Pest Control

4 Reasons Why Carpenter Ants Keep Coming Back

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants, like most ants, are classified as pests when they invade homes and buildings. An ant infestation can be difficult to remove, but carpenter ants are particularly troublesome as they are attracted to wood. Once they have excavated a nest in the wood in your home, they are pretty much there to stay!

Even after carpenter ants have been exterminated, they can return to your home and garden for these reasons.

  1. Food and water for the carpenter ant colony.
  2. Indoor plants attract carpenter ants.
  3. Easy access to your home for building nests.
  4. Attractive debris around your home and garden.
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Most ants will be attracted to your home by their need for food, water, and shelter. Carpenter ants are no exception, although their priority is a place to nest. As their name suggests, carpenter ants love to bore through your wood to build a nest.

Often confused with termites, carpenter ants can cause significant damage to your home, so how do we eliminate them successfully and prevent them from returning?

How To Know You Have Carpenter Ants In Your Home

There are signs to look out for to identify which kinds of ants have taken up residence in your home. Generally, carpenter ants will look for any place to build a nest but prefer moist area’s near a home’s woodwork.

They do not eat the wood. Instead, they tunnel and chew through it to create nests, so check your wood often and replace any damp or rotting wood.

Any wood is attractive to them, whether it is indoors or outdoors. Check your trees, shed, and siding as well as your furniture and the structure of your home. Carpenter ants are as destructive as termites, even though they don’t chew through the wood as quickly as termites.

They can be found inside a tree in your garden, but this does not mean the tree is unhealthy or dying. Carpenter ants will only tunnel into the already dead tissue and not disrupt the tree’s water flow and nutrients. They should still be removed once discovered.

Carpenter ants are more significant than most ants and are dark in color. Be on the lookout for them during the fall and winter, as this is when they move indoors to look for shelter and warmth.

If you don’t see them during winter, they are in hibernation, not that they have died off. Beware of winged ants as they could be a sign of swarming carpenter ants laid dormant in the nest throughout the winter and released during the spring. Carpenter ants are more active in the warmer months.

Other than swarmers, the only other external evidence of the presence of carpenter ants is the small holes or openings on the surface of the wood. The ants expelled sawdust shavings and debris through these openings as they chew through the wood.

If there is a pile of debris or wood shavings outside the opening or on the floor, it is a clear sign of an active infestation of carpenter ants as they keep their areas and nests clear of debris by expelling it out through the openings.

Sometimes the rustling of carpenter ants inside your walls may be the only indication that they are there.

Once you find evidence of carpenter ants anywhere around your home or garden, deal with them immediately to prevent further or lasting damage.

4 Reasons Why Carpenter Ants Keep Coming Back

Carpenter ants have dangerous habits. They have large jaws, capable of chewing through wood of any size or shape, so if you have an infestation of carpenter ants, they could chew through your home or any other wooden item.

You may have tried to eliminate them using ethical means or even called in a professional exterminator to get rid of them, but they keep returning.

Let’s examine why they keep returning and what could attract them to your home and garden.


1. Food & Water For The Carpenter Ant Colony

Although the carpenter ants will make their nests in your wood for their colonies, they need a food and water source as they do not feed on the wood. Outdoors carpet ants feed on insects and plant juices, but if their outdoor supply dwindles, they will enter your home to search for food.

They could be living inside your walls but collecting their food from an outside source and bringing it back inside to feed the colony.

Typical ants are attracted by food or crumbs left out on your countertops or on the floor. Flour, crumbs, sugar, and cookies are good food sources for carpenter ants, as is anything sweet spilled from your trash can or leftovers from your pet’s food bowls.

They are also attracted to moist areas of your home or garden. Carpenter ants need water for the colony to survive. They are resourceful enough to even store water for their colonies during drought.

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2. Indoor Plants Attract Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants love indoor plants! They enjoy the heat, and if your home is warm enough during the winter months, they will skip the hibernation period and continue harvesting food and water from your indoor plants.

If carpenter ants are found indoors, they have found a site that offers them a steady temperature and protection from the environment and their natural enemies. The bonus for them is regular food and water supply, which can be provided by the moisture in the plant’s soil and the honeydew on the plants supplied by aphids.

Hole In Home

3. Easy Access To Your Home For Building Nests

Any dark, moist areas in or around your home attract carpenter ants. Not all nests are outdoors or underground, and they can sometimes be found living inside your walls or baseboards.

Carpenter ants can enter your home by crawling through cracks in window frames or loose grout around the bathroom walls. Any damp patch will attract them and invite them to build a nest for their colony!

Stone foundations are an excellent place for building nests as the moisture becomes trapped between the stones and the wood studs, creating a perfect environment for a nest.


4. Attractive Debris Around Your Home & Garden

While rotting wood and mold can attract carpenter ants into your home, external factors could draw them into your garden, shed, or garage. Trees and branches trimmed from trees and left in a pile are an excellent place for carpenter ants to build a nest.

Firewood stored outside under a tarp or exposed to the elements is likely to attract carpenter ants, especially if the woodpile has been there for a long time. The damp mold and mulch from leaves and grass provide excellent conditions for a colony to live in and thrive.

How To Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ant colonies send out scouts to look for the best places to build their nests. Once they have found a good source of food and water, the workers will begin chewing out nests in your wood for the colony to live.

If you only see a few ants, they are probably the scouts looking for a new home. Avoid the urge to stomp on them when you see them! The scent could lure more ants into your home!

