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Michele is worried about her ants.... (Posted on: 08/14/99)

I found your web site on a talk back site about carpenter ants.  My husband is ready to call the exterminator - I'm going to show him this site. We had a few ants show up in the spring and I got some bait and they went away.  I had the bait up for about 2 months and said "There's no more ants - let's throw away this bait"...  Well, the ants showed up again within a week.  We got more bait but it's a different kind and not as effective.  Since we're in the middle of a drought here in Maryland, are they just coming in for water?  I have sprayed with Raid but it doesn't seem to be that effective.  I'm definitely less freaked out after reading your web site.

Thank you - Michelle

and my reply....

Hi, Michelle:

Don't think you really have a problem....  A few of anything (except maybe grizzly bears) is no big deal.  And you're right - the drought affects the ants.  Just about every other call we get this year is about ants.  They're not "coming in for water" - they are "desert animals" and the increase in population means that you're getting the overflow.  And you can also see more after rain too - it floods them out!

So I think I would stay with the bait, if anything - but what the hey - you probably don't even need that!  It's just weather related.  And the fact that you had just picked up the bait and started seeing ants is probably just coincidence.

Just remember one thing about exterminating and bugs - NEVER panic.  Never a reason to.  I've been in this game for 35 years and I've never seen a situation that you need to panic over!

If you have any more questions, get back to me!


Stuart asks about ants in his dishwasher.... (Posted on: 08/14/99)

I have read your page about carpenter ants. I have seen some (maybe 40) nesting or resting in the dishwasher. Should I just vacuum them up and see if the problem goes away?

Thanks for your assistance.

Stuart K.

and my reply....

Hello, Stuart:

You could try it.  If it doesn't work (they'll come back) then probably the best thing to do is to use Drione dust.  You puff some into the areas around the outside of the dishwasher where the insulation is.  You can usually get this stuff locally, if you can't, it's one of the products we can sell to the public.

Good luck!  We see this a lot, and it usually isn't difficult to solve.


Bill describes his problem with ants.... (Posted on: 08/14/99)

John, thanks for the GREAT Website! It is reassuring to know that there are still honest people out there.

My question concerns carpenter ants. I have found one nest in a  vertical wood  post (on the bottom of the post) which serves as the corner of a screened-in porch.The bottom of the post (about and inch and a half) is now hollow on the surface which faces the backyard. The post is solid on the bottom on the portion that is inside the screened in porch. The nest opening is in the outside of the post facing the backyard.  I have also seen them going thru a hole in the foundation under the screened in porch, which is no more than a foot away from the nest in the post. (There is no basement under the screened in porch, it is just a concrete slab.)  I have also seen them taking pupae and larvae from somewhere (don't know where) into the hole in the concrete slab under the porch.  I have also seen the winged version of the carpenter ants in the screened in porch starting in mid-June up until the first week of July. So it appears like I have a mature nest.

I have recently (last Tuesday) put Raid Max ant traps around the openings of both nests, but the ants are still there.

My questions are:
- Why are they moving their larvae/pupae
- How can they be living under the screened in porch if it is a concrete slab; there  is no wood that I know of there.

My plan of attack is to use Raid Ant and roach spray and shoot it into the openings to try to rectify the problem.

your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


and my reply....

Hello, Bill:

Carpenter ants don't necessarily need wood.  They can live under a concrete slab. And they might also move their larva between two or more nests sometimes.  They are also nocturnal, so arm yourself with a flashlight and go out and see what's going on at night.

Ant traps don't work too well for these fellows.  Raid (anything in a pressurized spray can) doesn't work that well either.  Drione dust might be the best.  You should be able to find it locally, if not, it is one of the products we can sell to the public, it is availabe at our online store:

                  UnExCo's OnLine Store

Additionally, you might try and rectify any water problem in any of these areas. And remember to specify pressure treated wood for ANY repairs to outside wooden components.  

Get back if you have any questions.


Gaye wonders whether she has termites or carpenter ants.... (Posted on: 08/14/99)

I have a problem that I hope you can solve for me. I have some kind of bug in my outside wall between the wall and a fake chimney we had to install to satisfy a fire code or zoning code  ----who cares? Anyway my termite inspector says it is carpenter ants and my monthly pest inspector claims it is termites. It first showed up as a wet spot on the sheetrock and then I noticed a small hole with wet looking dirt on top of it. When I wiped it off it had a sandy feel(like grit).  But when I wiped it the sheetrock covering came off with it and exposed some little grooves that look a lot like small ditches in the wall. Since this happened I have noticed that I have several spots on the wall that look like water damage just under the paper covering on sheetrock.  I know you can't really tell just by what I am saying (or trying to get across) but which does it sound more like it would be to you? I know my first mistake, I should have had the same company be responsible for both programs.  But when we bought the house it was already on the termite bond and I didn't want to pay another a big cleanout amount which seems to be about $1500.00 around this area, and they don't seem to be able to handle just monthly pest service.  Any input you can give me will be appreciated and any questions you may need to ask will be answered as soon as I get them .  Thank you very much.
Gaye H.

and my reply....

Hello Gaye:

Sure sounds like termites to me.  I think I would cut a hole in the sheetrock & take a look.  Sheetrock is easy to fix.  Then you'll know for sure.  My money is on active termites!  Be sure to let us know!

                       (Gaye reported back that they were termites....)

David thinks he's got a termite problem.... (Posted on: 08/14/99)

Hi!  Great Site!  I have a problem, and I hope you can help.

I bought my house in April 98 and moved in Aug 98.  When we bought, an exterminator, don't know if it's local or not, said that there were no termites currently, but that the house had been treated previously for them.  The previous owners also left a bunch of wood on the concrete patio, against the edge abutting the grass, not the house.  The wood was from storm damage to a tree.  I didn't get around to moving the wood until yesterday.   I picked up a few logs and put them on the curb.  I noticed on one of the logs what looked like several termites, all white.  I picked up another log and saw what appeared to be dozens of them on the concrete under this log.  I put the log back and called (Big Company) that day.

(Big Company) came out and told my wife that we not only have termites, but also carpenter ants.  He inspected the house.  He left information with my wife on a plan that would include treatment and monthly visits, and would total around $1300.  I haven't seen the info yet, but the (Big Company) guy is supposed to call me.  After perusing your site and the Univerity of Nebraska's site, it appears to me that $1300 is a scam when it comes to carpenter ants, but that the price may be legit, albeit a bit high, for termite control.

So, do you have any recommendations for me on how to sort this out? The (Big Company) guy did tell my wife that the ants were eating the termites, not the wood.  Any thoughts or comments are appreciated. Thanks!

David T

Thank goodness for the Internet!

and my reply....

Hello, Dave:

Thanks for your compliment!  I'll give your problem a try!

The good news is that you don't have to worry about the termites if they're not in the house.  The bad news is that (Big Company) was the worst one to call!  Don't forget, those guys are salesmen, and it's in their best interest to get you to sign on the dotted line, for as much as they can.

If the termites are in wood AWAY from the house, don't worry about it.  MOVE the wood, or use it in the fireplace.  I guess the (Big Company) man didn't tell you that termites are SUPPOSED to be outside....  And of course the carpenter ants were eating the termites - they're mortal enemies!  And who cares about the wood - it's not your house.

So don't worry about it - save the $1300, spend it on something you REALLY need.

One thing you might do is contact the exterminator that certified your house, call him up and see what he says.  (His name should be on your settlement sheet) Make sure you tell him your experience with (Big Company).   Ten bucks says he laughs!

Let me know how you make out.  You're right - three cheers for the Internet!


Here's Tom's story....


