We all find ants in the house from time to time. They’re not particularly pleasant to see but let’s face it, there are worse critters to share your home with. But is that the case with all types of ant? Are some ants worse than others? Unfortunately so as carpenter ants are more than just annoying. They are willfully destructive and if you have a colony resident in your home, then you need to sort them out quickly before they literally bring your house down. These particular critters are not to be ignored and as luck would have it, there are plenty of home remedies to get rid of carpenter ants from your home.
Carpenter ants identification
Carpenter ants can either be black, red, brown or a mixture of different colors and as such, they can be difficult to identify. However, they all have a characteristic of a heart-shaped head which is different from other ants. Thirdly, carpenter ants are bigger in body size as compared to regular ants. Indeed, carpenter ant species are amongst the largest ants in the world.
They like living in forested areas and tend to build their nests inside the wood they bore. After chewing out the wood with their mandibles they form nests inside the wood. They feed on dead and living insects e.g. aphids and other sugary insects.
All carpenter ants are able to burrow through wood and create smooth tunnels called galleries. This is not common ability with other ants.
Termites can be at times confused with carpenter ants because of their ability to damage similar wood. But how do you tell this is a termite’s job? Termites eat wood for food whereas carpenter ants burrow through wood creating tunnels leaving out small piles of dust behind as they keep burrowing. It is these waste piles of wood which indicate an ant rather than a termite infestation.
Signs of carpenter ants in house
Carpenter ants can damage any wood in which they decide to nest. This is often trees or logs, but for some unfortunate people, it can mean an infestation in wooden timber structures of the house. They are mostly attracted to wood frames, old houses, houses near forests, outside walls of homes, attics, and ceilings. If left untreated, the damage the ants cause can lead to structural instability and it goes without saying that the problem needs to be addressed fast.
Carpenter ants rarely nest in dry wood but instead seek wood that has been softened by excess moisture, damp or decay. If a nest has colonized your house, the nest, unfortunately, will probably be out of sight and inaccessible as the ants tend to seek out cavities in walls, doors, and windows.
Signs of carpenter ants in house are:
- Ants around the house – Ants may have entered your house to forage for food and may not indicate an infestation. However, if your house is clean, a large number in the house is a worrying sign that the nest is inside
- Wood shavings – The tell tales signs of a carpenter ant nest in the house are the presence of small piles of wood shavings near wooden structures. Unlike termites, the ants do not eat the wood, just burrow into it and this wood is ejected into small piles.
- Rustling noises- If there is a colony in the house, you may well be able to hear a faint rustling sound as they go about their business. As the ants are active at night, the sounds will be louder at this time and you may hear a crackling cellophane sound in the walls. Also, take a flashlight around the house to see if you can spot increased activity.
- Large winged ants – If large winged ants start to crawl out of cracks and crevices, flying around in attics and basements, then you almost certainly have an infestation
How to Get rid of Carpenter ants
Before anything else, first, find the carpenter ant nest. If you are lucky, the nest is outside and the ants in your home are just foraging for food. The nest contains the carpenter queen who can live up to 15 years. Without locating the nest, any home remedies will be of limited use as the queen will continue laying eggs for a new generation.
Before you go to war against the ants, follow the ant trails and see where they lead. When you locate the nest, you must destroy it by pouring on the nest a solution of the natural insecticide options listed below. If you have found the nest but cannot access it, then you will need to try a bait solution to destroy it. If you just want to get rid of carpenter ants from your home, then there are also plenty of options which will deter the ants from ever entering.
Carpenter ant natural insecticides
Boric acid is the go to natural carpenter ant insecticide. It is non-toxic to humans but kills ants for fun. You can purchase Boric acid from any pharmacy of hardware shop and can be used to sprinkle around the house or mixed with water to form a spray solution for the nest. It also is the best compound to use in carpenter ants bait.
2. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth is another fantastic natural insecticide to get rid of carpenter ants. It consists of the tiny remains of fossilized algae-like plants. The powder works to desiccate the ants and is an effective home remedy to get rid of carpenter ants.
3. Cedar oil
Cedar oil is another great natural insecticide for carpenter ants. It is effective against all insects and arthropods and is the best essential oil to get rid of carpenter ants. When carpenter ants come into contact with cedar oil, they suffer from osmotic dehydration and suffocate. The oil also emulsifies the insect’s body fats and kills them. (2) You can spray the home and basement with cedar oil solution and use the spray directly on the nest.
