How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants: A Comprehensive Guide to a Pet-Safe Home

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants:

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Maintaining a safe home for your pets is a top priority for any pet owner. However, when unwanted guests like carpenter ants invade your space, it can become a real concern. Not only do these pests damage wooden structures, but many conventional methods to eliminate them can pose risks to our furry friends. This comprehensive guide will help you understand how to get rid of carpenter ants while ensuring your home remains safe for pets.

Understanding Carpenter Ants

What Are Carpenter Ants?

Carpenter ants are large ants known for their ability to excavate wood to build their nests. Unlike termites, they do not consume wood but remove it to create smooth tunnels and galleries.

Identifying Carpenter Ants

Identifying carpenter ants is the first step in tackling an infestation. These ants are typically black or dark brown and can be quite large, ranging from 1/4 to 1/2 inch in size. They have a segmented body with a narrow waist and bent antennae. Red carpenter ants, a common variety, have a reddish-brown color.

Carpenter Ants vs. Termites

It’s crucial to differentiate between carpenter ants and termites, as their treatments vary. Carpenter ants have a constricted waist and elbowed antennae, while termites have a straight waist and straight antennae. Termites also have equal-length wings, whereas carpenter ants’ forewings are longer than their hindwings.

Signs of a Carpenter Ant Infestation

Visible Ants Indoors

Spotting large black or dark brown ants indoors, particularly in kitchens or bathrooms, is a strong indicator of a carpenter ant problem. Red carpenter ants are also a clear sign of an infestation.

Wood Shavings and Frass

Carpenter ants produce frass, which is a mixture of wood shavings, parts of dead ants, and other debris. Finding frass near wooden structures is a telltale sign of an infestation.

Rustling Noises in Walls

At night, you might hear faint rustling noises coming from walls or ceilings, caused by the ants chewing through wood.

Damage to Wooden Structures

Visible damage to wooden structures, such as smooth tunnels and galleries in wood, indicates the presence of carpenter ants.

Prevention Methods

Maintaining Cleanliness

Keeping your home clean and free of food crumbs reduces the chances of attracting carpenter ants. Regularly vacuuming and wiping down surfaces can make a significant difference.

Sealing Entry Points

Inspect your home for any cracks or gaps and seal them to prevent ants from entering. Pay special attention to doors, windows, and utility pipes.

Removing Food Sources

Store food in airtight containers and promptly clean up spills to avoid attracting ants. Also, ensure pet food is stored securely.

Managing Moisture Levels

Carpenter ants are attracted to moisture. Fix any leaks and ensure good ventilation in humid areas to reduce moisture levels in your home.

Pet-Safe Treatment Options

Natural Repellents

Essential Oils

Certain essential oils like peppermint, tea tree, and lemon eucalyptus are effective natural repellents. Mix a few drops with water and spray around entry points and infested areas.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a safe and natural powder that can be sprinkled around ant trails and nests. It dehydrates and kills ants upon contact without harming pets.

Commercial Pet-Safe Insecticides

There are various pet-safe insecticides available on the market. These products are formulated to target ants while being safe for pets when used as directed.

Professional Pest Control Services

Hiring a professional pest control service that specializes in pet-safe treatments can ensure effective and safe elimination of carpenter ants.

DIY Solutions for Carpenter Ants

Vinegar and Water Spray

Mix equal parts of vinegar and water and spray directly on ants and their trails. Vinegar disrupts their scent trails and deters them from returning.

Baking Soda and Sugar Bait

Create a mixture of baking soda and sugar and place it in shallow dishes near ant trails. The sugar attracts the ants, and the baking soda disrupts their digestive system.

Borax and Sugar Bait

Borax mixed with sugar is a common DIY ant bait. While effective, caution is required as borax can be harmful if ingested by pets. Place the bait in areas inaccessible to pets.

Long-Term Strategies

Regular Inspections

Conduct regular inspections of your home, especially in hidden or less frequently used areas, to catch early signs of infestation.

Keeping Yard Free of Debris

Clear your yard of fallen branches, logs, and other debris that can serve as nesting sites for carpenter ants.

Properly Storing Wood

Store firewood and building materials away from your home and elevated off the ground to prevent carpenter ants from establishing nests.

When to Call a Professional

Extent of Infestation

If the infestation is widespread or if DIY methods have not been successful, it’s time to call a professional to get rid of carpenter ants effectively.

Safety Concerns

Professional pest control services have the expertise to handle infestations safely, using methods that minimize risks to pets and humans.

Guaranteed Results

Professionals can provide more effective and long-lasting solutions, ensuring the complete elimination of carpenter ants.


Carpenter ants can be a significant nuisance, causing damage to your home and posing risks to your pets if not handled properly. By understanding their behaviour, identifying signs of infestation, and employing pet-safe prevention and treatment methods, you can effectively get rid of carpenter ants and maintain a safe, comfortable home for your family and pets.


What attracts carpenter ants to my home?

Carpenter ants are attracted to moisture, food sources, and wood that provides a suitable nesting site.

How can I differentiate between carpenter ants and termites?

Carpenter ants have a constricted waist and bent antennae, while termites have a straight waist and straight antennae. Additionally, termites have equal-length wings, whereas carpenter ants’ forewings are longer than their hindwings.

Are carpenter ant bites harmful to pets?

Carpenter ant bites are generally not harmful to pets, though they can be painful and cause minor irritation.

Can I use boric acid around pets?

Boric acid can be harmful if ingested by pets. Use it with caution and place it in areas inaccessible to your pets.

How long does it take to get rid of a carpenter ant infestation?

The time required to get rid of carpenter ants varies depending on the severity and the methods used. It can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks.