Carpenter ants, Camponotus spp., are found across the United States. These large, typically black, ants can pose a problem if they decide that your trees or home look like a prime spot for a nest site. Given their name, it's no wonder people often ask, "Do carpenter ants eat wood?" But the answer is actually no. So, what do carpenter ants eat? Keep reading to find out.

Because carpenter ants are often seen coming out of holes in wooden surfaces, it is easy to assume they are eating the wood. However, these insects are not consuming the wood they chew through. Instead, they are using their strong jaws to excavate tunnels, or galleries, in which to raise their young.

This excavating is problematic for homeowners because carpenter ants' nests can get quite large. They begin by burrowing into damaged or exposed wood that has a high moisture content, but will continue into the rest of the wood, potentially causing structural issues. They have also been known to build galleries inside wall voids, insulation plastics and doors.

Outdoors, these insects search for trees, stumps or logs with decaying wood. But just as with wooden structures, the answer to, "Do carpenter ants eat trees," is no. However, they will continue to tunnel all the way to the heartwood, which can lead to tree death.


So What Do They Eat?

Carpenter ants feed on sources of protein such as living and dead insects. They are also attracted to sugars such as honeydew, a sweet liquid produced by aphids and scale insects. Aphids and scales feed on trees, shrubs, and other plants. Within a house, carpenter ants feed on proteins such as meats and pet food. As far as sugars in the house, they are attracted to syrup, honey, granulated sugar, jelly, and other sweets. As stated before, carpenter ants do not eat wood. They remove wood as they create galleries and tunnels for nesting. Now that you know carpenter ants are not actually consuming wood, it would be helpful to know the answers to a few more questions:

  • Do carpenter ants eat termites? Sometimes. Carpenter ants eat dead insects, as well as small invertebrates.
  • Do carpenter ants eat cedar? Cedarwood has a reputation for keeping certain insects away. Carpenter ants will not eat cedar, but that does not mean that they won’t use it for a nest.
  • Do carpenter ants eat sugar? Yes. Carpenter ants eat honeydew, which is secreted by aphids and scale insects. In homes, they may also eat meats, fats and sweet foods like honey, syrup and jelly.

Now that you know what carpenter ants do eat, you can focus on what to do if you are seeing these insects near your home. Even though they don't eat wood, carpenter ants can still cause a lot of damage. If you suspect a carpenter ant infestation, call a pest management professional to discuss your options for control.