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Carpenter ants are very common nuisance and structural pests within northeastern homes. Multiple carpenter ant pest species can be found in Massachusetts, but the black carpenter ant is easily the most frequently encountered species within homes in the state. In many infestation cases, carpenter ant workers invade homes in search of human food sources, making them nothing more than a nuisance. It is well known that carpenter ants may also infest structural wood, which can result in costly damage. Carpenter ants are often said to be similar to termites in terms of the structural damage they inflict to homes, but carpenter ants are not nearly as destructive as termites. However, black carpenter ant infestations can be just as, or even more difficult to eradicate from homes than termite infestations.

Generally, carpenter ants only infest wood that has become damp and decayed, and they prefer to establish nests within wood is already hollow. For example, in the natural environment, carpenter ants often establish nests in tree hollows, and in homes, the ant pests are well known for taking up residence within structural wood components that have been previously excavated by other wood-infesting insect pests, such as termites and powderpost beetles. The challenge in eradicating black carpenter ant infestations lies in pinpointing all indoor and outdoor nests that are well concealed, and usually located within inaccessible indoor areas.

When a large number of ¼ to ½ inch long black ants are found within a home, there is a good chance that the ant pests are originating from multiple indoor nests. Eliminating indoor carpenter ant nests is a job for professionals, as nests are often located behind wall voids and/or beneath floorboards where treatments cannot be readily applied. Professional-grade chemicals and dusts can destroy nests, but it is often necessary to drill small holes into walls in order to effectively deliver these treatments. Recently introduced baits are becoming the favored method of eliminating carpenter ants, as the slow-acting bait is transported back to the nest by workers where the poison spreads to the rest of the colony.

Indoor carpenter ants nests are secondary or “satellite nests” that were established by workers from one single primary or “parent nest” located outdoors. Simply eliminating all indoor nests will not put an end to carpenter ant pest issues in homes. In order to fully eradicate a carpenter ant infestation within a home, the parent nest must be located and destroyed, which can be a challenge, as workers are known for establishing satellite nests as far as 100 yards away from parent nests. Parent nests are usually located in tree hollows, or other decayed wood sources in the natural environment.

Have you ever struggled to locate carpenter ant nests?