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Property Damage From Carpenter Ants: What to Look Out For

Carpenter ants are a type of wood-infesting insect that is known to infest homes. 

Carpenter ants can cause property damage by gnawing on materials such as wood, paper, and even insulation in the walls of your home. 

They do this to create galleries where they can lay their eggs and grow their colony.

In this article, we’ll show you exactly what to look out for, to catch carpenter ants before they cause too much damage.

Carpenter Ant Damage

Carpenter ants can cause a lot of damage to buildings. They are able to chew through wood and create tunnels in the support beams, causing structural problems for homes. 

These carpenter ant infestations often go unnoticed until it is too late. If carpenter ant damage is noticed early enough, you have a good chance of preventing the little bugs from doing too much harm.

Depending on the severity of the problem, you may have to call a professional exterminator.

infested wood

Warning Signs of Carpenter Ant Damage

The carpenter ants in your home may be causing damage to the structure of your house, without you knowing.

If you live in an area where carpenter ant infestations are frequent, an eye out for warning signs. 

Warning signs of carpenter ants include:

  1. The first sign of carpenter ants is when they’re scouting for food in your home. They’ll make sure there are food sources nearby, before moving in.
  2. When carpenter ants decide to nest in your home, they’ll create small piles of frass/sawdust while excavating.
  3. If you have an established carpenter ant nest in your home, you’ll at some point see flying ants near your windows, trying to get out. These are reproductive ants, ready to mate.
  4. The last sign, at the most serious, is when you notice structural damage to wooden structures. At this point, you need to call an exterminator.
carpenter ants on wood

Although carpenter ants do not pose a serious health threat, their constant gnawing on your house can cause a lot of property damage.

Not only can they destroy structures, but they build their nests within wooden structures that can become quite large over time. 

Some places where carpenter ants will nest include:

  • In wooden structures in homes
  • Between walls and in insulation
  • Decaying or dying trees
  • Piles of wood/firewood

Carpenter Ants Don’t Eat Wood

While many people believe carpenter ants eat wood, this is not the case.

Carpenter ants like to build their nests in wood. That is why they are called “carpenter” ants  – the name comes from the word “carpentry” which means working with wood.

Carpenter ants dig through wooden structures, but they won’t eat the wood. They’ll create frass/debris and dump it in their “dump pile” to make room for their nest.

ants on the wood floor

Carpenter Ant Damage vs Termite Damage

Carpenter ant damage is often confused with damage caused by termites due to their similar appearance. 

Carpenter ants do not consume wood as termites do; instead, they burrow through it which can lead to significant damage. 

Termites do, in general, cause more damage though.

Carpenter ants are black and have a similar body type to that of termites. However, carpenter ants can be differentiated from termites by looking at the waist. Ants have a thin waist, while termites are more rectangular in shape.

If you find piles of sawdust, you’ll have carpenter ants on your hand. Again, they don’t eat the wood. This often makes it easier to spot a carpenter ant infestation faster.


You most often won’t notice termites before they’ve caused serious damage, as they don’t create this debris, and due to the fact that they like to stay hidden. Ants will scout for food and are much more visible.

If you do believe that carpenter ant damage or termite damage has been done to your home, you should contact an exterminator immediately. A pest removal professional can make sure that further damage is prevented.

How to Identify a Carpenter Ant Infestation

1. Carpenter Ants Crawling in a Building or Home

Carpenter ants are always on the hunt for food sources. Their favorite foods are sugary substances (sugar, honey, syrup, fruit, etc.) or protein (insects or other small animals).

If you have food lying around in your home, or if there are food crumbs or dirty dishes, ants can pick up on this.

Carpenter ants are also attracted by wood to nest in, especially if it’s been weakened by moisture. 

It is not uncommon for workers to enter your home through the tiniest of cracks, so it is important to be on high alert when you see carpenter ants running around in your home.

Carpenter ants are known to enter homes and buildings through cracks in:

  • Windowsills
  • Baseboards
  • Door frames
  • Soffits
  • Decks

And other similar wooden structures.

carpenter ants on tree branch

2. Piles of Wood Shavings (Frass)

Carpenter ants will leave behind wood shavings when they are building their nests. 

If you see piles of these on the floor or in nooks and crannies, it is a sign that carpenter ants may be present. 

These “dump piles”, as they’re called, are created when the carpenter ants dig through the wood. Since they don’t eat it, they dump it outside of the nest. They use the space to lay eggs and nest in.

Also read: Carpenter ant frass and debris

rotten tree infested by ants

3. Faint Rustling in the Walls

While ants usually don’t make much noise, you may be able to hear them when a colony gets bigger. If you hear faints rustling in the walls, it’s a sign you have some sort of pest running around in there.

These noises don’t always come from ants, but as an ant colony grows bigger, so will the noises.

Make sure you check it out if you hear anything.

old wooden wall

4. Visual Carpenter Ant Damage

By now we’ve established that carpenter ants cause damage to the structure of your home by hollowing out wooden structures, whether this is walls or floors.

If you notice any of this damage, you’ve got a colony of carpenter ants on your hand.

The longer this infestation goes untreated, the more it’ll damage your home. They can even make “highways” through your walls, in your ceiling, or under your floor to get around faster.

If you catch the ants fast, you may be lucky enough that the nest is still small.

alone carpenter ant crawling on the woods

What to Do When You See Signs of Carpenter Ants

If you notice carpenter ants in your home, you can do two things:

  • Try to take care of the problem yourself
  • Call an exterminator

If the carpenter ants are just starting to show, you may be able to handle the problem yourself with various DIY methods.

It’s a good idea to make the investment in carpenter ant extermination services if it’s a big nest with a lot of ants.

Read more about what to do about carpenter ants here.

Tackle It Yourself

There are carpenter ants in your home, but you don’t want to call an exterminator. What do you do?

First things first, you need to locate the source of the problem. You should figure out where the ants are coming from, to have a better shot at getting rid of them. Ants looking for food will return to their nest at some point. Follow them back.

Next, you want to prevent more ants from entering your home. To do this, seal up any cracks or entry points the ants use to invade your home. Ants are very small and can enter through even the smallest of holes.

Now it’s time to get rid of the ants. You can either use natural or chemical solutions to do this. Most natural remedies work better as repellants. You can use these if the ants haven’t nested in your home yet.

If the ants have already made a nest (in your walls or other places), it’s usually better to use a combination of ant bait stations and ant sprays.

spray bottle to kill ants

Call an Exterminator

If the nest is big, and if the infestation is widespread, your best bet is to call an exterminator. Pest control services know what to do to get rid of pests.

Make sure they tell you the source of the problem, so you can make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future.

See more: How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants

ant spray and exterminator


Carpenter ants can cause a lot of damage to your property. They are able to chew through wood, which means they can cause structural damage to wooden structures.

Carpenter ant infestations are often hard to spot because carpenter ants forage during the night when you’re sleeping or far away.

Warnings signs of carpenter ant damage include:

  • Carpenter ant debris/frass.
  • Carpenter ants scouting for food.

Carpenter ants don’t eat wood but create galleries as a result of workers burrowing into wood. They do this to create tunnels and chambers where they can nest and lay eggs.

About Teodoro Pittman

Teodoro is a nature and animal lover. He specifically focuses on insects, such as ants, bees, and the like. In his free time, he takes care of his own ant farm, where he analyzes their behavior. Teodoro has spent the last 7 years studying the intricate behavior of these small creatures.

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