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Don has a problem, it seems, with carpenter ants

Don's a good detail man, but guess what?

First  let me thank you for such an informative web site. I wish I could hire you, but NJ is a bit of a ride. Next let me apologize in advance for what I'm sure will prove to be a lengthy question.

On to the problem. We have been in our home almost one year to the day.  It is a 15 year old raised ranch with a newly finished in-law apt. in the lower level. Last year around this time we noticed carpenter ants.  We had someone come out to look, but didn't end up having any treatment done. This year they're back.  Again we've seen maybe 10-20 ants over the past few weeks. We're concerned, but not panicking.

This week I called several pest control companies to get estimates. A couple of them gave me prices over the phone, which for me eliminated them from the running as I wondered how they could give an estimate without actually seeing the situation.

I've narrowed it down to two companies.  One seems like a larger company, with a nice, big, full color folder with all sorts of brochures, etc.  Nice folks. Two guys came out; the owner and an assistant.  The owner is an entomologist and made it a point to explain that fact.  Bottom line is
$300 for a one time treatment for carpenter ants, with a 4 month warranty. Or $200 plus $400 annually based on an annual agreement to control about a dozen different pests as well as mice and rats.

The other company sent one guy over (the owner). His literature consisted of about 5 photocopied informational sheets and a simple invoice form. He seemed very nice and was willing to answer anything I asked him, (as were the other folks). His cost is for a 3 visit system.
Initial visit for $200 and 2 follow-ups for $60 each in July and September.

Now for my question. I'm not about to tear apart walls looking for moisture problems. Because then I'd have to put them back up and I'm not exactly Mr. Handyman.  So I'll probably end up hiring one of these companies for some kind of treatment.  The main difference I see is in
the way they spray the insecticide (incidentally both companies use Cypermethrin).  One company drills 1/4" holes in the outside walls of the house and sprays through there.  In fact he showed me where this had been done on our house in the past.  You can see the plugs.  The other company sprays through the walls from INSIDE the house, using what looks like a large sewing needle.  No plugs needed afterward.  They all acknowledge that the likely areas of problems are the rear walls of the home, where the main bath and kitchen (dishwasher) are.

So...drum roll please...  In your professional opinion, is one method better or more effective than the other?

I appreciate any advice, John.


And I wrote back because I don't think this is a real problem....

Hi, Don:

Let me put it this way:  I've been in business some 35 years and I've done the procedure you describe (to an entire house) zero times.  That's ZERO - nada - zip - none.  Yes, I've done it to window frames, door frames and sometimes wall areas. Never an entire house - or even an entire wall.  So my opinion is that this procedure is virtually worthless in 99 and 44/100ths per cent of the jobs I see.

A total of 10-20 ants in a few weeks?  What's wrong with that?  In that amount, they're really just "occasional invaders," and there isn't a whole hell of a lot you're going to do about that.  Especially if you're seeing these ants at only certain times of the year.  And where do you live? (City, State)  I know exterminators all over who might just give you a better assessment.  We're not all rip-offs.  Have you checked my "good guys" page?


If this complaint were made to me, I would do nothing more than the outside, with standard control procedures, at regular prices - and only if you insisted.  Mostly, though, I would try to talk you out of doing anything.  Especially since you've only been there a year.  You only have a year's history on that place, that's not very much.  I'll say it again, as I do virtually every day - "carpenter ants are no big deal."

Do you have mulch around the outside?  If you do, there's more of a chance that they're out there.  And the holes (or plugs) in the wall?  Just might mean someone else got ripped off before you - obviously, it didn't work then, and there's a better than good chance it won't work now.  To me, it looks like another "unnecessary procedure."  And someone that brags (entomologist) about what they are, justifies a cautious stance.  To do what we do does NOT require a degree, it takes common sense and honesty - in equal amounts.  The degree is absolutely incidental - he just knows the scientific names for the insects we kill - which adds about ZERO to the quality of the job and a couple of hundred dollars to the invoice.

And BTW, have you contacted the company that supplied the certification to your settlement?  Might be a good place to start, they may have a history on the property or even carry a guarantee.  The last exterminator in there should be included on your list also.

The outside stuff you can do yourself - if you want to try, get back to me, I'll tell you exactly what to do.  


Don wrote back....

Hello, John,

Thanks for your quick response.  Based on what you said, I think I'll wait a while before throwing money at the problem. I didn't think we had a lot of ants, but we were led to believe that they might indicate a bigger problem.  If down the road we see a lot more maybe I'll contact Bill Murphy of Economy Pest Control in Boston.  We're about 40 miles south of Boston and he's on your goodguy list.

We do have mulch around the outside of the house and a big wood deck off the back. We noticed quite a lot of ants when we cleaned out the flower boxes that were along the rail of the deck.  We also have woods out back. I'm open to suggestions on how we can keep the little buggers out of the house. Is Drione dust the answer?  Should we spray something around the perimeter of the house?

By the way, there are lots of little anthills in the yard (it's rather sandy), but they're the little "regular" ants.  I'd just as soon get rid of them too.

Thanks again.


(I sent Don a detailed list of what he could use against his ant problem, with materials he could buy at local outlets, and he sent back this nice thank you note.)


I can't thank you enough for the advice. If all professionals acted as you do, the BBB would be out of business. I will keep Bill Murphy in mind should the need arise and if I do contact him, you can be certain I'll tell him that you recommended him.

Thanks again,


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