This is a great site!  so here is my story for your consideration:

i moved into an old all-wood farmhouse (c.1800) in the new haven, ct area 3 years ago. one beam in the corner of the house was rotten and when the contractor replaced that i saw lots of ants swarming in that area for a few weeks and then they pretty much disappeared.  that's the only time that i have seen more than a few ants anywhere inside the house, including our kitchen.

however, at around the same time, in an old and fairly large tool shed (which is about ten feet from the house and which we still use), i heard an incredible buzzing sound inside the one small wall areas that isnt exposed studs like the rest of the shed (because it is attached to the side of another smaller shed).  i had the carpenters (not the ants!) open it up and it was totally infested with ants. they killed them off with some spray and repaired it.  about a year later, however, the ants were back in the same spot.  this time i drilled little holes in the wall area (many holes!) and sprayed an ant killer spray in each hole. that seemed to work. but they came back in the same spot a year later, so i did it again!  that was about 18 months ago and i dont think they have returned to that spot, but am not sure.

however, there is a picket fence that dead ends on the other side of the shed and i always notice -- mostly small -- ants (maybe a dozen or so at most in good weather) walking along the back of it and entering a hole in the side of the shed. i have tried spraying some stuff in this hole but it does little good. they must be going somewhere and they look very purposeful.

i have also noticed them going in the opposite direction and some of them entering the top of one of the larger fence posts about 40 feet away from the shed, and it looks like they may be hollowing it out.  there are many trees and bushes near the shed and all over our property.  i have sprayed some stuff into the top of the fence post but it probably hasnt done much.

so thats my story. as i mentioned in my other email of thanks, i had called a few places recently (after i had received a flyer in my local paper from an exterminating company warning me of the hazards that carpenter ants pose!) and one had told me i should have them drill holes every sixteen inches along the baseboard of every room in my house and also spray the outside for the next twelve months and another company that talked about spraying all over the inside and outside for the next 12 months...

i already have enough sense to reject the drilling business, but would very much appreciate any advice you have to give!

thanks again.

and my reply....

Hi, Tom:

Very interesting story!  As you have found out, carpenter ants will often return - even after treatment.  And when I say "moist" it really doesn't have to be THAT moist.  Just no air change is enough sometimes.  We find them in hollow doors all the time, no water around.

About your shed:  I don't think I'd worry too much about it - it's only a shed!  If you did anything, the thing to do would be to ALTER the area so it got more ventilation. Certainly wouldn't worry about an outside fence post.  When it's replaced, use pressure treated wood posts.

Certainly glad you didn't spring for the "drilling routine" in the house.  Can't tell you how many people fall for this giant worthless make-work project.  I guess I should shut up and just go with the flow (that's what one exterminator told me) but it just rubs me the wrong way.  To me it's simple:  How could the chemical go more than a few inches inside the wall?  And how many holes would you have to drill to get all the possible areas?  I'd be there for a week!  Crazy, just crazy!

Anyway, thanks for the compliment.  Unfortunately, I don't have a name for you in Connecticut - but here's some ideas on how to find a good guy:

This is a guideline of how you can do that.  First of all, forget the big guys.  Most of these use "salesmen" and you don't need the extra layer to pay for.  Besides, they normally will have no interest in doing any more than making you sign on the line that is dotted, and for as much money as they possibly can.  If you have a problem later, you will probably never see him again, you will be dealing with the service department.  Many times there is minimal contact between the two departments, so the serviceman may have no idea of what the salesman told you.

If you pick your exterminator from the Yellow Pages, pick one with a smaller advertisement.  The exterminators that spring for the large display ads are paying big bucks every month for those ads, so they are usually sharks, waiting to spring on little fish.  Your exterminator should be a member of the National Pest Control Association and your own state pest control association.  He should have been in business (not IN THE BUSINESS) for a defined period of time, and have a physical address that is not his home.  That means no part-timers working out of their cars or personal trucks with magnetic signs on the doors.  Don't forget to check your choice with the local chapter of the Better Business Bureau - they know the best and the worst and can even give you a few names.  You can also check with your trusted local realtor, they usually know a few good names.

You should make sure your prospective exterminator will make single service stops without making you sign any monthly service contracts.  You will generally pay more for this kind of service, but it may well be cheaper in the long run.  And naturally, your serviceman should be licensed in all the proper categories.

And let me know if you do find a good guy!


Steve asks about his ant problem...

I found your website this evening after discovering what appeared to be flying ants (probably about 2 or 3 dozen of the little critters) in my garage. They ranged in length from about 1/4 to 1/2 inch, and are mostly dark brown or black with a brownish thorax and black (or close to it) abdomen.

About 90 percent of them were closer to 1/4 inch, with about 1 in 10 being significantly larger. Based on what I read on your site and others, they appear to be carpenter ants. I have occasionally seen similar ants (almost always just one at a time) inside my house. Funny that your site mentions that these ants like muggy weather; we have plenty of that here in Tampa, and in fact it has rained here every day for a week.

My house is a concrete block structure built about 50 years ago. The interior of the garage is only about half-finished, meaning that I can see the rafters/trusses (old pine 2x6's that have aged to a color that's almost red; can't hardly pound a nail into them). When I looked around the garage with a flashlight trying to spot where the bugs were coming from, I noticed a small bunch (maybe a half dozen) milling around the top of the wall near a nail sticking out of the 2X6 that sits as a cap atop the concrete blocks making up the wall. After seeing that, I went outside and looked at my soffit opposite where I saw the ants inside the garage. Surprise, looks like there has been some moisture damage as a result of water collecting behind poorly installed aluminum siding on the fascia board.

My questions are:
1) Based on what I've described, does this sound like carpenter ants to you?  

2) Based on what I've been able to see with a cursory inspection, would you recommend removing and replacing that fascia board as a first step? That would allow me to see if there was a nest there, and solve a cosmetic problem besides.

3) Anything else you would suggest?


Steve S.
Tampa, Florida

and my reply....

Hi, Steve:

Could be carpenter ants.  Most are jet black, but some in the south are red or brown. But they don't necessarily have to carpenter ants - other ants could well inhabit the same areas.

Yes, good idea to fix the situation by altering the siding.  Take it apart as far as you need to, then put it back together to solve your problem.  Probably won't need to do anything else.  If you run across more ants in your repairs, never mind using insecticides, just suck 'em up with the shop-vac and make sure the moisture can't get back in there,  Problem solved!  (Always watch the area for a season or two afterwards)

Also, if you have to use wood in your repairs, use pressure treated wood.

(Great city, Tampa - My cousin lives there!)

Hope this helps!


Debbie has a few questions...

Hi John,

I just wanted to first of all say thank you for the information on your web site. It has been very informative and probably saved me hundreds of dollars.

Let me tell you a little about my situation.  OK.  I live in Indianapolis, Indiana. We have lived in this house for 6 years.   It is a slab.  We live next to a creek, and have a huge maple out in our front yard.  We also have a built in brick planter for flowers in the front of our house in front of our bay window. (Which this year I used mulch in it for the first time.)

At this point I will offer this bit of information.  There is rotting/rotten wood on the outside of the bay window, which I am sure was caused by rain, standing water, etc., and we never took the initiative to repaint or fill the few holes that were there and now the ants have taken over.

A while back, I was HEARING strange noises (coming from the inside of our house) coming from the seat part of the bay window.  I guess I thought if I ignored the problem it would go away.  Unfortunately, it has not and at times when I am sitting on our living room couch (approx 5-6 feet away), and the TV is not on (and even sometimes when it is) you can hear these critters just chomping away.  Only after reading your very informative site, I realized that I probably had carpenter ants.  I went out and did a little exploring on my own. Parts of the wood on the outside is so rotten that you can push it in with your finger.

Anyway, my husband and I did as you suggested and quietly and calmly took off the trim to the bay window and lightly and gently lifted up the wood and lo and behold, ANTS ANTS ANTS!!! and probably their larvae or pupae (there was little white things the ants were carrying around).  IT WAS GROSS!!!

