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How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants in Trees (4 Simple Tips)

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants in Trees (4 Simple Tips)

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Carpenter ants; the tiny home renovators of the insect world!

While we usually call the exterminator when we see ants marching through the kitchen, some view the carpenter ant as a helpful little worker bee, tunneling through decaying trees with the gusto of a mini Bob the Builder. But when these ants set their sights on your healthy trees, it’s time to send them packing. 

Today, I’m going to show you how to get rid of carpenter ants in trees using four simple tips. I’m also going to share some tips on how to prevent future infestations. 

Stick around!

Carpenter Ants: A Bird’s Eye View

Carpenter Ant Up Close

Carpenter ants get their name for their ability to build nests so quickly. They are fast workers and know how to excavate wood quickly and create smooth tunnels within the wood itself.

Unlike termites, which also chew through wood, carpenter ants do not eat the wood itself. They only create tunnels underneath that allow them to move easily from one place to another. While they may be relatively small in size, these ants can cause excessive damage to your garden.

In case a carpenter ant takes a liking to your trees, it won’t take long before they start digging massive tunnels throughout the bark. Eventually, you are going to end up losing the entire tree. The leaves will slowly start to wither, and before long, the tree will go bone-dry.

In an average carpenter ant colony, you should know that there are around 20,000 workers. However, if the colony is larger, it can contain up to 50,000 workers.

Getting rid of this infestation is not going to be easy, as you can see. It’s recommended that you take appropriate steps to get rid of the infestation.

Also Read: How to Get Rid of Tree Roots in Your Yard (3 Options to Consider)

Signs of Infestation

Ant Hill Near Trunk Of Tree

Before you can even think about getting rid of the infestation, it’s important that you first determine the signs of an infestation. If you notice a line of ants walking by in your garden, you won’t think twice about it.

However, there are telltale signs that indicate a serious infestation. For instance, if you notice a bunch of live ants at the base of the tree, it’s a clear sign that your tree is infested. You will see them swarming at the base of the tree, often moving in and out of the soil.

Spotting an ant nest near the base of the tree is also an obvious sign of an infestation. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to get a clear view of the nest; most carpenter ants usually build their nests inside the wood so what you are going to see is just the opening of the nest itself.

If you are unsure about the infestation, the best thing to do is to call a pest removal company. They are going to send an expert who is going to check the trees carefully to determine the extent of the infestation.

Arguably, this is the best option available to you. Having an expert look at the garden to identify the signs of an infestation is a great idea. If you notice the health of your trees deteriorating rapidly, it’s probably due to an infestation.

Also Read: How to Get Rid of Tree Sprouts In Your Yard 

How Does a Carpenter Ant Infestation Begin?

Old Decaying Wood

Now, you might be wondering exactly how you ended up with a carpenter ant infestation in the first place. 

The answer to that depends on a variety of factors. However, one thing that is common amongst all types of carpenter ants is that they only make their nests in damp or decaying wood. 

If you haven’t been paying proper attention to your trees, you are leaving them exposed to the risk of an ant infestation.

How Do You Get Rid of Carpenter Ants

Getting rid of a carpenter ant infestation is not as easy as you might think. The best option is to hire a pest removal company for the job. 

That being said, here are some simple solutions that you can try out first:

1 – Peppermint Oil

One of the best things that you can do is to mix around 30 drops of peppermint oil in a gallon of water. Mix the solution as thoroughly as you can and then spray it all over the tree. 

Ideally, you should concentrate it at the base of the tree because that’s where the infestation is likely to exist.

Ants hate peppermint oil and they are going to flee very quickly, but if you think that only spraying the solution once is going to do the trick, you are sorely mistaken. You need to apply it regularly for at least a few days if you want to see any good results.

2 – Insecticide

Spraying Pesticide On Tree

When it comes to targeting a carpenter ant infestation, you need to look for the nest. The nest usually contains one wingless ant queen and thousands of winged workers.

If you can see the opening of the nest, spraying insecticide directly into the nest might yield positive results and you could end up killing the entire nest as well.

However, it’s unlikely that you will be able to see the opening of the nest so easily. You’ll likely have to do a bit of digging.

Take a normal earth scraper and start poking around at the base of the tree. If you notice lots of ants oozing from one place, you have probably found the nest and you can now spray insecticide on it.

