How to kill carpenter ants – professionals share advice on how to eliminate them efficiently

These pests may be minute – but they can cause huge problems around the home. Here's how to kill carpenter ants and end an infestation for good

How to kill carpenter ants, one ant on wood
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Have carpenter ants taken up residence in your home? If so, it is important to act fast and learn how to kill carpenter ants – because while these insects may be small and harmless to us humans, they can cause significant damage around your home. 

Of course, many of us already know how to get rid of ants in the home - but remember, there are thousands of different ant species, and it is important to handle the notorious carpenter with extra urgency and caution.

Aptly named ‘carpenter’, these ants (which are commonly black in color) build their nests in wood. If they are left to roam, they have the capability to threaten the structure of your home as their nests can fracture and ruin wood. So, it is imperative to resolve an infestation as soon as you notice any carpenter activity.

How to kill carpenter ants – the professional solution to a harmful infestation

Carpenter Ants on wood

(Image credit: GettyImages)

You may have noticed an increase in creature activity around your home. However, of all species, carpenter ants are arguably the most detrimental to your property.

With help from the experts, we explore how to kill carpenter ants, as well as why do ants come into the house

First, you will need:

What are the steps to get rid of carpenter ants?

Marc Potzler, the Board Certified Entomologist with Ehrlich Pest Control (opens in new tab), explains that your treatment method comes down to the type of nest you're handling.

'Carpenter ants live in a network of nests: a Parent Colony, which is almost always outside, and Satellite Nests, located in a radius around the parent colony,' Marc says. 'The Satellite Nests act to expand the foraging range of the parent nest, and they are in frequent contact with the Parent Nest to share resources.'

If a smaller nest site is found, Marc recommends directly applying an aerosol or dust into the void will eliminate it immediately.

However, the Parent Colonies are much larger (often around several feet long), making them harder to treat. You can do so with baits – which you should place next to the ants’ observed trails (but not across the trail). 'The closer to the void opening the baits are placed, the better results will be seen,' Marc says.

There may be multiple satellite nests in one home. All of them, plus the Parent Colony, must be eliminated to end the infestation. Otherwise, the Parent Colony will send another group of workers to re-establish an exterminated satellite nest.

 What is the fastest way to get rid of carpenter ants? 

'Finding and directly applying a contact or residual insecticide [such as these  on Amazon (opens in new tab)] to the nest site(s) will offer the fastest results,' Marc says. Though, he adds that, due to the difficulty in locating every satellite nest, slower-acting products such as baits may provide faster overall results. 

'Never spray near bait placements,' he adds. 'And take care to avoid applying insecticides where they may contact food or where children or pets may be harmed.'

Melanie Rose, a Trained Pest Control Specialist from Nationwide Pest Control (opens in new tab), adds that you will need to apply dust-based insecticides, such as boric acid, which is strong enough to kill the pest for good. 'These insecticides are helpful because they penetrate existing cracks in the interior walls of your home and other wall voids,' she adds.

Carpenter ant on a leaf

(Image credit: GettyImages)

Why do I suddenly have carpenter ants?

Food, water, and shelter are essential for all pests, including carpenter ants. However, this creature also craves a protein source for egg production and larval rearing and a sugar source for adult ant energy, so it's important to keep on top of cleaning tips and remove any food residue that may attract the insect. 

'Good housekeeping inside will help keep ants from foraging inside,' Marc explains. Fresh water is also important but much more difficult to control – a drop of dew is a lot of water for an ant.'

However, the prevention tactics don't end there. The pest control expert also urges you to ensure your window and front door ideas are maintained to avoid moisture-damaged wood that is the perfect base for a parent colony nest site. He suggests keeping doors and windows well caulked to reduce the likelihood of carpenter ants being attracted to your home.  

Carpenter ant on a leaf

(Image credit: GettyImages)

How do you find a carpenter ant nest?

'Following an ant trail back to the opening to the void the nest is in may lead you to the nest,' Marc suggests. However, he warns that some ants enter a home through the foundation before moving to the attic to create their nest, so this is not always an accurate method. 

'Once close to the nest, you can hear the ants moving around inside the void: the sound resembles crinkling cellophane. A moisture meter, used by many professionals, will help further narrow down exactly where the nest is inside the void,' he adds. You'll likely find nests around common construction errors that encourage leaks over time (such as a chimney). 

What is the best home remedy to kill carpenter ants?

We have explored how insecticide and bait traps can be used to kill carpenter ants, but a simple and very (very easy) homemade remedy can also be used to eliminate these pests - all you need is soap and water!

To get rid of the ants naturally, simply mix water with dish soap in an empty spray bottle, such as this bottle from Amazon (opens in new tab), and spray onto the affected area in your home. The solution is harmful and toxic to the carpenter ants so works a treat!

You can also add a few drops of an essential oil into the solution, such as this citrus oil from Amazon (opens in new tab), as the strong smell will help to eliminate their scent trails.

Are carpenter ants hard to get rid of?

As we have explored, there are many ways you can get rid of carpenter ants. However, how long it takes to fully remove them all depends on the size of the colony, how far and deep they have nested into your home and whether you have found and destroyed their central nest - the crucial part of removing them for good.

If you're not having any luck in killing them on your own, it is always worth calling in professional help.

Megan Slack
News Editor

Megan is the News and Trends Editor at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes. As the News Editor, she often focuses on emerging microtrends, sleep and wellbeing stories, and celebrity-focused pieces. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.