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  • Tom Watson

How to Identify and Control Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ant with bent antennae
Note the bent antennae of a carpenter ant.

Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow on Groundhog Day 2020 – so looks like an early spring for New Jersey residents. This means NJ homeowners may see pest activity a bit sooner than expected this year.

Carpenter ants, carpenter bees and termites and are some of the most common invaders during springtime in New Jersey. This post is about carpenter ants and termites. We’ll cover carpenter bees next time.

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants get their name based on what they do – they chew through wood in order to build nests. Unlike termites who eat wood, carpenter ants bore. They eat sweet foods and insects. You might find carpenter ants nesting in wooden doors, ceiling beams, floor supports and attic eaves. As carpenter ants chew through wood, they product sawdust.


In NJ, the destructive termite is the Eastern subterranean. Termites eat wood, product pellets and causes millions of dollars of damage. They love a dark and damp environment - think spring showers. It is estimated that 1 in 5 homes in northern NJ are likely to be or have been attacked by these nasty pests. Moisture can collect inside walls of a home due to a variety of reasons – poor venting, bad plumbing or a leaky roof. And termites can enter homes through cracks or openings less than 1/16” wide!

How to Tell the Difference Between Carpenter Ants and Termites

Many of my customers mistake carpenter ants for termites. It is pretty easy to tell if you get a good look at one and/or what they produce:

  • Carpenter ants have a bent antenna

  • Termites have straight antennae

  • Carpenter ants produce sawdust

  • Termites produce pellets

Controlling Carpenter Ants

Finding the nest in your home is the way to get rid of carpenter ants. The amount of damage is related to the number and size of the nests. So, the key is to address the problem early – and not avoid it. Are there any wood areas in your home that have moisture damage? Think windows, sinks, chimneys, doorframes and bath traps. Think under the bathtub or toilet.

One way is tapping into wood surfaces and see if you can detect a hollow sound. You can also follow ant trails as they use permanent trails. However, this process can be tricky and still not solve the problem.

The best way to solve a carpenter ant problem is hire a pest control professional. When I find a carpenter ant problem, I treat the present and future invasion. This involves 3 steps:

  1. Remove debris around your home.

  2. Spray the foundation with pesticide.

  3. Perform quarterly applications to avoid new infestations.

The goal is to form a barrier on the outside of the home. No chemicals are applied in the home. The worker ants go out foraging and come in contact with the pesticide. They carry it back and share with the colony – killing it including the queen and eggs. The barrier treatment lasts 2-3 months and prevents new carpenter ants from nesting in your home.

Once you eliminate the nest, there are steps you can take to help prevent a future problem:

  • Repair leaks that get wood wet.

  • Insulate pipes if you see water droplets on them

  • Keep rain gutters clean and make sure they drain away from your home

  • Store firewood away from your house by several feet – and off the ground.

  • Seal gaps created by cable wires and electrical hardware

  • Keep your eyes out for any indication that you have a problem.

If you have any questions about pests or pest problems, give Tom a call at 973-764-5332.

Image by macrotiff from Pixabay

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