There were just so many of them.  Going all across the whole bay window seat (underneath the wood of course).  Well, before we started anything we went ahead and got that handy dandy shop vac out and was prepared to suck anything up that might charge right out of there.  Unfortunately, nothing was sucked out of there.  Only a couple that did decide to make the mistake of coming into our house instead of going back against the wall got sucked up. Then my husband saw a couple approaching the edge and he smashed them with the wood.  We tried and tried to suck them out, but we just could not raise the seat of the bay window up enough to get back far enough to get those critters.  At this point, I better explain that there were two screws in the bay window at the front middle of it and we undid those, but the rest of the seat of the bay window is under the rest of the trim that goes around the glass part of the bay window.  (This is really hard to explain.)  We also saw them going DOWN into a hole and some UP in a hole!!   We are not sure if they made it, or if it was already there.

So, obviously we do have a nest in our bay window.  My husband and I are not sure what to do since we cannot reach the ants with the shop vac. Before I thought about doing some research on the internet, I had one man out yesterday afternoon to look at it.  You are right!!!  They are all crooks!!!

He saw ants crawling on our tree and said, "yeah, you have a carpenter ant problem."  There were other things he said too, that after reading your site, that it was all a ploy.  I had also made an appointment with two other "Biggies" today, and one was scheduled for 9 a.m.  The other one ended up calling saying that they would not be able to make it out today due to running behind and out of time.  I told them never mind for now.  I had already done my own research and physically seen the ants.  They guy yesterday was hard of hearing, so he could not even hear what we were hearing!!!  That was frustrating enough.  Anyway, the guy this morning got really defensive when I threw some of the info at him that I had read on your site.  This place would not even do a one time visit.  The place that did not even come out today would charge me $350 to make one visit!!!!  The other place that came yesterday was ONLY (that is the operative word here and his terminology) going to charge me $175!!!   Yes, I asked him what the price would be to treat just that window area for now.  What a joke.  So far my experience with exterminators has not been a good one.  (No offense.)

So, basically, now that you know my house and ants life history, what can I do to get rid of these guys and their nest?  My idea, and see what you think--hire a good carpenter and have him take our window apart so we can get to the ants and suck them out then have him put it back together and then change the wood on the outside of the window so the ants do not come back and keep up preventative work on window wood so it does not get rotten again.  I am just afraid that the carpenter will cost more than hiring an exterminator.  Please let me know what you think.  Sorry this email is so lengthy, but I felt the details I told you were pertinent to you really being able to help me the best you could.

One really important question I want to ask you before I forget.   Is there any chemical or product that kills all life stages of the carpenter ant?  I have been told no, but I wanted to ask you.

The real problem is that I am in a time crunch, because on July 1 and 2 we are having new flooring laid throughout our whole house.   I would really like to have the problem totally taken care of by that time or at least mostly under control.  I just don't want anyone having to work on our new flooring for fear they might accidentally scratch it.  (We are getting laminate in the livingroom where they would be working.)

A little more history:  We have always had a few ants (large and tiny) in our house in the spring.  Just the onesie and twosies and I was never worried about it, it was just more of a pain.  They never got to our kitchen cabinets and got into our food or anything.  They stayed on the ground.  We would just step on them, kill them and throw them away.  But this spring, there were quite a few more we found (carpenter) for a while on a regular basis (not the 50-100 per day, but just more in general).

Anyway, I have taken up a lot of your time, but I would really appreciate it if you could answer my questions.  Thanks in advance for your advice.  Keep up the good work and honesty.

PS  Please do not use my email name.


and my reply....

Hi, Deb:

First of all, thanks for your compliment and your long email!  So many times, when people write, I feel like I don't get enough information.  So a long email never bothers me!  Now let me go through it all, with my own long email!

The planter and the window sound like it is the problem.  At the end of this email I will tell you about a couple of products that you can use for the mulch and the ants in the wood window frame.  Since you have wet and rotting wood, you might have to alter or replace the window in the long run.  The chemicals will probably take care of them for a little while, but if the wood stays in the same condition, they will return. Best to think about solving the window problem.  When you do, make sure you tell the carpenter to find out why the window was leaking.  A good carpenter will know or find this out in the process of repairing/replacing the window.  The other problem is the planter.  You should never have a planter butt-up against a house if you can possible help it.  ESPECIALLY if the soil is directly against the house or siding.  I think you should definitely consider removing the planter.  Or perhaps altering it so that it is freestanding, with an air gap between it and the house.  The "huge maple" in the front is not a worry.  All trees support carpenter ants and their nests, so you would have had this problem, tree or not.  Carpenter ants like this kind of environment (wet wood) so even if you had NO tree, you would have this problem.

CONGRATULATIONS on the removal of the trim!  You did the right thing and now you can see what the problem is.  I doubt if the ants made the "hole" but they will sometimes hollow out the wet wood to suit their own purposes.  Sometimes they are so deeply imbedded that you might not even see all of them.  BTW, the white things they were carrying around were the larva - the eggs of carpenter ants are almost microscopic.  As much as I hate to say it, I think you will eventually be faced with replacement of this window.  However, before you do that, it would be well to get a carpenter in there that can give you some idea as to what your options are.  Most carpenters are kind of like those exterminators you talked with - they will want to just whip in a brand-new window unit, rather than systematically take the present unit apart, board-by-board to see what is wrong and maybe fix it.  In deference to the carpenters, sometimes this is not possible.  Some windows are built as a unit and the repair might be more expensive that a new unit.  Kind of like trying to build a car from the auto parts store!  So it depends.  Call a local trusted friend for a referral for a carpenter.  You might also check with a TRUSTED local realtor - these guys have to have repairs done to houses all the time, for real estate settlements, and usually those carpenters are pretty good.  I think the money would be better spent on the carpenter rather than the exterminators.  Usually, you're better off with a small, neighborhood exterminator than with the "biggies."  (ALWAYS check with the BBB) There ARE good ones - sometimes it takes some hunting.  And Indianapolis is big enough so that there might be a few not too hard to find.  (BTW, my sister lives in Indianapolis!)  A total of $350 (or even $175) is just too much for a one-time visit! You KNOW they're rip-offs when they do that!  To give you some idea, if someone were to call ME and pose exactly what I put on my website, I would tell them that it depended a lot on how much time I had to spend doing what I do.  I would tell them that a minimum might be around $100, especially if I had never been there before.  If it were a person we had been to before, or maybe a regular customer, the price charged would probably be even less.  If we discovered a problem such as you have detailed about YOUR window, I (or my men) would probably not do anything and tell them to get the window fixed.  Actually, we usually get the details over the phone, and this problem would have been shunted over to me first, and I would have told you that you need a carpenter before you needed me.  If you insisted I come out, I would have quoted you a service call (maybe $50-60 bucks) checked the problem, and then, if I had done nothing, probably not charged you at all!  Thus insuring that the NEXT time you had a problem, you would have called us!  (There is a method to my madness!)   Of course, there is a downside - I'm not rich, drive a 1993 Dodge work van and I'm out on the street (and in crawl spaces) almost every day - at 58 years old, mind you!  (Oops! - 59)  

When the carpenter does come, make sure you have the ol' handy-dandy shop-vac at the ready, because as he dismantles the window they're going to come pouring out. DON'T use chemicals, because he's going to have to be working there and they're NOT necessary - just the vacuum is.  And don't worry if a few get away - no big deal.  What is most important is the disruption of their habitat - the nest.

The increase in the ants you have seen this year might be because of your window problem, but then again, it might only be a "bad" year.  Some years will be worse than others.  Don't ever worry about a few.

Ok, now for what you can use for chemicals.  For cracks and crevices, you can use drione dust.  You might be able to get that locally, it is not a restricted pesticide.  

