately I had some insect spray in the shed, called “Creepy Crawly” which was very effective at killing them on the spot.

I don’t think it works very well unless you score a direct hit, but soak the area where they are with it, and you have an ant nest massacre….sorry, but that is how I describe it. It’s very satisfying….
"insect spray"
We sawed the post off below where they have reached, and soaked it all down with the ant killer and smashed it up. Lot’s of dead ants now. No more in the kitchen.

How To Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants

There is really only one definitive way of getting rid of carpenter ants. You have to find the nest. And you have to destroy the nest, remove it and replace the wood.

You need an ant killer spray that will work for carpenter ants. Talk to the staff at your local home improvement or garden center to find the strongest ant killer for carpenter ants. Sometimes they have products that are not on the shelf that are the most effective.

After you remove the nest and destroy it, you should continue to check the area for remnant ants. If you do not destroy the queen ant, she may build another nest in the area.
I found the only way to find the nest was to follow ants carrying food. They are taking it back to the nest.

More Tips For Getting Rid Of Carpenter Ants

*Spread diatomaceous earth around the perimeter of your home or cottage will discourage all insects from crossing it to gain entry. Note that this is a short term fix and needs to be repeated regularly.

*Over-The-Counter Ant Poisons seldom work on carpenter ants.

*Ant Traps, cans with little holes in the sides containing borax which is intended to be carried back to the nest have little or no affect on carpenter ants.

*Boric Acid Dust is difficult to use and very toxic to humans. Do not put it in exposed places. It is, however, one of the most effective methods for eliminating carpenter ants. However, do not put too much out as you want them to carry small amounts back to the nest for the queen.

*The first thing to do is remove any conditions that are conducive to carpenter ants. To do that remove any decayed or ant infested wood from around your home or cottage, don’t keep firewood close to your cottage or inside your cottage.

*Rotting wood should be removed and replaced with new wood.

*Correct any humidity problems in your cottage.

*Remove any sources of food, keep food in sealed containers, and regularly clean up crumbs and other food particles etc.

None of the above will work completely until you find and remove the nest. Even if you do find the nest it may be necessary to call in a professional exterminator.

Finding Carpenter Ant Nests

First thing to remember, there may be more than one nest, and more than one queen ant. Carpenter ants often have smaller nests located in the area around the main nest.
Regardless of their name, carpenter ants do not eat wood. What they do is remove wood as they tunnel in to build nests and homes. Carpenter ants mostly eat proteins and sugars and often feed on living and dead insects. They are attracted to honeydew, which is a sweet liquid produced by aphids and scale insects. Inside, carpenter ants will feed on meat and sweets, such as syrups, honey and sugar.

Where To Look For Nests

Look for nests in trees, logs, stumps, buried wood and roots, and under bushes, and other areas where they can be hidden. Carpenter ants have been known to travel up to 200 yards from the main nest.

Watch for worker ants carrying mature larvae or food to their nests. If you see ants, don’t immediately kill them, try to follow them to see where they go, they may lead you to the nest or to the point of entry to your building.


If you are lucky enough to find the main nest, remove it. Treating it with chemicals will not be as effective as removing it. It may also help to open the nest and pour boiling water over it, but you need lots of boiling water to be effective. You still need to remove it.

Tree branches, fences, garden hoses, structural wood touching the soil, landscape ties and utility wires all provide an easy route for carpenter ants to follow into your home. Look for ants in these areas and move these whenever possible.

Liquid Ant Spray

Liquid sprays will work, but only if the ants come in contact with the liquid when it is still wet. I noticed this myself. The sprays I was using would only kill the ants if they came in contact with it immediately after I sprayed it and it was visibly wet. Once it began to dry they avoided it, but it had no affect on them. In some cases, even direct hits with the spray had no visible affect on the carpenter ants.

White Gravel

Placing white gravel around the perimeter of your cottage foundation or posts has been shown to discourage carpenter ants from crossing it and entering your home. White gravel has a dry texture that ants don’t like and it helps to keep the area around your foundation drained and dry.

NOTE: Regardless of the approach you take, getting rid of carpenter ants is a long term project. It may take several weeks to completely eradicate them from your home or cottage or surrounding area. Once you do, there is no saying when another nest may develop. Remain vigilant and keep an eye open for signs of new carpenter ant infestations.

Now I need to build a new railing for the deck. However, I would rather do that than kill ants.

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