Carpenter ants on wood. Pioneer Pest Management serving Portland OR & Vancouver WA talks about how to declare Independence from Carpenter Ants this summer.

With warmer weather comes outdoor recreation, BBQs, and uninvited guests in the form of carpenter ants. While most ants are generally harmless, these large black ants can cause thousands of dollars in damage to a home.

Fortunately, Pioneer Pest Management is here for you. We’re answering your commonly asked questions about carpenter ants, and offering ways to help combat these destructive pests. Keep reading to learn more!

What do Carpenter Ants Look Like?

Carpenter ants are typically large. They’re one of the largest ant species in North America, reaching lengths as long as 13 mm! Although carpenter ants are usually black, they are also known to be a combination of red, black, or brown.

Another carpenter ant species we have in the Pacific Northwest is the Essigi–the smallest of the carpenter ant species. It measures about ¼” in size and is all the same dark color. This ant does not gain size with age, and the workers are all nearly the same size.

Another way you can identify carpenter ants is by their body characteristics. Carpenter ants have a heart-shaped head and a single node in between their thorax and abdomen.

Do Carpenter Ants Have Wings?

Yes, carpenter ant swarmers have two sets of wings– a larger set in the front and a smaller set in the back. Swarmers typically come out in late spring and their job is to reproduce and start colonies. People often confuse carpenter ants with termites because of their wings and wood-destroying behaviors. To learn more about their differences, take a look at our, “Termites or Flying Ants – What’s the Difference?” blog post.

Are Carpenter Ants Bad?

Carpenter ants do produce painful bites, but their real threat is the damage they can do to your home. They excavate wood for their nests, affecting the integrity of your structure. Carpenter ants will make nests in walls, attic eaves, floor joists, and underneath bathtubs. They’ve been known to bore pathways throughout homes for years without going noticed.

How Can You Tell if You Have Carpenter Ants?

You may have carpenter ants in your home if you notice the following:

  • Large black or dark-colored ants in your home
  • Small piles of wood shavings (frass) near baseboards, window sills, and other wooden areas
  • Discarded wings near baseboards, window sills, and vents

Carpenter ants generally establish nests where there are moisture problems, so address any water leaks and rotting wood.

How Do You Get Rid of Carpenter Ants?

One of the best ways to get rid of carpenter ants is with prevention. Below is a list of ways you can help deter carpenter ants from invading your home.

  • Trim back tree and plant branches away from your home
  • Seal off cracks and gaps around your home
  • Apply weather stripping to windows
  • Install a door sweep to the bottoms of doors
  • Store firewood away from your home
  • Eliminate sources of water, these pests need water to survive
    • Don’t keep pet food out all-day
    • Repair water leaks
  • Plant wisely, carpenter ants feed on honeydew, plant juices, and other insects
  • Store food in airtight containers, carpenter ants will feed on sugary foods, meats, grease, and more once inside of your home

Carpenter ants are one of the more difficult pests to eliminate and if you don’t properly treat them, they can cause ceilings to sink, walls to bulge, and supports to weaken. We highly recommend you contact a professional carpenter ant exterminator if you have a carpenter ant problem. They have the tools and experience necessary to safely and properly get rid of these uninvited guests.