If you can't find it locally, it is one of the chemicals we can sell to the public, cost is not that much and shipping is included.  It is a powder, you puff it into the cracks and crevices - the main active ingredient is pyrethrum and it has a tendency to chase them out.  And it kills all life stages.  Pyrethrum is a chemical with very little toxicity to warm-blooded animals - it is made from chrysanthemum flowers.


A note from another John...

I really like your site and appreciate honest information without the heavy sales pitch.  My situation is this - I just moved into a house one month ago. The termite inspection came back with no problems.  It's a two story colonial, 4 years old with no visible problems.  We started seeing an occasional carpenter ant (2-3) per day in the second floor bathroom, kitchen (5 per day) and foyer (5 per day).  There appears to be a couple small gaps at the base of the stairway in the foyer and I think that may be where they are coming from - at least on the first floor - I have no idea how they are getting upstairs into the bathroom.  I'm glad to hear you say not to panic, I was about to.  I don't beleive I have a water problem (they are in a tree in my yard) and wanted to know what advice you would have.  Should I try and fill every possible entry point in the house?  Should I do anything else?

Thanks for your help and thanks again for a great web site.

Best Regards,

John Heffernan

and my reply....

Hello, John:

The amount you're seeing could be normal for the springtime.  Especially if you have any mulch around the outside - even if you don't.  And if you've had hot and muggy or wet weather, that can cause what you see.  I don't really think you could have that bad of a problem in a 4 year old house.

You could use 47 tubes of caulk and still not find the crack(s) they're getting in.  I don't think I'd waste my time, actually.  You really don't have that much history (one month) of what's going on in there.  A lot of the time this thing only happens at certain times of the year.  And in some years you might not notice it at all.  

Let me know the outside conditions, (mulch, gardens, etc) and where you live (city, state) and if you want to try to do something yourself (treatment) and I'll go over what you can do.

Since you have only been there a month, you could also call the exterminator and tell him of your problem.  It's amazing how they'll say, "Don't worry about it" when it's THEIR nickel!  Whatever you do, don't spring for any treatments you have to pay for.  Any treatments should be covered under your guarantee.

But I really think you're just seeing the springtime population surge...

And thanks for your compliment!  You're right.  Some exterminators go hog-wild with this thing.   Most of what you hear from them is B.S.


Then John wrote back......

Thanks for the quick reply.  I live in Bridgewater, NJ.  The ground is mostly clay, the whole perimeter of the house is landscaped with mulch and plants/flowers.  I cut back anything that was actually touching the house.

The back has a wooden deck with sliding glass doors to the kitchen.  There are numerous trees on the property, and as you know, it has been hot.  As well, I have a sprinkler system that I turned on 2 weeks ago (possible source of moisture?  I feel like I'm catching on.)  Should I try something or just wait and see if things change?  Thanks for the help.

John Heffernan

and my reply....

Hi, John:

Probably the mulch!  You could try this:

(Here is where I told him what insecticides to use and where to put it.  Since each case is different, I am leaving this out)

If the ants all but disappear, you got it.  Only do it in the future if you see the ants.

Actually, I would wait to see if a weather change ends the problem.  Then you'll have NO expense.  My suspicion is that it's weather related and if so, I wouldn't worry about it.


This, from Mike in Iowa...


I saw your web page and had several questions.  Our previous deck beam was destroyed by carpenter ants (or rot from moisture?).  We hired an extermenator who drilled the walls in the house, treated the outside, and came back every month for $30.

We are now concerned about our new deck.  We have seen carpenter ants in the house (two or three per day, in the sun room, upstairs bedroom).

When hauling in wood last fall, I saw evidence of ants in the wood pile (sawdust, holes in some of the rotten wood).  After reading your web page, I am confused.  Should we be concerned?  How do you keep them out of the areas of the deck that tend to stay moist, such as in between boards of composite beams?  Should we treat or bait or just ignore them?

I would appreciate your answers even though I am in Iowa and probably won't be a customer!


Mike McGuire

and my reply....

Hi, Mike:

Your previous beam was destroyed by moisture - the ants came as a result of the moisture.  All structural outside beams should be pressure treated wood, actually the whole deck should be.  Then you'll never have trouble with either carpenter ants or moisture.  Are composite beams supposed to be used outside?

Drilling the walls and the monthly pest control (for carpenter ants) is a make-work project.  Dust injected into walls is seldom distributed further than an inch or two (insulation, other barriers) and is, generally, a waste of time & money.

A couple (a few) carpenter ants per day in any area (Iowa included!) is normal. Especially in the spring or in hot and/or muggy weather.  Nothing to worry about, no chemicals needed, they are "wanderers" and they'll go away on their own.  Don't let any exterminator scare you into anything - they're good at that.

You would expect to find carpenter ants in woodpiles (they're carpenter ants!) no chemicals should ever be applied to firewood.  Just make sure the woodpiles are away from the house, and when you burn the wood, bring it in from outside and burn immediately - don't leave wood inside to warm up or you might wake them up!

Carpenter ants (in any amount) outside are normal - just be sure that any wood you use outside is pressure treated wood and you'll be just fine.


Phil, another pest control operator sends in this note...

That is a pretty good web page on carpenter ants. When I worked in California in the 70's almost always the ants would be in a hollow core door in a bathroom, we would kick out the people and charge $125.00 and inject the door, easy money. It sure changed when I started my business in Northernmost Idaho in 1980. Some jobs up here on a large home in the forest take me 3 hours to inspect and even with moisture meters the nest sometimes can't be found.

I have found nests in vaulted unventilated ceilings as large as 500sq. feet. In crawl spaces it is common to find several very large connecting nests and egg masses encompassing 30'x16' all above the batts of insulation under the refrigerator and water heaters. This is especially true of homes with no moisture barrier on the ground in the crawl space. The moisture collects between the subfloor and the insulation, what a mess these jobs can be.

Another real problem up here is the use of rigid foam insulation in roof construction. Some of this stuff looks like swiss cheese when the ants are through with it. I have sheets of it in my shop I show to builders to try to show them that they have to ventilate roofs properly. Another problem up here are large cedar trees 20' circumference, that have humongus nests in them. I have studied them and found that one tree like this can have satellite colonies in several nearby houses.

My major problems with other exterminators up here are the ones who put Tim-Bor in a few interior walls and call the problem solved or the supposed experts in magazines claiming that bait will cure these types of problems.

Anyway keep up the good information.

Phil Allegretti

and my reply....

Phil, thanks for your nice note!  Every word of what you say is so true - especially about the lazy exterminators and the magazine experts.  Happy to see a man that knows what he is doing.

I've got one right now in a condo with a 30 foot ceiling (no ventilation) constantly dropping frass down on everything.  The owner believes the builder (and not me) who says ventilation has nothing to do with it.  The ants are kicking out frass from almost every part of the tongue and groove ceiling.  What a nightmare!  

Please send me your company name and location.  I get lots of inquiries for right-thinking pest control operators and I like to be able to give them a name to go to!  


Phil sent back his location, which is in Idaho.  Anyone within Phil's area, should call on him.  Here is his contact information.

Phil Allegretti (allegra @ nidlink com)
Panhandle Pest Control
HCR-1 Box 309
Naples, Idaho 83847
Phone: 208/267-2650

This next Email is from Ken Torosian, a fellow pest control operator that takes issue with my carpenter ant page.  Ken says, in his opinion, my page is only 65% correct.  He says....well, you read and decide

At 07:45 AM 6/6/99 -0400, Ken Writes:

>Read your carpenter ant info web page.
>About  65% true.

Hello, Ken:

First of all, thanks for your note!  Always like to hear from the other side.

I just put up what I see.  And this is what I see.

>Me, I consider myself a c.ant control expert, exterminator ( 25 years)
>and entomologist (+4 years study).
>Let's see. yes c.ants come into a house just because it's there. But
>also nest between walls
>even without mositure problems.

