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What Do Carpenter Ants Eat? (And What Don’t They Eat)

Carpenter ants are a common household pest that can be found in many countries across the globe. 

They are often mistaken for termites because they are attracted to wood – except they don’t eat it. But what do carpenter ants actually eat? 

Carpenter ants are omnivores, meaning that they scavenge what is available to them and will eat whatever food there is. They love sugar and anything with protein like meat or eggs. 

5 Things You Didn't Know About Ants x
5 Things You Didn't Know About Ants

With this article, you’ll learn not only what do carpenter ants eat, but also what they don’t like to eat at all.

Also read: What attracts carpenter ants?

What Do Carpenter Ants Eat?

Living Insects

The carpenter ant diet includes many other insects that live in the same environment as the ants. This includes small invertebrates like termites and cockroaches, or really any smaller animal they can get their hands on.

ants eating butterfly

Dead Insects

Carpenter ants will not only eat insects, but they will also eat dead insects. This way of eating is called “carrion-eating”, where carrion is defined as decaying flesh from dead animals or fish.

They especially like to feed on what is typically found around decaying wood such as dead flies, termites, cockroaches, and even beetle larvae if they can find them.

ants on dead animal

Honeydew From Aphids and Scale Insects

Carpenter ants will also feed on what is known as honeydew that comes from aphids and scale insects. Honeydew is the sugary excrement of these types of bugs, so carpenter ants can easily gather it up to eat for themselves.

This is very much like sugar, and carpenter ants love sugary things.

ants and aphids

Meats

Carpenter ants can also eat what other insects don’t want as their primary food source. This includes meats such as fish and beef, which they will gather from outside if given the opportunity to do so.

Pet Food

Carpenter ants also like to eat, just as many other insects, pet food. This includes cat and dog food, such as dry kibble or canned foods that are high in protein (typically beef) and all kinds of other nutrients.

Sugars (Syrop, Honey, Etc.)

As said, carpenter ants love sugary food. They will eat natural sugars from fruits, plants, and nectar, but if they can, they will also raid your kitchen for anything sugary such as syrup or honey.

ants eating foods together

Do Carpenter Ants Eat Wood?

No, carpenter ants don’t eat wood, and they don’t eat tree trunks either (the part of the tree above ground level). They may however potentially infest or nest in dead trees if there is enough space available to store their nests and food stores. 

People think that carpenter ants eat wood partly because of their name, but they actually just like to nest in it. If you see sawdust lying around in big batches near a tree, it might be because a carpenter ant colony has moved in.

carpenter ants on wood

Do Carpenter Ants Eat Trees?

No, carpenter ants do not eat trees. Instead, they dig tunnels through it and dumb the wood outside of their nest. Carpenter ants will typically nest in rotting or other kinds of unhealthy trees since healthy trees can be too difficult to dig through.

If you see a carpenter ant, or any other type of ant, nest in a tree, there’s a good chance that the tree isn’t very healthy.

What Are Carpenter Ants Favorite Food?

Carpenter ants’ favorite food is sugary things such as honey, syrup, honeydew, white sugar, or nectar from plants. They love the stuff and can’t get enough of it. If you want to keep carpenter ants out of your kitchen, make sure there’s no sugar just lying around.

Some good examples of the carpenter ants favorite sugary foods are:

  • Nectar
  • Sugar
  • Syrup (for example high fructose corn syrup)
  • Honeydew
  • Fresh fruit
  • Rotting fruit

They also love to eat the sugary secretions of scale insects or aphids on plants which is what they primarily get their energy from.

Also read: What do ants eat?

ant attacks an insect

In some cases, they also eat small birds and insects which they catch in the wild since they do need protein. In most situations though, these types of foods are not what carpenter ants feed on the most when they invade your home.

What Do Carpenter Ants Hate?

Carpenter ants hate things with very strong smells (unless it’s sugar), just like most other ants. These are things like cinnamon and peppermint.

If you want to keep carpenter ants out of your kitchen, walls, bathroom, or wherever they’ve invaded your home, you can use essential oils to do so. 

Good examples of essential oils that carpenter ants hate are:

  • Cinnamon
  • Peppermint
  • Tea tree oil 
  • Citrus oil

Also read: How to get rid of carpenter ants

peppermint closeup in wooden spoon

Simply mix some of the essential oil extracts with water and spray it on the places where you’ve seen carpenter ants enter the building. That should keep them away for a while.

Do Carpenter Ants Come Because of Food?

Yes, carpenter ants come to your house because of food. If you leave food on your kitchen counters, especially if it’s sugary, carpenter ants might pick up on it and come crawling for it. They are what is known as scavengers, meaning they will eat what you put out for them.

If you leave pet food outside or even crumbs on the floor of your kitchen, and can pick up on the scent.

Make sure you clean up well if you’re dealing with ants often.

Conclusion

When it comes down to what do carpenter ants eat, the answer is pretty straightforward: almost anything. 

There are many different foods and substances that carpenter ants can and will eat – but their favorite type of food is sugar and sugary substances. 

Other than sugar, the carpenter ant’s diet consists of small animals, fungi, dead insects, and other stuff they can find in their area.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Carpenter Ants Eat Termites?

Yes, carpenter ants eat termites, as well as other similar small insects.

Carpenter ants eat what they can find [1]. This means that what a particular colony of carpenter ants eats depends on what is in their environment, and what time of the year it is. 

However, there are some basic foods that many colonies feed on: nectar/honeydew, plant sap/resin, other insects (including termites), and food scraps.

Carpenter ants do not eat wood as a general rule of thumb – what they really feed on is the sweet liquid that comes from aphids or some other bug-eating flower nectar. This can be found inside trees but also anywhere where there are flowers and plants.

Learn more: Do ants eat termites?

Do Carpenter Ants Eat Sugar?

Carpenter ants are sweet-eating insects, so they will eat sugar. Sugar is what gives them the energy they need to survive and function properly in their environment. They also eat other substances such as honeydew, which is something aphids leave behind when they drink the sap of trees and plants. The sugar-rich substance gives carpenter ants a lot of nutrients and energy which they need to keep working.

Will Carpenter Ants Eat Through Drywall?

Yes, carpenter ants can eat their way through drywall, but they won’t actually eat it, just create a tunnel system through it.

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.