How to get rid of 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 end a carpenter ant infestation for good

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 get rid of carpenter ants properly.

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 and why ants come into the house – but remember, there are thousands of different ant species, and it is important to handle the notorious carpenter with extra urgency and caution.

How to get rid of carpenter ants

The best treatment method comes down to the type of nest you're handling. Below, we explain how to identify carpenter ants, as well as how to spot satellite nests and parent colonies. We also share the best, pest control-approved method, and a key ingredient to look out for in insecticides.

Carpenter Ants on wood

(Image credit: GettyImages)

Identify carpenter ants correctly

'Carpenter ants can do a lot of damage to houses or trees. Carpenter ants grab wood pieces and throw them out, while termites eat the wood. That is one of the major ways to tell the differences between termites and carpenter ants,' begins Matt Smith from Green Pest Management

'If you see a pile of sawdust and what looks like pepper and if you look really close, small hard hats on the ground this is a warning sign that you have carpenter ants. I think the things that carpenter ants hate are jokes like that and a variety of plants like rosemary, thyme, and lavender.'

Matt Smith pest control expert
Matt Smith

Matt Smith has been working in the pest control industry for 14 years. He started Green Pest Management, Delaware-based pest control company, nine years ago. With his background and experience he is knowledgeable about a variety of pests, pest activity, and ways of dealing with infestations.

Use the best, pest control-approved method

Carpenter ant on a leaf

(Image credit: GettyImages)

'The best way we have found to get rid of carpenter ants is a combination of bait and a time-release pesticide. You will have to do a little bit more than just buying a quick kill on contact pesticide,' begins Matt Smith. 

'We use baits to help kill off the population but also get them to come across the other pesticide we put down. We use a few different products for carpenter ants but they all contain fipronil,' he shares.

'If you want a permanent solution you have to keep in mind that they may have different nests, so be diligent in looking.'

You will need:

For small nests

Marc Potzler, the board-certified entomologist with Ehrlich Pest Control, explains that carpenter ants live in a network of nests: 'They live in a parent colony, which is almost always outside, and satellite nests, located in a radius around the parent colony.' 

'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 (satellite) nest site is found, Marc recommends directly applying an aerosol or dust into the void to eliminate it immediately.

For large nests

If you have found a much larger nest, often around several feet long, then you are likely dealing with a parent colony. These are harder to treat, but 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.

Melanie Rose, a trained pest control specialist from Nationwide Pest Control, suggests using a dust-based insecticide, such as boric acid, at Walmart, 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.

Try a home remedy

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, at Amazon, 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 essential oil into the solution, such as this citrus oil from Amazon, as the strong smell will help to eliminate their scent trails.

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.  

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). 

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. 

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.

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

'Be really careful about the bark that you bring in for landscaping,' cautions Matt Smith. 'It is really common for us to get a call from people who bring in bark, and with it, carpenter ants.'

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.