When they nest between the walls, it IS a moisture problem.  The environment between walls HOLDS the moisture to the level they prefer.  A result of "too tight" construction.  More than 90% of our inside carpenter ant calls have an identifiable moisture problem of some sort.  Some don't, but I think those WERE a moisture problem at some point and are now a legacy nest.  

> 30% of our calls are new construction house's and

Another result of "too tight" construction.  But I would have to say my experience has been less than 10% for us.  Maybe a bit more.  Even then it's moisture that's the culprit most of the time.  Like insulation holding moisture against box headers.  Or foamboard insulation against concrete or block walls.  Ants love it!  Insulation value is almost zilch.

>some have reproductives ( moved in pupa from parent nests)

That's a given - always possible, but we don't find it happening too often.  Examining the area for moisture problems carefully, past or present, and remediation of such, is more important than chemical control, in our opinion.

>Also, when uncovering a nest site in walls. Vaccum the area yes. But
>then apply an ODERLESS dust into
>the voids.

Most homeowners don't have access to odorless dusts, or know how to use them properly, and more often than not they're really not needed.  Here again, moisture problems MUST be examined and solved before chemicals of any type are applied. We go on a case-by-case methodology here - sometimes we do it, sometimes we don't.  

>All the ants aren't all "home" at any one time ( especially
>in the summer)  and there may be branch colonies that return to this
>section later.

Agreed.  Always possible.  But this doesn't happen too often either.  Case-by-case here too.  If this area is accessible, no insecticides are applied.  If it is inaccessible, we would either make it accessible through alterations to allow future treatment and/or inspection, or treat it when accessible - maybe.  Depends on those many variables.  In my mind, this is what the exterminator is supposed to do.  To establish a close, long-term relationship, with the customer, that will allow us to use the least amount of chemicals for the cheapest (most economical) and efficient result.  

>No need to spray outside nests- bunk.

Did I say to spray outside nests?  I don't think so.  This is a waste of insecticides.  This is where the industry has always gotten itself into trouble - the needless application of insecticides.  What am I supposed to do, climb every tree and spray it for carpenter ants?  Are you serious or maybe just sniffing glue?

>Finding the nest(s) are 100% of
>the game.


>treat there house before they come to yours. Nothing you can do about
>nests 100' away but all close nests should be treated.

I am against 'preventive' control (with insecticides) for carpenter ants.  Unless they are next to a house or foundation in, let's say, mulch.  We get a lot of this.  We granulate the mulch, the problem disappears.  Sometimes a general P/C inside, depending on the problem and/or the people....  

BTW, just about the ONLY kind of preventive control I AM for, is pre-treatment for termites.  Anything else you handle when it pops up.  That's the only way we operate.  Oh, sure, we do monthly pest control to private homes.  Have since the beginning, for 35 years.  But I have less than 200 regular monthly residential customers, and I let each and every one of them know that we feel that regular P/C is NOT NECESSARY!  I tell them that I don't even spray my own house on a regular basis - and I don't.  My own house hasn't been sprayed in some 3-4 years - since the cat died.  I tell them, if I don't need it, YOU don't need it.  As a result, when they DO need some kind of treatment, who do you think they call?  They don't even LOOK for anyone else.  My 200 customers are the ones that say, "John, I don't care if there's 4 inches of snow on the ground, I want you here every month." (Those are the ones you love, eh?)  Besides, my men appreciate the fact that they don't have to be baseboard jockeys, and know that just about every house they go to they're going to be a hero!  Powerful stuff - never having to say you're sorry and everyone's happy to see you - every time you go.

>Read May "Pest Control Magazine" page 42. Best article on what c. ants
>are doing during
>differant months. This guy knows his stuff.

Got it here somewhere, will check it out.  (And let you know what I think) Just as soon as I find it under all this stuff....

>Homeowners know next to nothing but knowing only 2/3 is not good enough
>to be giving out information as an authority on C. ants.

Hey!  I'm no authority!  Never said (nor ever will) I was.  I don't think there is ever an 'expert' - too many variables.  I don't think anyone knows 3/3!  I never let anyone call me an expert, and if they do, I tell them there are no experts.  What I WILL say is that I'm honest.  Ken, what I REALLY don't like is the "rip-off mode" that most exterminators are into when it comes to carpenter ants.  You should read my mail! Some of the things that these guys do and say should be (and probably is) illegal! Two-thirds (if that's what it is) is a whole lot better than the B.S. I hear about!

Funny thing is, the only people that complain about my site (or my words) are exterminators!  

>No hard feelings,  just my thoughts

>Ken Torosian

Absolutely none taken.  Enjoy hearing from other exterminators - anytime!  Good OR bad!  I consider both to be a compliment.


(I never did hear back from Ken, BTW....)

Andy asks.....


Thanks for the great information on Carpenter ants... you probably saved me some bucks already.

Quick question though.... do these ants ever have stripes on the rear section?  or could this be some other ant or termite? (It looked like a big ant other than the stripes, the others we found were solid black).

FYI: We live in northern Michigan (Brutus).  We found about a dozen of these last night (after and during a huge rainstorm) in our house and in a brand new addition (still open to the outdoors, and under construction). We have some old rotten timbers on the outside of our house, and a dead tree where I'm sure the motherlode nest is.

Thanks in advance.
-Andrew C.
Brutus, MI

and my reply....

Hi, Andy:

Used to live in Michigan (Lansing) many years ago (1955-58)- many great memories in a great state!

Carpenter ants are black (a few in the south are red) - no stripes!  Probably something else (NOT termites) nothing dangerous, don't worry about them.

The rainstorm probably forced both inside - also carpenter ants are nocternal!  They love dead or dying trees too.  Unless it's butt-up against the house don't worry about that either!

Just a few inside are never cause to worry - happens to me too - and I don't worry. I have a huge sycamore in front, a huger black walnut in back and my neighbor has an even huger pin oak that might as well be on my property.  In 30 years I have never sprayed my house for the carpenter ants I see during the summer season.

Save your money!


Tammy writes in...

Dear Exterminator,
We recently bought an older home in Kennebunk, Maine built in 1880. We have been rennovating the house for the past couple of months and have been pleasantly surprised at the sound nature of the structure and lack of water or pest damage.  However, the other day while working on some upstairs bedrooms we noticed approximately 10 to 20 carpenter ants on a bedroom window sill in a room we have not yet remodeled.  I immediately got concerned and called an exterminator who told me for $1000 they would inject the entire house with pesticides over the course of a year to cure the problem.  My husband and I cannot really afford this, but do not want to risk having major problems down the road.  At this point we have examined the exterior walls (down to studs) on approximately 75% of the house and have only found one window sill upstairs with evidence of previous water damage and grooves (probably from an old carpenter ant nest).  The house was reroofed several years ago and any leakage or water problems seem to be solved.  Do you have any suggestions as to what we should do, aside from having the entire house exterminated?  We are very handy and are willing to get are hands dirty.  Thank you so much for your time.

Tamara C.
Kennebunk, Maine

So I wrote back...

Hi, Tamara:

Boy, I sure hope you didn't spring for that job!  What a waste of $1000!  Better to spend that on your renovations!

Ok, this is what you do:  Get on the phone, call a SMALL company in your area. Tell them exactly what you've told me.  That you have ONE window that appears to have a carpenter ant problem and you want to get that one area treated.  If they are an honest outfit, they won't mind coming over to treat the one window.  You should be prepared to spend less than $100 - more like $50-$60.  Tell them you don't want anything else done, you are "afraid" of chemicals, you don't care WHAT they say, that's all you want done.  If a salesman shows up instead of an exterminator, throw him out!  Whoever shows up should be prepared to do the job on the spot, or you don't want him.

