Situations & Solutions

We can blame most ant-related structural damage in the Northeast on carpenter ants. Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood but instead tunnel into it to construct their nests. While slow to cause much harm, they can do major damage without control. If you have chronic problem with carpenter ants, you may have wood that is frequently getting wet due to a leak. If you fix the leak, the carpenter ants will no longer find your home attractive.

Think You Have a Problem?

There are several signs that could indicate that ants may have nested inside your home:

  • The presence of many large black ants inside.
  • Small piles of loose, sawdust-like shavings.
  • Small piles of frass (insect droppings) and/or sawdust in basements, closets, attics, around the foundation, under porches, and any area where there is moist wood.
Carpenter ant © Clemson University USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series,
Carpenter ant © Clemson University USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series,

If you can see the ants, observe them, especially outdoors. Foraging ants tend to wander, but ants returning to the nest often take a direct route. Watch to see where they go. If several enter the building at the same location, the nest probably resides nearby.

You can also place a sweet bait, such as jelly or honey, in an area where you frequently see ants. Put a tablespoon in a jar lid and then follow the ants as they return to the nest.

Eliminating The Nest

If a nest has been identified, you will want to take steps to eliminate it. Unfortunately, no nontoxic control methods exist and in many cases, you may need to hire a pesticide control expert to locate and treat a carpenter ant infestation.

When searching for a reputable service, ask the following questions and obtain two or more estimates before signing a contract:

  • Are they licensed in Massachusetts (or the state you are in)? In Massachusetts, licensed applicators are required to have their license on them when performing a pesticide application.
  • Does the service attempt to locate the nest before treatment? Will they apply pesticides only to the nest and surrounding area?
  • Does it have written information about the pesticide provided, including a copy of the warning label? What risks do these chemicals pose to humans, pets, and the environment? Where and when will they apply the pesticides?
  • Do they offer a guarantee? If so, how long? The guarantee should cover at least 90 days and preferably one year.


To deter future infestations, remove and replace any moisture-damaged wood. Consider storing any firewood away from the house or garage, and trim any branches that touch your home (or that touch the electric and cable wires that lead into your home) to eliminate a path inside.