Expert Contributor - Scott Dideon - MS BCE - Urban Entomologist

Capenter Ant EnlargedCarpenter Ant is the largest ant in the Greater Seattle area, and historically has been here possibly the longest. Often it is mistaken for a termite. It is considered a WDI, or Wood Destroying Insect, and for that reason there are some things people should know to protect their homes.

While Carpenter Ants can destroy wood, most of the time the damage done is usually superficial. But if the ants are ignored, then eventually the colonies can increase in number and become a significant concern.

Almost all the time the queen is in a tree or buried log near the home. The colony in the home is a satellite colony and is supporting the parent colony with the queen. The satellite colonies are found mostly in soft wood, often the framing in the wall of the home. Carpenter Ants do not eat the wood like the termite do. They damage wood by chewing out tunnels which become smooth galleries that can house the pupae from the colony and protect the workers. As they chew the wood, they typically will dump the frass (pieces of wood and dead insects) in an area near the galleries.

How You Can Know if You Have Them in Your Home

Most species of Carpenter Ants forage at night where they are usually collecting and consuming dead insects. If you see live Carpenter Ants inside your home in the early spring, that is likely an indicator that you had a satellite colony in a wall void that was waking up from hibernating through the winter. As the weather warms up, the workers will try to connect outside with their parent colony. If it is too cold outside, they will go into the living quarters of a home temporarily.

Carpenter Ants grouping inside woodIn the summertime, as the weather warms up, you might see piles of frass being kicked out in the middle of the night by the workers as they expand their galleries in the walls. It is the wood directly under the frass that is likely infested with the Carpenter Ants.

Around September is when swarmer’s might emerge from the colonies. Swarmer’s are winged reproductive ants (male and female) that swarm inside the home. It is this group of Carpenter Ants that is often confused with termites because termite also swarm at about the same time of year. You can tell the difference by a number of character traits, but one of the easiest is to look at the antenna and see if it is straight or is elbowed. Ants will have elbowed antennas.

How to Prevent from Getting Carpenter Ants in Your Home

Below is a list of some simple steps that you can take to prevent damage to your home due to Carpenter Ants:

Keep trees and vegetation cut away from the home. Carpenter Ants will frequently access the house through vegetation, often making it harder to see them and a greater challenge when trying to treat for them. Keep your vegetation 18 inches away and trees 2 – 4 feet will make it harder to go undetected.

Move firewood away from your home. If the firewood is stack up against the home, this could invite a Carpenter Ant colony right next to your house. Eventually, they might like to move in from the cold.

Take Carpenter Ant sightings seriously. If you are seeing live ants consistently in the home, or reproductive swarming in the fall, then that would mean that you probably have a satellite colony already established in the wall voids of the home. Keep in mind that It is common for ant activity to fall off within a few days. But that doesn’t mean that the colony has just moved on, they are likely still in the home.

Carpenter Ants love aphids. The ants will feed off the “honey dew“ from the aphids. This is a sweet liquid that aphids excrete to discourage ants from eating them. Carpenter Ants will actually protect aphids from their natural predators in order to keep using them as a food source.

Call a Professional to handle them. If the Carpenter Ants are ignored or not treated correctly, it is likely that the colony will NOT be eliminated and will continue to do damage to the wood in your home. This is a good time to call Green City Pest Control and have them professionally eliminated.

Pest World Video on Carpenter Ants:

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