This is what they do:  They may drill a few holes alongside the window frames and inject a powder insecticide (there are several kinds, it doesn't really matter much what kind they use) and that's it.  Shouldn't take him longer than 15-20 minutes.


You can do much the same thing yourself!  And, depending on how handy you (or your husband) are, and what the window and the trim looks like, you could drill the holes (or take the trim off) and do it yourself!  The product you would use is called Drione dust.  You may be able to buy it yourself, locally, or it is one of the items you can purchase from us.  A one pound bottle (from us) is cheap and includes shipping. Drill little quarter inch holes, leave the holes there for a couple of weeks until you're sure everything is okay, then spackle the holes.  

Actually, you may not even need the dust.  If you find that the window has a water leak, all you really have to do is to fix the leak!  If you are handy enough to remove the window trim, I would do that & see what's going on.  If you do that and discover a carpenter ant nest, have your trusty shop-vac at the ready.  Suck 'em up.  See if you can see a water leak, and fix it if you do.  If everything looks hunky-dory (no leaks) put the trim back on (with screws, so you can take it off again) and then re-inspect it again a couple of months later.  If they come back, it means there is a water problem.  Doesn't have to be a big problem, just a small, tiny leak may be enough.

Whichever you do, it's a whole lot cheaper than $1000!  Then you can get back to your renovations.  Remember never to call THAT guy again.  He sure isn't doing you any favors!

Let me know how you make out, write back if you have any questions.  

(BTW, my cousin lives about 15 minutes from you - he loves it up there!)


From Susie & Alan...


I've got an exterminator coming in a couple hours, because we saw half a dozen carpenter ants outside this past weekend, while we were digging to put in a new granite paver sidewalk.

He told me that our village (Elm Grove) is full of carpenter ants, because of all the (lovely) old trees, where carpenter ants like to live.

My fiancé & I just bought this home in November, and had been told by the former owner that she had treated for carpenter ants "12 yrs ago, but had no problems since".  So, I panicked when we saw a few this weekend.

This guy wanted to immediately schedule a $350 treatment (guaranteed to keep the ants away for 6 months), or, we could also start a $147 quarterly plan to guarantee they are kept away.

Well, I'm so glad my fiancé found your bits of info & advise on the Net!
I think I'll hand him a copy of your news, if I am not able to cancel the appt before he gets here.

We bought this place because it has an acre of woods, wildflowers, deer, raccoons (who eat the deer food we put out), and lots of birds &
squirrels and chipmunks... and carpenter ants, too.

Susie & Alan

So I quickly wrote back...

Hi, Susie:

You saw ants OUTSIDE?  And he said he would come?  I can't believe it!  They're SUPPOSED to be outside!  And even if you saw a couple INSIDE it's no reason to panic.  Don't let him take your money, susie.  And if he tries to scare you, you'll KNOW he's trying to get your money!  Cancel it if you can, and if he shows up tell him you changed your mind.  (You're a woman and you're allowed to do that!)  If he gives you any static tell him you're going to call the cops!  Or maybe the Better Business Bureau!

EVERY village (city, town, whatever) is full of carpenter ants.  Mine, yours, your uncle's.  So what?  This is nature, Susie, plain and simple - just like all your flowers, chipmonks and deer!  And you want to go spreading poisons around just because of Mother Nature?  Sure, give him the address of my website, tell him to click through and let him choke on it!  BTW, I get emails from operators that say they HATE doing what they do to the public.  There ARE honest exterminators out there...

Save your money - buy some more flowers!  Tell him a REAL exterminator told you that!  And your place sounds wonderful - carpenter ants and all.

And let me know how you do!


Jimbo writes in...

First off...thanks for a great site. This kind of site is what the Internet is all about.

Thank you for the info on Carpenter Ants. I was in major panic mode and I feel alot better after reading your...um...dissertation on the subject.

I have 2 questions...

1. It appears that a tree of ours may be infested. I'm surmising that this is what happens and that I shouldn't panic. Should I call some kind of Tree Doctor guy to have them check it out?

2. I have read/heard that a good deterent against ants in general (carpenters in specific??) is Mint. As in Mint plants like spearmint & peppermint. Any truth to that. We are actually thinking about planting mint around the border of our house. Alot of benefits...no ants & many many Mint Juleps.

Again thanks for the info. Is Old Bridge, NJ (Middlesex County) in your serving area? Because if it is and I EVER need someone...I would hire you to do my work.


ps. The Carpenter bee page helped out my buddy who was looking over my shoulder as I was hitting your site. If I had a dollar for everytime he said EXACTLY to something you wrote about their tendencies & such...I could take my wife out to dinner...we're talking appetizers and everything! He thanks you too.

and I write back...

Hi, Jim:

Many thanks for your compliment!

About the tree.  The carpenter ants are just taking advantage of the tree - the ants are a symptom that the tree is not as viable as it once was.  You could try the tree doctor, I don't think he'll be concerned about the ants.  Depending on the type and age of the tree, he may be able to help it, maybe not.

I've heard the same thing about mint.  I don't think it works.  I know of no unrefined herbs or plants that have been scientifically proven to repel or kill insects.  I think some old wife started it!

Do we go to Old Bridge?  Funny you should ask...  Just got back this afternoon from Jamesburg, as a matter of fact.  But this was for something special.  There was a dispute between a buyer and a seller (real estate) and they needed an exterminator to give a report.  I was it.  But we don't usually go up there for normal service calls.  I will, however, do termite work up there in special cases, if there is enough time to schedule.

Glad to help your buddy too!  Emails like yours make it fun to be in this business.

Thanks again for your compliments.  If I can help in the future just let me know!


Kathy, from right here in NJ writes in...

Hello- Tonight was my first night to look up info on carpenter ants and amazingly I went to your site first.

I was looking because we recently moved into our new home and last week I saw a carpenter ant and then a few more.  I guess I definitely have the onsie-twosie kind of thing because it was a few every day over the course of a couple of days.  We had several days of a heavy rain and then they were here (the end of May).  I am completely depressed because we had a very bad carpenter ant problem in our last home and I can't believe we have another house with them.  They drive me absolutely nuts, but I feel somewhat better after reading your info.  I just can't stand the thought of them running all over the place and I was on the verge of calling our former exterminator to set up a service contract.  Please save me the money by answering a few questions if you'd be so kind.  

At first I was only seeing them in the kitchen.  Then I saw them in the upstairs bathroom which is directly over the kitchen.  Does it mean I have a bad problem if they have travelled to a second level?

We do have a flower bed that is directly outside the kitchen on ground level. Would it be best to just let this grow in with grass or fill in with rocks as you have suggested elsewhere?

We know that there is a poor perc in the ground in our back yard and everything stays wet for awhile after a heavy saturation, which I'm assuming is bad for the carpenter ant situation.    Also you mentioned clogged gutters can be another problem is this correct, because we do have a problem with our gutters getting filled with debris and my hubby is constantly keeping the junk out of them to keep them working properly.

If we only saw them for a couple of days inside the house and now we haven't seen any the last day or so, does it mean they were just forced inside because of the rains we had?
How could we determine if we have a moisture problem when there really is no visible signs of this?

Please help...thanks

also, please don't post my e-mail address...thanks again.

Kathy W. in NJ

And my rather long reply...

Hi, Kathy:

My site first?  I'm flattered!

First thing you want to remember is DON'T PANIC!  The next thing is to give it awhile.  If you've only been in there a few days, then that is nothing to base your fears upon.  My advice is to DO NOTHING - for the time being.  Those rainy days can definitely have an effect on your local populations of carpenter ants.  Every time it rains around here (even just hot, muggy weather) our carpenter ant calls SURGE! I always try to weed out the weather-related calls first (most of them are) by systematically going through my checklist with whomever is on the phone.  

