What Do Carpenter Ants Eat? (3 Tips To Get Rid Of Them)

Carpenter ants are pests that can damage the woodwork in your home. They can enter your home through numerous avenues, such as cracks, in search of food and shelter.

Carpenter ants carve into the wood of your house, similar to termites, and they do so to build their nests.

You can do a few things to protect your home from these bothersome pests. All of these things, however, start with the same question: what do carpenter ants eat?

What Is A Carpenter Ant?

According to Orkin, the carpenter ant is known for excavating decaying wood to build its nests. Carpenter ants are usually black or red. However, there are many species featuring colors such as yellow and orange.

How To Identify A Carpenter Ant

The ants have heart-shaped heads, a thorax separated from the abdomen by their narrow waists, and hind wings that are shorter than their front wings. The carpenter ants also have bent antennae which distinguishes them from termites who have straight antennae.

If identifying one singular ant seems too complicated, another way to know if carpenter ants are in your home is to check for nests. You can do so by searching for trails of worker ants, which will lead you to a clean, smooth chamber in the infested wood where the nest will be.

How Do You Know If You Have A Carpenter Ant Infestation?

Worker ants tend to leave the nest for food at night and come back during the early morning, so this is the ideal time to check for trails. It is also important to note during which time of the year you see the carpenter ants.

During the spring, seeing said ants within your home might mean they are passing through your area but not necessarily infesting it. However, seeing them during the winter is a different story.

According to the University of Minnesota, if you see carpenter ants within your home during the winter, it is likely that they have a nest within it and that you might have an infestation.

How Worried Should I Be About Carpenter Ants?

The damage carpenter ants cause can weaken the structural integrity of the wood within your home, though this greatly depends on how long a colony has been in your house. The damage will be more substantial if a colony has been in your home for an extended period.

You can identify damage done to wood by carpenter ants due to its clean-cut tunnels and galleries. The areas might appear well-sanded, and there will be little to no sawdust or other debris.

What Do Carpenter Ants Eat?

Black Carpenter Ants
Image Credit: Houseman Services

The University of Minnesota stated sugary substances and protein make an excellent food source for carpenter ants, as well as other living or dead insects. This includes, for example, aphids and scale insects, which produce honeydew, a sweet waste product of these insects.

Are Carpenter Ants Attracted To Food?

Alongside honeydew, carpenter ants can get their nutrients from sweets such as nectar, syrup, honey, jelly, plant and fruit juices, as well as proteins like eggs, meats, and grease. It is important to note that workers can also travel up to 300 feet from their nest to forage for food.

To prevent an infestation of carpenter ants, it is helpful not to leave these foods lying around. Carpenter ants also eat pet food you might leave unattended for long periods.

Will Carpenter Ants Ever Go Away?

Another essential habit of considering when dealing with carpenter ants is their tendency to forage food and live long periods without food or water. Specifically, carpenter ants can live over six months without food or water, according to Thomas Pest Services.

In the winter, when there might be a shortage of food, these ants, instead of slowly dying as you might expect, will slow down and become dormant. Should carpenter ants feel there is a lack of food, they will even resort to cannibalism to keep the colony alive.

Do Carpenter Ants Eat Wood?

Some people assume that carpenter ants eat wood, but this is a misconception. It is important to note as this is a crucial distinguishing factor between carpenter ants and termites, as explained by PestWorld.org.

Simply put, you might find carpenter ants in areas within your home where you might not have any wood, but rather other materials, such as granite countertops. The destruction of the wood is only a consequence of the carpenter ants trying to build their nests.

What Do Carpenter Ants Dislike?

carpenter ant
Image Credit: Palmetto Exterminators

According to Cedarcide, carpenter ants do not like cinnamon, oil, essential oils, or vinegar. The reasoning for this is the same for all three substances: ants use pheromone trails to navigate the world and communicate with their colony. These liquids distort these trails.

The smells produced by substances such as vinegar oil, cinnamon, and essential oils such as lemongrass, peppermint, and cedarwood all disorient ants and prevent them from finding food or their way back to the colony.

What Attracts Carpenter Ants Into Your House?

Carpenter ants with wood
Image Credit: Lindsey Pest Services

What attracts carpenter ants to your home are things that will help them survive and sustain themselves, such as moisture, food, and debris piles, as written by Pointe Pest Control.

What Conditions Attract Carpenter Ants?

Carpenter ants like moisture and rotting lumber because it allows them to excavate and carve their nests much easier. Due to this, carpenter ants enjoy building their homes in decayed wood.

Areas in your home where there might be much condensation or leaks, like near AC units in windows, windows in general, and doors, bathrooms, tubs, sinks, and laundry areas, tend to attract these ants in particular.

How Do You Stop Carpenter Ants From Coming Into Your House?

Sweet foods and foods that contain protein will also attract carpenter ants. Leaving garbage unsealed, pet food left lying around, or any sweet food left unattended will allure these ants into your home.

Lastly, debris piles, such as unattended firewood, make a great place for them to build their nests. If you’re not careful of where you store firewood, you could bring in carpenter ants through these debris piles and potentially allow an infestation to brew.

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants

In order to get rid of a carpenter ant infestation, you must create an uninviting environment for them.

What Is The Best Bait For Carpenter Ants?

Cedarcide recommends using sugar and baking soda mixed in equal parts in water as bait to lure carpenter ants to a death harmless to your home and environment.

This strategy includes placing small bowls of this mixture near locations where you notice the most ants, which may near doors, windows, and pipes. The ants will be drawn to the sugar in the water and die from the baking soda once consumed.

What Smells Keep Ants Away?

Another strategy includes filling spray bottles with essential oils, cinnamon oils, or vinegar and water and spraying the mixture around the highly populated areas previously mentioned. You can even use rags dipped in these solutions to achieve the same effect.

These rags or sprays will do the opposite of the sugar and baking soda bait, and disorient the ants and deter them from moving through your home.

What Kills Carpenter Ants Naturally?

If you want to use a pesticide, a natural option is Diatomaceous Earth, which has abrasive material that can slowly kill ants that come into contact with it. This is a naturally occurring soft rock that you can break into white power.

You can buy Diatomaceous Earth in any local home improvement store. To use it effectively, spread DE through areas where worker ants are commonly seen.

Non-toxic insecticides, such as All-Purpose Bug Spray, can work to deter carpenter ants from entering or living in your home as well. Otherwise, common chemical pesticides such as boric acid can be used.

Final Words

It is important to recognize what a carpenter ant is, and what it likes,  to effectively rid your home of them. Knowing what foods carpenter ants like can help you realize what foods might’ve attracted them to your house and use it to your advantage to get rid of them.

There are numerous options to expel these insects from your homes, such as spray bottles filled with vinegar and water or naturally occurring pesticides.

Regardless of your current situation concerning pests in your home, this article can help you protect your home by teaching you how to identify essential signs of an infestation of carpenter ants, the possible cause of the infestation, and how to eliminate it.

Please comment on any questions or concerns you may have regarding carpenter ants and let me know if you found this article helpful.

Key Takeaways

  • Carpenter ants carve into the wood of your house to build their nests inside the wood.
  • The damage carpenter ants cause can weaken the integrity of your house
  • Carpenter ants love sweet foods as well as foods high in protein
  • You can use essential oils such as cinnamon oil to deter the ants or use a natural pesticide to get rid of them.

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