Before calling the professionals to eliminate them, try and eliminate carpenter ants using the following methods. These home remedy treatments may need to be repeated a few times for the best results. Always leave a few days between treatments to check if the previous treatment has worked or not.

Mix A Bait Trap

Baking soda is a natural home remedy product that will exterminate carpenter ants. Mix equal parts sugar, jam, or jelly, and baking soda into a thick paste.

Place the mixture into a shallow lid or dish over the ant’s trail. The carpenter ants will be attracted by the sweetness of the jelly or sugar and should then gather the baking soda and sweetness to carry back to the colony to feed on. Once the ants eat the mixture, it should eliminate them.

Camouflage Scent Trails

Carpenter ants rely on pheromones to find their routes to a food source and back to the colony. Cleaning and wiping away the tracks removes any way they have to find their way home or back to the food source.

Dab essential oils like orange, lemon, cedarwood, or tea tree onto a cotton ball and wipe down any surface the ants have traveled over.

Alternatively, make a solution of two parts water to one part liquid dishwashing soap and pour it into a spray bottle.

Spray the solution over the ants and the trail and wipe it off with a cloth. You can pour the mixture into a carpenter ants nest to kill them once you find it! A water and white vinegar solution mixed in equal parts and sprayed over the trail should also work well.

Locate & Destroy The Nest

This is the best way to eliminate the carpenter ant colony. By carefully watching the scouts, they should lead you back to where the colony and nest are. Try the home remedies listed above to destroy the nest.

Call In The Professionals

If you have tried everything else and the carpenter ants have not been eradicated successfully, you might have to contact a professional pest control service to exterminate the colony.

Carpenter ants should not be left alone as they will cause irreparable damage to your home. A pest control service may be costly, but replacing your home or furniture could be even more expensive!


How to Prevent Carpenter Ants from Returning to Your Home

The best way to stop carpenter ants from returning to your home once you have removed them is to remove what lured them into your home in the first place. Prevention should work together with extermination as an effective means of pest control.

Never ignore the problem; take immediate action once you do see or hear any evidence of carpenter ants to avoid the expense of unnecessary repairs.

While most of the colony would have been eliminated or removed by your extermination methods, there could be a few carpenter ants who will return to the area searching for food and water.

Following a few simple rules could prevent carpenter ants from returning to your home and becoming a further problem.

  • Always clean up any leftover crumbs and food from your plates and table after mealtimes. Wash out your animal’s food bowls to prevent carpenter ants from being attracted to the leftover food or water in the bowls.
  • Wherever possible, store all food in airtight containers.
  • Keep up with repairs to your home and garden. With regular maintenance, carpenter ant problems can be avoided.
  • Plumbing leaks could create damp or rotten wood, attracting carpenter ants, so be sure to remove or repair all damaged wood.
  • Block up any ant entryways to your homes, such as kitchen windows and small holes in the wooden frames. Carpenter ants may begin their nests in rotting wood, but they will soon move on into sound wood.
  • Keep your yard clean from mulch and garden clippings to avoid dark, damp spaces. If the wood or mulch piles are leaning against the house, the carpenter ants are sure to start chewing into the wood of your home, so always ensure that the wood and mulch piles are away from your home.
  • Carpenter ants love honeydew which is the sweet liquid produced by aphids. Aphids attack many plants in your garden, so keep them under control, and you will prevent carpenter ants from invading your garden.
  • Make sure that the lids of your garbage cans are closed and sealed. Carpenter ants will be attracted to anything sweet and sticky that may have leaked from your trash cans.
  • Soak up any pools or puddles of water that may have collected in your basement or crawlspace. The available water will attract carpenter ants.
  • Keep indoor plants free from aphids that produce honeydew on the plants, attracting the carpenter ants. Remove aphids immediately once they are noticed and if you see any carpenter ants scouts making their way towards the plants, remove them too!

Which Plants Repel Carpenter Ants?

Some plants can be planted either in your garden on in pot plants around your home, known to repel carpenter ants. Plant these all around your garden, and keep potted plants throughout your home and patio to repel these pests!

Tried and tested carpenter ant repelling plants are:

  • Mint – both the peppermint and spearmint varieties have the added advantage of not only repelling ants, moths, and aphids, but they also taste great in drinks and dishes!
  • Tansy – repels a variety of ants, beetles, and flies.
  • Lavender – is known to repel ants, flies, silverfish, and fleas.


Having a stray ant or two in your home is not usually a health risk, but an entire colony’s residence in your home or garden could create problems and cause enormous damage to your property.

Of all the ants, carpenter ants and termites cause the most damage to your property. The colony’s size determines the damage caused, but repairs can become costly.

The only good reason for having a colony of carpenter ants nesting in your home or garden is that you will be alerted to any rotting or decaying wood in and around your home! Take care to remove the attractions immediately to prevent further infestations from carpenter ants and other pests.

Do You Need Pest Control Service?

Get FREE quotes from licensed pest control technicians in your area today. Whether you need spraying for ants, roaches, spiders, ticks, mosquitos, or bed bugs, We Can Help! All technicians are screened, licensed, and insured.

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Hubert Miles | Licensed Home Inspector, CMI, CPI

Hubert Miles is a licensed home inspector (RBI# 2556) with more than two decades of experience in inspection and construction. Since 2008, he has been serving South Carolina through his company, Patriot Home Inspections LLC. As a Certified Master Inspector, Hubert is dedicated to providing his expertise in home inspections, repairs, maintenance, and DIY projects.