How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants in Trees

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Last Updated on January 20, 2023 by Sharon Vanessa

Carpenter ants may look tiny but they can be so ferocious. When they invade your territory, especially woods, they burrow and chew into woods with their mandibles causing serious damages. Read on for some tips on how to get rid of carpenter ants in trees.

In spite of these carpenter ants living inside the woods, they do not feed on woods, unlike termites. They only burrow into the woods to create a passage for them to move easily.

Carpenter Ants Killing Trees – The Facts

Carpenter ants in trees are not directly harmful to the tree. Control is not necessary for the tree’s health; their presence indicates decay in the tree, and they only feed on dead wood fiber.Carpenter ants in trees and houses are an indicator of a moisture and decay problem. Locating the problem gives you opportunity to act.

Seeing dozens of large ants coming and going out of the base of a large tree often elicits a fear that the ants are damaging the tree. Carpenter ants do not feed on wood, but they do create galleries within rotting wood to build their nest within the tree. Unlike termites, an insect that does eat wood, carpenter ants excavate tiny bits of wood that look like course sawdust. Piles of sawdust deposited by carpenter ants can often be found at the base of the tree. The fact that you see them wandering out of the tree is the nature of ants, not termites.

Evidence of a carpenter ant nest within a tree does not indicate the tree is in a state of decline. Often, nests go unnoticed for years in healthy trees since the ants are tunneling in dead tissue and not disrupting the flow of water and nutrients.

Carpenter ants are opportunists and will look to build a nest where ever they find wood that is exposed to moisture, whether in a home, firewood or a tree with decay. Winged ants emerge in spring to early summer to seek new sites to establish their colonies.Carpenter ants feed on living and dead insects as a source of protein and on a sugary substance called honeydew (produced by insects like aphids and scale that siphon the sap out of plants). Carpenter ants may even forage inside a home for protein and sugar sources such as pet food, sugar, syrup and other sweets.


Best Time to Spray for Carpenter Ants


The best time to do this is late at night since this is when carpenter ants are most active. After the ants have fed on the honey, follow them on their journey back to their nest.

The best way to control carpenter ants is to find and destroy the nests. This is often easier said than done. Recent studies have shown that carpenter ants follow distinct scent trails between the satellite colonies and the parent nest. Carpenter ants also rely on scent trails to recruit their nestmates to food. With patience and a little effort, homeowners can use this trailing behavior displayed by carpenter ants to locate and eliminate the nests. 

When carpenter ants are observed, don’t spray them; instead, feed the ants small dabs of diluted honey placed onto the back (nonsticky side) of pieces of masking tape.

Be patient— eventually the ants will disappear behind a baseboard, cabinet, or into some other concealed location such as the hollow space (void) within a wall, door casing, or porch column. 

Treat wall voids and other hidden spaces where ants are entering by carefully drilling a series of small (1/8 inch) holes and puffing boric acid (available at most hardware stores) into the suspected nest areas. The boric acid powder will disperse in the hidden void and contact and kill the ants. If you suspect the nest is in a wall, drill and treat at least 3-6 feet on either side of where ants are entering so as to maximize the chances of contacting the nest. Carpenter ants prefer to travel along wires, pipes and edges. If you suspect the nest location is in a wall, also treat behind pipe collars and behind —not in— the junction box for electrical switch plates/receptacles. NEVER SPRAY LIQUIDS OR INSERT METAL-TIPPED DEVICES AROUND ELECTRICAL OUTLETS!). 

As noted earlier, carpenter ants seen in the home may actually be nesting outdoors, foraging indoors for food and/or moisture. Consequently, the homeowner may end up following the ants they have baited with honey out of the house and into the yard, possibly to a nest located in a stump, or under a log or railroad tie. Once the outdoor nest is discovered, treatment can be performed by spraying or drenching the nest with an insecticide such as carbaryl (Sevin), diazinon, or chlorpyrifos (Dursban). If outdoor nests are suspected, the homeowner should also inspect around the foundation of the building at night with a flashlight, especially around doors, weep holes and openings such as where utility pipes and wires enter the structure. The baiting approach using honey can also be used to trace carpenter ants which are foraging outdoors back to their nest. 


Carpenter Ant Tree Damage and Prevention Methods

Oftentimes, it will be difficult or impossible to locate and destroy the carpenter ant nest(s). In this case, the homeowner may wish to call a professional pest control operator. Pest control companies approach carpenter ant problems differently. Some attempt to locate the nest and selectively treat only in specific areas. Other companies take more of a “shot-gun” approach, drilling and dusting as many potential wall voids and nesting sites as possible. Most companies also apply a perimeter spray treatment around the outside foundation of the home in an effort to temporarily prevent reinvasion. The approach which should not be used is simply to spray each month where carpenter ants are seen. If no effort is made to locate the nest(s) or probable nest areas, the problem will most likely continue. 

Typically, there will be wide differences in price depending on the company and amount of effort expended. Since carpenter ant problems are not always solved on the first attempt, the type of guarantee and reputation of the company should be factored into the purchasing decision. 

A number of steps can be taken by homeowners to reduce the potential for future carpenter ant problems.