4. Neem oil
Neem oil is another great essential oil that can be used as an insecticide to get rid of carpenter ants. The oil has a slightly different mechanism for killing the ants as the compounds found in neem oil destabilize the insect’s hormonal systems. Exposure to neem oil can destabilize the colonies ability to reproduce. (3).
5. Liquid Dish Soap
Put dish soap and water in 1:2 ratio and fill it in a bottle. Shake it well to make the solution. You can also add baking soda for good effect. Spray the solution over ants. The soap solution suffocates the ants as well as acting as a great cleaning solution. Wipe up the dead ants with a wet cloth.
Carpenter ant bait can be used in traps that are placed near the colonies. When the worker ants are moving to and from the nest foraging for food, they will bring back the poison into the nest, killing the entire colony. You should be strategic where you place the bait so other insects don’t take the bait instead. Place it close to the nest on an obvious ant trail. Don’t use ant repellants in the vicinity of the bait. You’ll only scare the ants away from the bait, rendering the trap useless. These are some natural carpenter ants bait recipes which we recommend:
6. Sugar and boric acid carpenter ants bait
Mix boric acid and sugar in equal measure. The ants will forage for the sugar and inadvertently take the boric acid back to the nest and feed the colony the poison. Boric acid is the most effective carpenter bait trap.
7. Sugar and Baking soda acid carpenter ants bait
Mixing baking soda with sugar in equal measure is an effective carpenter bait trap. Baking soda is technically not a poison in the classic sense of the word. The reason why it kills ants is because ants have acidic bodily fluids due to the presence of formic acid. If the ants ingest baking soda, this reacts with the acid to form CO2 which cannot be expelled by the ants, and the ants die. Some reports state that the ants explode.
8. Peanut butter and Boric acid carpenter ants bait
No prizes for guessing which is the bait and which is the poison. The reason that you may want to try peanut butter instead of sugar is because the carpenter ant nest may be in a place that sprinkling a sugar and poison mix may be ineffective. For instance, using the peanut butter carpenter ants bait is effective if a nest is in inside a tree as the paste can be smeared onto the tree bark side.
Carpenter ant deterrents
Salt is another great home remedy to get rid of carpenter ants. It can be used to form a line – i.e. a natural barrier that the ants will not cross. You can boil up a saline solution to pour on the nest as well.
A great natural pesticide is a mixture of vinegar and water in equal parts. Spray the solution around your doorways, windowsills and other places where you find ants. You can also clean windows, floors, and counterparts with this solution as vinegar is a fantastic household cleaner as well as an ant deterrent.
11.Clean up crumbs and water spills.
Most of the time you find ants in the house, they have wandered in on a foraging mission. They signal to fellow works when they find food and before you know it, there is an ant trail running into the kitchen. If you keep your kitchen clean, stray ants will ‘report back’ that your kitchen has nothing to offer. Ants are attracted to sugary items in particular. Clear up crumbs and any spillages immediately.
Due to their size, ants obviously don’t need to use the front door to enter the home. If you have carpenter ants and they are not resident in the house, then check all your windows, air vents, etc for any cracks. Use caulk and block them up.
13.Spray lemon water solution
14. Boiling water
Not really a deterrent, more ‘total war’. If you have located the nest and you are lucky enough that it is outside, boil a kettle and pour the contents on the nest. Simple and effective. Nothing likes boiling water.
15. Red Chili Powder
Add a little amount of water with red chili powder to prepare a paste. Use this paste to prevent ants from entering into your house or add chile to water to make a spray solution. Alternatively, sprinkle chili powder directly in the areas from where the ants are coming.
Cinnamon is also an effective remedy to get rid of carpenter ants. Carpenter ants do not like the smell and will be discouraged from entering the house. Cinnamon oil also has been shown to have insecticide properties. You can either sprinkle ground cinnamon in affected areas or make up a water cinnamon spray solution for high traffic areas.
- Inspect all firewood brought into the house. You may unwittingly be bringing in a colony.
- Carpenter ants like damp. Make sure your home is leak and damp free
- Cut down branches that are close or touching your house. Ants will often enter the attic through this route
- Keep your lawn mowed and tidy. Ant colonies like wild meadows.
- Do not start any process to get rid of carpenter ants until the nest and its colonies have been detected. Random actions can scatter the nests and make the problem worse.
- Don’t intercept worker ants as they forage for food to eat. It’s advised to follow them up to find their nest.
- Don’t destroy walls as you try to find the nests of these ants. Try a bait solution first.
- Don’t confuse carpenter ants with termites. The treatment for termites is different.