Carpenter Ants: Facts and Fiction for Homeowners

Carpenter ants are small insects that can cause big problems. As home inspectors, we often come across the signs of carpenter ants in a home and we need to let homeowners know why this could be important. Carpenter ants can damage wooden structures in a home, and their presence usually means you have a problem with water leaking into your home.

We’ve noticed that there is a lot of misunderstanding about these insects, so here are some facts and myths about carpenter ants.

Fact: Carpenter ant colonies are large

Once a colony is mature, it can contain approximately 10-20,000 worker ants, and can reach up to 50,000 ants or more. A colony usually has one queen. There is usually only one functional, wingless queen per colony.

Myth: Carpenter ants eat wood.

Carpenters ants are often confused with termites. Termites eat wood; carpenter ants do not eat wood but will chew on the wood to make tunnels in your home. They create galleries in the wood to build their nests. Once a colony is established, it grows by replicating itself. As the colony expands, they need more room and will tunnel into more wood and this can cause damage to certain wooden elements in the home.

Fact: Carpenter ants prefer moist and rotting wood

Carpenter ants like to build their nests in hollow areas and inside moist and rotting wood, or areas that already have structural damage. They like cool, damp areas like kitchen, bathrooms. They are often found in wood that has been damaged by leaks, such as chimneys, door and window frames, crawlspaces under roofs, and areas near plumbing and near windows and doors. It is easier to tunnel through damaged, most and rotting wood.

Myth: Carpenter ants are dangerous

Carpenter ants can bite hard enough to break skin, but the good news is that they do not spread diseases or infections.  

Myth: Home made remedies are effective at preventing eliminating carpenter ants.

As a rule, a carpenter ant infestation is one where you should call in an expert. Common suggestions for prevention include using vinegar, cinnamon or lemons to form a barrier to your property.  While these are all scents that ants do not like, they will still be able to find ways into your home, such as doorways, overgrown trees, shrubs and utility wires. Some home remedies include pouring boiling water over the ants, but this will not kill the colony.

How do you avoid carpenter ant infestations?

There are several things homeowners can do to avoid carpenter ant infestations:

  • Check your plants including shrubs and trees. Make sure you trim back any of the branches or plants so they do not touch your structure.
  • Inspect for any moisture issues, including leaks in your roof or plumbing and correct them.
  • Seal any cracks you find in your structure to avoid potential entry points
  • Keep firewood far away from your building as carpenter ants love building nests in firewood.
  • Check that your downspouts and gutters are diverting water away from your home to prevent a build up of moisture.
  • Be aware that oftentimes an interior nest is just a satellite nest of the main colony that is located outside.

From a home inspection point of view, a homeowner needs to know whether there might be damage to wooden elements in a home, such as window frames, but more importantly, a homeowner should be looking for the source of water infiltration to avoid further damage.  A home inspector knows where to look for vulnerable areas and can identify the source of the water problem. Remember that Mose Home Inspection believes you need to know everything about your home.