Again, you must be as thorough as possible. Use a heavy-grade insecticide and spray it everywhere that you can. The ants are going to try and escape under the ground and around the edges, so you have to cover as much area as possible.

3 – Baits

If you notice a long line of ants walking through your garden but are unsure of where they are coming from or where they are going, using ant baits is a great idea.

While the primary nest might be located inside the tree, you should know that satellite colonies develop very quickly. You might not be able to trace all of these colonies so using baits is an excellent idea. You can put out bait such as sugar or protein-rich foods.

They are going to carry it back to the queen or to their larvae and you will be able to spot exactly where they are heading. You can use sweets or mealworms as bait because ants love both of these.

Then, you can use baits that are prepared with boric acid, which is a highly potent chemical that can kill ants right away.

It is also important that you keep the bait out of reach of children or your pets. Boric acid can be quite harmful in the right hands. Make sure that you follow the instructions mentioned on the bait as well.

Commercially available ant baits are incredibly effective if used correctly and will help you get rid of the infestation quickly.

4 – Call a Pest Removal Company

Exterminator Spraying Tree

Last but not least, you have the option of calling a pest removal company to your place to get rid of the infestation. These guys are professionals and know how to get rid of different kinds of infestations quickly.

Instead of using locally available insecticides, they use commercial-grade insecticides and even mix them on their own.

The first step they are going to take is to take a close look around the garden to identify the locations of the primary nest as well as the satellite colonies if any exist.

This is important because they are going to use this information to create a plan of action so that the entire colony is eliminated without leaving any behind.

Once that is done, they are going to mix the pesticide carefully to ensure that only the ants are killed and the plants do not sustain damage as a result of the chemicals.

If you don’t know much about getting rid of ant infestations from your garden, it is generally recommended that you let professionals get rid of them for you.

Preventing Future Infestations

Carpenter ants are crafty little creatures, so getting rid of one infestation doesn’t guarantee they won’t be back. 

Here are some tips to carpenter-proof your yard:

  • Remove Dead or Rotting Trees/Branches: Carpenter ants love wet, decaying wood. Ridding your yard of such wood denies them prime real estate. 
  • Store Firewood Away From Trees: Stacked firewood provides the damp, dark spaces that ants love. So if you do stack firewood, be sure to do it in a dry area away from your trees. 
  • Prune Long Branches: Branches touching your home give ants an easy route inside, so you need to prune back these branches. 
  • Fix Leaky Faucets/Plumbing: All ants need water, so you need to fix any outdoor plumbing issues that can create damp areas ants can exploit. 
  • Pest-Resistant Wood: There are wood varieties that can naturally resist ants, like cedar. You can use these varieties for structures like terraces and fences.
  • Clean Up Clutter: Piles of debris are inviting nesting spots for ants. Keep your yard free of flutter to keep carpenter ants away.
  • Inspect for Ants Regularly: Check trees, stumps, woodpiles, and other prime nesting areas to spot infestations early and deal with them before they grow. 

Final Thoughts

With patience and persistence, you can banish pesky carpenter ants from your trees for good. While home remedies like peppermint oil can provide temporary relief, professional pest control may be needed for serious infestations. 

Preventative measures like pruning branches, removing wood debris, and sealing up leaks will discourage ants from moving in again, so be sure to implement them. 

Also Read: Do Chipmunks Climb Trees? (2 Reasons Why They Do)


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Friday 30th of April 2021

I have used diatomaceous earth to kill carpenter ants... I go out every night when they come out and sprinkle it on them, and around the nest... the ants that are covered with it will go back into the nest where some of the DE will hopefully rub off on the queen... it takes a day or two for the DE to kill the ants... DE is non-toxic to eat - but you don't want to breathe it in... the ants seemed disinterested in the bait I left out, and I didn't want to use toxic insecticide... I raked around the base of the tree to uncover the entrances and covered them with DE... then sprinkled DE on any loose ants I found outside...


Sunday 4th of October 2020

Good advice. Thanks

Darlin D. Aviles

Monday 14th of September 2020

I enjoyed reading this article. It is very informative. I will follow these tips for sure.

Ben Esman

Monday 14th of September 2020

Awesome, good luck!