  1. Correct roof leaks, plumbing leaks and other moisture problems which will attract carpenter ants.
  2. Eliminate wood-to-ground contact such as where landscaping has moved soil or mulch up against the wood siding of a home.
  3. Clip back tree limbs and vegetation touching the roof or siding of the house. Limbs and branches serve as “bridges” between carpenter ants nesting in a dead tree limb and the structure.
  4. Seal cracks and openings in the foundation, especially where utility pipes and wires enter from the outside.
  5. Stack firewood away from the foundation and elevate it off the ground. Never store firewood in the garage or other areas of the home, as firewood is a prime nesting area for carpenter ants. //



Identify Carpenter Ants Activities in Trees

The first thing you need to do is to identify and inspect carpenter ant activities and locate their nest. They are usually active around spring and summertime. Carpenter ants nest location may not be so easy to identify mostly because they are inside the woods.

When you notice a pile of sawdust at the base or around your tree, you might have a carpenter ant infestation. Also, check around moist or damp areas of your tree. Carpenter ants thrive in moist and decaying areas where they build their nest.

Identify Carpenter Ants Activities in Trees

Carpenter ants colony can multiply up to 50,000 workers. Thus it is crucial to eliminate these ferocious being on time to stop them from multiplying further.

Learn more about Why are there ants in my yard

Tips on How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants in Trees

After identifying carpenter ants infestation on your tree, you can now proceed to treatments. The best way to tackle these ants is to seek a professional that is licensed in pest control who will evaluate the situation. They will also help eliminate carpenter ant easily.

However, if you wish to tackle these ants yourself, here are some tips to getting rid of carpenter ants in trees:

  • Powder or liquid insecticides: from the nest, identify the entry hole of the ant on your tree. Apply the liquid or powdery insecticides into the entry holes. Always make use of non-repellent insecticides. Repeat this process every week until there are no more ants.

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  • Ant baits: ant baits might take some time but it is one of the most efficient ways of eliminating carpenter ant. All you need do is to follow the ant trails and identify where the ants are coming in and traveling to. Apply the bait in these trails. The ant will take the bait to and fro into the colony. The ant will share the bait with other ants. This will allow enough bait inside the colony thereby killing the queen ant. Now that’s the target: Kill the queen and the colony as well.

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  • Peppermint Essential Oil: spray peppermint essential oil all over the infested tree. Also, target the nest site. Repeat this process for weeks to achieve a good result.

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Final Note

Carpenter ants are not so easy to eliminate so you will need a lot of patience. After a successful elimination of carpenter ants, you want to take all precautions to avoid re-infestation.

Here are some things you can do to prevent re-infestation:

  • Keep your trees in a healthy dry condition.
  • Carpenter ants do not cause tree decay but they can deteriorate the state of a decaying tree. Therefore, prevent your trees from decaying by keeping your trees in good condition.

Immediately you notice any slight carpenter ant infestation, deal with it immediately. Do not delay to avoid the infestation from getting out of hands.


How do you get rid of carpenter ants in trees naturally?

Carpenter ants are small, reddish-brown insects with a black head and a long slender abdomen. They typically invade homes during the summer season to find food. They also infest trees and they form nests in them.

There are many different ways to get rid of carpenter ants in trees naturally. These include using oil sprays and an organic garden pest control kit for natural ant repellents or using insecticidal soaps and insecticidal dusts for ant killing at home.

The most effective way to get rid of carpenter ants is by using baits that contain an insecticide called boric acid which kills them and their larvae. Ants will feed on the bait and then be killed by the boric acid in their bodies.

Are carpenter ants harmful to trees?

Carpenter ants are not a direct threat to trees, but they can have an impact on the health of trees. If a carpenter ant colony becomes too big, it will cause damage by cutting large diameter branches which could trigger the death of the tree.

However, carpenter ants don't eat leaves or bark like termites do and won't cause significant structural damage. In general, they are considered to be beneficial to gardeners and landscapers by decreasing the need for pruning dead branches.

Can you spray ant killer on trees?

Yes, it is advisable to spray ant killer on trees because this will prevent ants from getting into the tree's trunk and spreading damage to the tree.

Can a tree with carpenter ants be saved?

A tree with carpenter ants can be saved if you catch them early on. You need to remove the ants and seal up any entry points they may have used to enter the trunk of the tree. If you don't do this quickly, then your chances of saving it are slim to none.

What is the fastest way to get rid of carpenter ants?

Every situation is different and some people may need a combination of both natural and human-made methods in order to prevent any additional damage in the future.

The best way to get rid of carpenter ants is by mixing borax with sugar water and pouring it on the ant's nest. This will kill all the carpenter ants in the vicinity and also protect your home from any other future infestations as well.

Another way of getting rid of carpenter ants naturally is by using boiling water or steam from your oven or microwave . It makes sense because some insects are attracted to the heat emitted from these devices.

The best way to get rid of carpenter ants is by using borax, sugar and cooking oil for the nest. This will confuse them and they are likely to die because they have no place from which to escape from the mixture of borax, sugar and cooking oil.

What do carpenter ants hate?

What do carpenter ants hate? Carpenter ants don’t like to be around water or moisture-soaker objects like wet towels, plants that have been watered recently, or anything with a lot of moisture that is not close to the ground or on a floor.

Instead, they tend to be drawn towards substances like alcohol and lime that smell bitter when mixed with other scents.

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