Carpenter ants build their nests in wood, so they’re often found in and around homes. Unlike termites, they don’t actually eat the wood, they just nest there. Carpenter ants can infiltrate a home and get into your food and water sources. Read on to learn how to control carpenter ant populations to prevent them from becoming a nuisance.
EditFinding the Nest
- Make sure you’re dealing with ants, not termites. Carpenter ants are large black or dark brown insects with three body segments and six legs. They have bent antennae. The worker ants are wingless, while the reproductive ants have wings. They tend to walk in long trails. Termites, which are a far worse problem to have, have straight antennae and light colored bodies. If you’re dealing with termites, read this article.
- Look for frass. Frass is a sawdust-like material left behind when ants bore into wood to make their nests. It will contains body parts and debris, but will basically look like a pile of light wood shavings. If you see this around your house, it’s a telltale sign you’ve got an ant problem on your hands.
- Look for wood damage. Wood that is serving as a nest for ants will have slits or holes. You’ll usually see frass scattered nearby as well. Ants like to nest in walls, hollow doors, cabinets, beams, and structural wood. Look for areas where the wood is slightly damp, since ants like to build their nests in moist wood.
- Set out bait nearby. To find the nest, you’ll need to lure the ants out with some bait, then trail them back to the nest so you can figure out exactly where they’re hiding. Set out very small bits of honeydew or another sugary fruit near where you believe the nest to be located.
- Trail the ants to the nest. When the ants take the bait, follow them back to the nest. You’ll probably see them crawl into a space in the wall, a cabinet, or a door. Keep watching until you’re sure where the nest is located.
- If the nest is visible and accessible, you can get rid of the nest itself by moving to the next step.
- If the nest is hidden and difficult to reach, you’re going to want to use the toxic bait to kill the ants. It will take about three days to go into effect.
EditRemoving the Ant Population
- Use the toxic bait method. This method is best to use if the nest is hidden or inaccessible. You’ll use toxic bait to lure the ants out of the nest; they’ll carry it back to the nest, and within about three days the ant population will be poisoned. Buy some carpenter ant toxic gel bait and mix it with a spoonful of sugar and a spoonful of milk. Set some out near where you suspect the ants live. Wait for the ants to come out and take the bait.
- It is essential that the bait you use be slow acting. If it kills the worker ants on their way back to the nest, the thousands of ants still back at the nest won’t be affected. Choose a bait that takes about three days to work.
- Never spray the line of carpenter ants you see coming from the nest with insecticide. This won’t harm the ants still lying in wait, and could actually cause them to sense danger and spread out to build more nests.
- If you have pets or small children, tamper-resistant bait stations are a safer option for dispensing toxic baits.
- Destroy the nest with direct dusting. This method is effective when you can access the nest easily and apply carpenter ant dust directly to the queen and the entire colony. Choose a carpenter ant dust and follow the instructions on the package to apply the dust to the nest.
- Diatomaceous earth is a natural, nontoxic dust that can be used to kill carpenter ants without bringing poisons into your home.
- Other chemical dust such as Delta Dust and Drione Pest Insecticide Dust is also effective, but it does contain toxins and could pose health risks to pets and children.
- Try a boric acid bait.
- Buy boric acid at a garden supply store.
- Mix with powdered sugar, in a ratio of about 1/3 sugar to 2/3 boric acid.
- Fill bottle caps with the mixture. Set down around the area where you observe the ants.
- When they return it to the nest, it will kill the ants in the nest. Boric acid penetrates the ant’s body and dissolves inside of the ant.
EditPreventing Carpenter Ants from Coming Back
- Clean up your house to make it a bad breeding ground for carpenter ants. Do this by cleaning floors well, fixing any leaky faucets that might dampen wood, and removing any clutter that creates shelter for them.
- Seal your house. Use caulk to seal your foundation and cracks around doors, windows, and any other areas where ants could get into your home. Install screens on your windows and doors.
- Remove natural debris from around the home. Cut tree limbs back so they aren’t hanging directly over your house. Clean up weeds, leaves, wood piles, and other natural debris that’s close to your house and could be harboring an ant population.
- Clean up crumbs and water leaks. Ants need sugar, protein and water sources to survive. Keeping these basic needs away from them is the best way to prevent them from infesting your home. Keep the floors and counters free of crumbs and clean up spills, especially sugary spills. Fix faucet leaks and make sure there’s no accessible water in the area.
- Get a stethoscope and listen to the wall you think the nest is in. You will hear a scrabbling sound that sound like a rustling or tapping sound if ants are near.
- Use stealthy poisons because these ants can sense most poisons. Don’t kill ants by stomping on them.
- Keep poisons away from children and pets.
- Stop Ants Coming Into Your Home
- Make a Safe Roach/Ant Killer
- Get Rid of Carpenter Bees
- Swat a Fly Without a Fly Swatter
EditSources and Citations
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