Do Carpenter Ants Eat Wood?

Carpenter ants do not eat wood but they chew their way through wooden structures. They do this to create interconnecting tunnels that are the foundation for a well-functioning colony.

Do Carpenter Ants Eat Wood
Image: A Carpenter ant

Instead of swallowing the wood shavings, they get rid of them outside the tunnels. Carpenter ants have got strong mandibles which they use to chew their way through wooden structures.

Carpenter ants can be quite damaging to wood structures. They can even undermine the structural safety of a family home.

What Attracts Carpenter Ants in a Home?

Carpenter ants are some of the most common ants found in the household. They love dwelling on moisture and wooden structures. So, any place in the house that is humid may end up attracting them.

They are often found near places like the bathroom, kitchen sink, washing machine, dishwasher, door casings, and windowsills. Structural pillars and wooden roofs are also a viable target for the carpenter ant.

Carpenter ants (like all other varieties of ants) need sugar and other lucrative food sources to survive.

Contrary to popular belief, carpenter ants do not consume wood. They just chew their way through it. They love consuming sugary food items including honey, syrup, chocolates, and fruits.

Apart from that, they love to consume pet food, meat, and the remains of other insects. So having food items out in the open for a long time is a sure-fire way to attract them.

Once they are inside the house they will initially start to look for soft and humid woody structures. However, later on as their colony will grow in number they will expand to harder wooden structures as well.

In case your home has already suffered a carpenter ant infestation (or worse, a termite infestation), your house can be quite prone to additional carpenter ant infestations as there are already tunnels dug around the house and the wooden framework of the house is already damaged.

When To Worry about Carpenter Ants

The moment you start finding carpenter ants roaming around in the house, it should be a concern. Contact pest control immediately.

You should never wait until you start seeing signs of wooden structural damage in the home as that can be too late to save those structures. The ants would have already inflicted significant damage to your house.

In case you are already seeing sawdust lying around your house, it’s quite likely they are deep into colonizing places in your home.

They generally do not move in swarms especially when on the lookout for food however when they find a food source you will start seeing them come out in numbers.

So as soon as you start seeing them even in singular numbers you should start to take precautionary measures.

Their food options are very versatile so you won’t even notice them raiding food items around the house in large numbers until such a point as things have started to get out of hand.

Carpenter ants are half an inch long and black or dark-colored most of the time, with a node between the abdomen and the thorax.

Some of their colony members do contain wings and their middle portion of the body structure will be narrower than the rest of the body. Also the region right after the head, the thorax will be rounded.

Can Carpenter Ants Ruin your House?

Carpenter ants are silent destructive forces that can eat through your wooden structures and establish spacious chambers for their colonies. So, if you have a house based on a wooden framework, they can ruin a house’s structure.

Generally, older houses have more issues related to carpenter ants as older houses have softer, worn-out wooden structures that are very vulnerable to their carpentry actions.

They can slowly ruin the framework of your fences, windows, doors, stairs, porches, sheds, and all other important wooden structures you have around the house. Wooden structures that get moist regularly owing to rainfall are easy targets for these little pests.

So, if you have damaged wooden structures in your home, you need to be more cautious.

If you already have a carpenter ant infestation in your house, you need to deal with that first before repairing any wooden framework in the house as they can further inflict damage on that even after the repair work. Contact pest control professionals immediately.

Do Carpenter Ants eat Healthy Wood?

Most varieties of carpenter ants prefer humid, soft, decomposing, woods for their tunneling work but some larger carpenter ant species can go for even completely healthy and hard wooden surfaces.

For example, Camponotus vagus is a species of carpenter ants that contains large-sized worker ants that generally live in old tree trunks which are extremely hard in texture. This variety of carpenter ants can easily invade homes and can do some serious damage to the house.

Do Carpenter Ants Leave Sawdust?

Carpenter ants leave behind wood shavings, sawdust, and loads of dust in the particular areas of the house where they are inflicting damage.

They just chew their way through the wooden structures and hence after tunneling they need to do get rid of the shavings which they generally do right outside their nests. You can often find some of the dead carpenter ants in this sawdust if you look closely.

However, it can be hard for you to pinpoint their nest in your home as they like to build multiple satellite nests around the house which are often interlinked via thorough tunneling activities (through the walls, pillars, and the roof).

As they don’t normally travel around in huge numbers it won’t be easy to exactly locate their nests. Pest control professionals are often necessary to identify serious issues.

How Can you Tell if you have Termites vs Carpenter Ants?

Both termites and carpenter ants can cause serious damage to the wooden structures across your house. However, they have several differences in their structure.

TermitesCarpenter Ants
AbdomenThey have got a head and thorax, no sign of any abdomen.They have got a head, thorax, and abdomen.
WingsTermites contain larger wings in comparison with carpenter ants and their wings do fall off far more frequently.Carpenter ants at times have wings and they do not fall off easily. The sizes of those wings are also small.
WaistTermites have a broader body structure, there is no waist present.A narrow waist is present.
Consumes Wood?Termites eat wood. They do not produce wooden shavings or sawdust as they consume the wood. However, they may secrete excretory products called frass which can be confused as sawdust.Carpenter ants do not eat wood. They leave large sawdust and shavings around the places they build their nests.

How to Prevent a Carpenter Ant Infestation

If you come across carpenter ants, the best thing to do is to get a pest control professional into the house immediately to check it out. Below are some general preventative measures that can be taken by any household.

  1. Keep your house clean. Make sure you don’t have dirty laundry or kitchen waste lying around openly in the house. Keep laundry and waste in sealed bags. The best practice is to get rid of trash regularly, do not let it pile up.
  2. Make sure you don’t have leakage issues in the house as carpenter ants love moisture and get attracted to humid conditions. Also try to take extra measures to make sure that there are not many cracks in the walls. If you already have multiple cracks try to seal them off.
  3. Avoid leaving unwashed dishes in the kitchen sink. Similarly. do not keep food items for long periods of time out in the open.
  4. Give extra attention to your basement and roof to make sure that there are no leakage or drainage issues there. Clogged drainage can lead to fungal growth which can act as a food source for these ants.

If you have carpenter ants in your home, seek pest control services to minimize the risk of further damage and assess any current damage issues.



Carpenter ants can be a real headache and can do some serious damage to the house especially if your house has got a wooden framework. They don’t eat wood but they chew through the wood to make a vibrant nest full of interconnected tunnels.

You should regularly clean your house and while cleaning if you find sawdust’s around the house, it can be a sign of carpenter ant infestation. If you think you already have a carpenter ant infestation in your house it will be wise to seek professional assistance.

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