What do carpenter ants look like? Picture tiny black ants growing up to 16 times larger. Then give them large, powerful mandibles they can use for chewing through and nesting in wood.

Carpenter ants grow up to five-eighths of an inch long, which is about the width of your finger nail. However, not all carpenter ants in a colony are the same size - they are polymorphic. And their color depends on the species.

  1. Black
  2. Brown and black
  3. Red and black
  4. Light brown

Carpenter ants' bodies are covered with tiny sensory hairs. And they only have one bump, or node, on their single-segmented and narrow "waist." Some other ants have two nodes or more than one segment. Carpenter ants also have a rounded, smooth back and a heart-shaped head with elbowed antennae.

How Do I Know If I Have Carpenter Ants?

If you spot an ant in your home that matches the carpenter ant description above, then there are likely more in your home nesting or foraging. And you could have a big problem on your hands.

Indoor carpenter ant nests are unique in the fact that most are satellite colonies of a larger outdoor main colony. Indoors, carpenter ants will nest in wall voids, windows, insulation, chimneys, hollow doors and compromised wood. Outdoors, they might nest in hardwood stumps and dead trees.

These ants typically enter areas of wood in and around the home that are decayed or water-damaged. From there, the carpenter ants chew through the wood, leaving wood shavings similar to those from a pencil sharpener. That's why wood shavings are another sign of a carpenter ant infestation. Look for these shavings near any holes or openings you find. It's also common to find dead ant body parts within the shavings.

Since the nests are burrowed inside the wood, you won't often see the intricate tunnel system they build. However, if you knock on an area of wood containing a mature carpenter ant nest, you'll likely hear a hollow sound.

If you notice insects that look like flying ants in your home, then that's another sign of carpenter ants. Reproductive carpenter ants, known as swarmers, have wings and may be seen flying around as they seek to establish a new colony. These could also be termites, though, so it's important to know the difference between ants and termites.

What Attracts Carpenter Ants in a Home?

Like most pests, carpenter ants are in search of food, water and shelter.

As mentioned above, carpenter ants in homes are most likely from satellite colonies. The main colony may be a football field's length or further away. Typically, they will be found in moist areas around windows and doorways, as well as bathrooms, kitchens, pipes, drains and roof vents. Crawl spaces or attics that are consistently damp or have water leaks may also attract carpenter ants.

Related > How to Keep Pests Out of Your Crawl Space

Like other ants, carpenter ants will eat many other foods, including other insects. So it can be easy for them to wander into your home while they're foraging for food.

Are Carpenter Ants Bad?

Yes, carpenter ants are bad. While most ants are just more of a nuisance and don't cause damage, carpenter ants can actually cause structural damage to homes. As their name implies, these ants have an affinity for wood. Though they don't eat the wood, they do chew through it to tunnel and create nests. And the larger the colony gets, the more damage it can cause to your home.

If you think you have a carpenter ant infestation, your best bet is to hire an ant control professional. Terminix® can help. We know where to find the source of the ant infestation and which treatment method to use for the particular species. Get a quote today.