First question is always, "How long have you been in that house."  If the reply is as yours, a few days, even a few months, then that tells me that the person has no history on the activity in the house.  The next question is, "How many are you seeing per day?"  Again, if the answer is "only a few," then I strongly suspect it is weather related and tell them to hold off for a weather change.  If they have been in the house, let's say, for a few years, then my question is, "And you've never had this happen before, maybe in other years?"  Usually the answer is "yes."  But something makes them call in this year - like they saw one on their pillow (or some other "sensitive" place) and that's what prompts the call.  Never mind that the ant, of course, doesn't know it's on a pillow, he's just wandering around and she/he happened to see it there!  

There is just no way in the world that I want to apply insecticides in a case like that. Not necessarily because the of insecticides, more because I know they're going to go away anyway.  Not only that, but I don't want to get called back every time they see an ant walking around - which is what happens!  A few carpenter ants, wandering around in ANYONE'S house is absolutely normal.  They are endemic around here, and houses are so full of holes that you're bound to see a few.

Going from the first to the second floor means nothing.  Their range is so great that they could be anywhere in your house.  Forget the foraging ants - when you indeed have a problem, you're going to see LOTS!  And they're all going to be in one area - near their nest.

To give you some idea, one of the girls in our office (Diane) had them in her TOASTER!  (Call in, she'll tell you all about it!)  She kept seeing them on the counter, but never suspected the toaster.  After all, you use it, it gets HOT, and you'd expect that it would kill them all.  Nope.  For some reason she opened the crumb tray, saw a few, then MANY.  Threw the toaster outside and called (guess who). So I went over, picked up the toaster lying on the driveway, puffed some pyrethrum dust into it and out came MANY MORE ants.  Problem solved.  She saw no more ants.  I couldn't talk her into using the toaster anymore (this was a freak occurence) and she bought another.  She keeps asking me if they'll come back!  This was several years ago - they haven't yet.

As far as your flower bed is concerned, usually we have problems with those when new mulch is applied.  Either the ants are brought in with the mulch, or they find it quickly - the result is the same.  An influx of "occasional invaders" for a few days, sometimes more, depending on how much mulch there is.  Here again, I would wait before doing anything.  Especially if it's just a small flower bed.  Rocks?  Yeah, but I'm not recommending you rip out the mulch - just keep it in the back of your mind to not use mulch next to foundations.  Next time you attend to the flower bed (if you've had a problem) replace it with the rocks.

A wet back yard?  This is Jersey, right?  Shouldn't have that much effect - not as much as new mulch or big, old trees.  And, naturally, properly working gutters are always desirable.  Of course, if you have trees, you could almost clean them out every couple of weeks!  Mine are constantly loaded - I have a huge sycamore in the front and a huge black walnut in the back.  A neighbor has another huge pin oak close enough to my yard to be mine.  I guess I could clean mine out every few days! It actually gets done about once per season, usually when I see small trees growing out of them.  And I routinely find carpenter ant nests in them.  And, in 30 years in the same house, I have NEVER sprayed my house for carpenter ants.

Determining if you have a moisture problem is sometimes difficult.  You don't usually see "moisture," you normally spot the other symptoms first - carpenter ants, mildew, maybe a small leak or water stain....  Again, don't worry about it until it happens - you have enough things to worry about (got any kids?)

Lastly, you do have another recourse.  If you just moved in, (here in New Jersey) it means that your house was inspected and certified by an exterminator.  Which means that you have a guarantee that you can fall back on if you truly have a problem.  Check to see who issued the certification so you'll have someone to call if you really have, or discover a problem.  Before you do that, get a history:  Mark on your calendar how many you're seeing.  Two today, three tomorrow, one the next day, ten on Saturday - like that.  Over a period of a couple or three weeks you can see a pattern and determine if you really have a problem that an exterminator can help you with.

In my mind, it is silly to engage an exterminator for those few foraging scouts you may see during various times of the year.  I tell people that they really don't know what's going on for at least a year, sometimes even longer.  

Anyway, that's what I think.  Just remember - never panic!

Get back to me if you have any more questions.


Kim writes in...

Thanks!!!, for saving me the big bucks I was about to spend for an exterminator.  I can live with the ants being here and about, but the thought of having a wall cave in or my floor give out due to the ravages of Carpenter Ants didn't paint a pretty picture.  Now I am much more at ease and will no doubt just live with the little critters.  I have the onesy, twosey, here and there problem that just doesn't seem quite so urgent anymore.  We have recently added on to an existing dwelling, and in the process had to tear out some outside walls (sheathing) and in doing so exposed 2 different colonies of the little buggers.  l did notice, however, that there was no apparent damage in the immediate areas so I figured they were new colonies just ready and anxious to start feasting on my new addition.  There went about a full, large size, can of Raid!  Now after reading your very comprehensive information, I'm going to save my new can of Raid for some other types of critters, put my big bucks back in the bank and sleep well!
Thanks again!
R K "Kim" Retter

My reply...

Hi, Kim:

Carpenter ants, like I say, and you've found out, are really no big deal.  If you take a house apart, (ANY house) brick by brick, board by board, you almost always find what you found.  So you get rid of what you found, fix the moisture problem, and Bob's your uncle!  

Make sure you check with me before you spend big bucks on an exterminator.  So many are just waiting to rip you off!

Good luck!


Mr. Mc writes....

I have been reading a lot of web pages tonight concerning carpenter ants. Your page is the only one so far I have read that doesn't make seeing some carpenter ants around your house a problem.  I live next to a wooded area with lots of brush.  I also have a pool.  Every year I have hundreds of flying ants in my pool, which is located approximately 6 feet from the wooded area. I also have a deck (pressure treated) around part of the pool and a main deck connected to the house.  

Question 1 is --would pressure treated wood keep carpenter ants way? I see ants here and there outside and once in a while inside.  Some have been pretty large (Mature).  I guess my question # 2   Is there any way to know for sure if there are carpenter ants in my house??  I look around for the dust piles and listen at night, but haven't heard anything or seen anything, except for the occasional ant here and there in the house.

I have to admit that your Web Page is a relief in a way but also confusing. How come ALL the other pages suggest outside spraying and inside dusting, etc.,etc.??  Man, I want to believe you more than any of the other guys.

I do want to THANK you for providing that information though.  Like I said, Yours was the ONLY one that didn't throw GLOOM and DOOM for anyone who saw a couple of ants in their house!!

I would appreciate it if you could give me some answers to my questions above.


My reply...

Mr. Mc:

Doom and gloom?  Yeah, I know...  That's why I put that page up.  I'm constantly amazed by what some exterminators (say, do, charge) for carpenter ants.  Well, not really.  I've been in this game for some 35 years and it has been going on longer than that.  I guess you could call it capitalism.  Or you could also call it just plain scare tactics.  Most of the time that's what it is.  Ok, here goes:

If you just see a few, (inside) one here, one there, you have "occasional invaders" - nothing to worry about - happens in my house too.  If you have a problem you see LOTS - 50 or a 100 per day - maybe even more.  And usually all in the same place(s).  That also means you have a moisture problem.  Fix the moisture problem, the ants have no reason to stay.  

Exterminators know this.  But they also like to make money.  You should read my emails from the people who pay HUNDREDS of dollars to "rid" their house of carpenter ants!  Almost 99% of the time you never need to do this.

Back to your email:

Forget flying ants - they mean nothing, they hurt nothing.  It's just nature.

Pressure treated wood doesn't KEEP anything away.  But it will keep them (and other things) from damaging your deck.   Never use any kind of wood outside except pressure treated wood.

You only see a few?  That's normal too.  And what size they are makes no difference either - just different life stages.  And there is no way to be "sure" - that's what the exterminators will play on - but when you do have a problem, you'll see PLENTY!  In all of those 35 years, I have seldom found "doom & gloom" cases - hardly ever.  And in those 35 years we have NEVER charged "hundreds of dollars" for control.  Most of the time, we consider carpenter ants as normal pest control. Oh, sometimes we have to drill a couple of holes into a wall cavity to inject a dust or something, but I don't think we have ever charged more than a hundred dollars (or so) for that, even.  I would rather make friends than money - and I sleep at night.

My advice with exterminators?  Watch out for charlatans!  They're the ones that try to scare you.  In this whole wide world, there is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to bugs and exterminating.  Stay away from the "biggies" and salesmen.  Try for the little guy, but remember, they can be just as bad too.  

Hope this answers your questions, if you have any others, get back to me!


A note from Kathy...

Please don't show email address---thanks.
Hi, I guess we were one of the ones sucked into the lengthy treatment to get rid of the carpenter ants.  Four years ago we noticed the big carpenter ants always crawling in the evening in our family room.  . When we had a new sliding door put in they found a nest at the top of the old sliding door when it was ripped out. The roof above our family room was flat and then they added a minimum pitch roof over top of the flat one.
We called a local exterminator and they put us on a program for one year-they would come out monthly and spray. They explained that the ants couldn't be killed till the eggs hatched and something about the cycle of the eggs, spraying for one full year guaranteed getting all the eggs as they hatched.  We paid over $500 for this treatment. Now 3 yrs later I'm seeing them again in the family room.  We had since, screened in our back patio with a roof, again small pitch due to the rest of the house having a low pitch. For the past year, ever since the roof was put on over the patio we get a heavy drip through the ceiling with a heavy rain.  The carpenter says it is the way our existing roof runs and the rain is running in under his roof he added on.  I feel a roof shouldn't leak when someone builds one no matter what its tied in to.  Anyway, I'm wondering if this is bringing the ants again and where to look for the nest. We see where the drip is coming in on the new wood but not sure where to look on the house roof .


My reply...

Hi, Kathy:

Whew!  I saved this one for last!  (I sometimes get 40-50 emails per day)

Kathy, it sounds like all of your problems are related to the roof(s)!  You definitely don't need an exterminator, you need a GOOD carpenter!  FIRE that exterminator, put that money into a (GOOD) carpenter.  The "egg" story from the exterminator is pure B.S. plain and simple.  He just wanted the $500 and the years' service contract. Get rid of him, call the Better Business Bureau and file a complaint against both the carpenter and the exterminator.  Always check with the BBB - they know the best and the worst!

You'll have to find out where the roof is leaking and fix it.  Make sure your carpenter is reputable and has been (and will be) around for awhile.  The one you're using now sounds like he's making excuses - and obviously he hasn't fixed it properly.  You are correct - if he had fixed it properly, it wouldn't leak.  If he won't (can't) fix it tell him you're going to go to the BBB.  Depending on his reaction you could also tell him you're going to see a lawyer too.

If you run across ants while under renovation, DON'T spray and DON'T call the exterminator.  Suck 'em up with your vacuum cleaner or shop-vac.  You just need to fix the moisture problem and the ants will have no reason to stay.  

Let me know how you make out and if you have any more questions!


A note from Kerry & Ron...

Thanks for your advice on carpenter ants!  We were feeling panicked about the ants around our home after reading several web site articles about the the havoc these ants would wreak, and were going to spray, bait and otherwise spend many dollars on trying to get rid of them thar ants.  But, we've attacked the problem at the moisture level, and found no more ants there. We do find them elsewhere outdoors in our woods, but don't panic.  That's for the sensible direction.

Kerry M & Ron N

My reply...

Kerry & Ron:

Glad to hear it!  Too many people panic about these critters.  You should read my mail!  And too many exterminators exploit this (needlessly) and this is where our industry got its bad reputation.

Write me before you ever do anything rash (bugwise).


A note from Carol Johnson

I just want to thank you for the informative web site....the carpenter ant section.  You stated our problem completely.  We did get the Raid out and spray, almost a whole can...but decided against calling an exterminator.  We thought we would wait and see. I searched the net for information and found lots...all bad.  Then I came across yours this evening. So..just saying......thank you again for providing such accurate information.

Carol Johnson

My reply...

Hi, Carol:

I put that page up for just that reason.  So many people just panic about these carpenter ants (and then get taken advantage of) when, most of the time, they are really no big deal.

Many thanks for your compliment!  Write back when and if you have any problems.


A question from Don in New England

The bark at the trunk of my maple tree is loose and black ants are everywhere underneath the bark. The loose area is from the ground level up to about a height of 4 feet. I fear that the ants will loosen the bark around the entire perimeter of the tree and that will be the end of my maple. Will a spray of some sort help or any suggestions? I live in New England.

Thanks for your help.


My reply...

Hi, Don:

This must be carpenter ant month!  I do have some good news for you:  Don't worry about the ants.  As long as they're not bothering you (inside) you can forget about them.  Carpenter ants are in EVERY tree!  They won't hurt the tree at all - they are only taking advantage of a place to live.  They are not the cause of the bark lifting off, they are only a symptom of a tree that may be not as viable as it once was.

If you spray they will come back too.  I have much the same thing out in front of the office here - a huge old Hickory tree has a HUGE nest at the base of the tree - it's been there for YEARS.  BTW, I've never sprayed it either!  They don't seem to hurt the tree at all, and they are under the bark too.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I'll take a few pictures and put that on my carpenter ant page...

Anyway, I wouldn't worry about them.


From Steve in Florida...

Hi, first of all thanks for your great service to the community.  Every year, during this time of the year (Summer , rainy season in Florida, hundreds of Carpenter ants take over my house. They tend to come out at night, and they crawl, fly all over my Florida room. The walls are very old wood panels, and that's where they usually crawl around, but I am unable to detect where they emanate from.This happens every year, and it is really frustrating. I've consulted Orkin, Sears, you name it. No one can get rid of these Bugs. Im considering hiring Hopper from the movie A Bugs Life". Please help.
Victim of the Carpenters

My reply...

Hi, Steve:

Haven't seen "A Bugs Life" yet - one of these days!  But I do have a couple of questions:  

I guess the Florida room is on a slab?  
How old is it?  
Did you build it, or was it there when you moved in?
How long have you lived in that house?
What exterminating methods have been done so far?  (By you & others)

Carpenter ants need moisture.  They don't need much, so it's not like you have to have a river - although it helps.  And the fact that you only see them in the spring is good.  That MIGHT mean that the problem is coming from the outside, rather than the inside.  If you have mulch around the outside of the Florida room this is bad.  Get rid of mulch - use ROCKS!  These are the best kind:


Also, if the room has gutters, make sure they are unclogged and working correctly. What about the roof of the florida room?  Does it have a good "pitch" that lets water run off easily?  I see a lot of problems in houses that have additions with only a slight pitch to the roof.

I also had a customer with a Florida room that had a problem with carpenter ants too. His room was put up by someone that didn't know what they were doing.  You can see it here:


He had to dismantle the whole thing and start over.  Those pictures were taken this past winter, now it is torn down to the frame and he says he is going to rebuild it the right way.  I am trying to get back over there and get some more pictures...

But back to your problem.  If your problem is from the outside, unless you can isolate the area, you're not going to be able to do much about it.  I think you should probably search around the outside for a source, make sure you don't have any of the problems I mentioned, and see what happens.

The wood panels do sound a bit suspicious too.  You could have a moisture problem INSIDE the walls.  And then only see them in the spring during their population explosion.  Carpenter ants ARE nocturnal - that's when you see most of them. Maybe, some night, arm yourself with a strong flashlight, a lawnchair, and (maybe) a martini, and do a little detective work and see if you can see where they're coming from!

There is a bait for carpenter ants - it's new and I'm always a little leery about these "new" things the chemical companies come out with.  Mostly because the best way to eliminate carpenter ants is to find the moisture problem and eliminate it - otherwise they'll be back for sure, regardless of how effective the bait is.


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