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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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Ants are tiny insects that usually walk about unseen on the ground. Because they are so small, it’s very difficult for the average person to look at them closely.

However, if you do take a look closely, you will realize that not all ants are the same. Some are slightly different than others; some even have wings! From the size to the color to the overall shape, you will notice a vast difference between different kinds of ants.

As with most small insects, ants usually live in colonies hidden from plain sight. These colonies are usually formed under the ground and they take years to colonize.

However, ants need food and water to survive, which is why they mostly choose areas that are difficult to reach. You might notice a line of ants walking through your garden and as long as you don’t disturb them, they aren’t going to do a thing to you.

However, the problem arises when their numbers rise quickly. Ants tend to multiply rapidly and before you know it, an entire colony might form just below your garden.

One of the most common ants that you are going to see in the west is the carpenter ant. In fact, you might have seen this type of ant a hundred times in your life but you may not have known about it until yet.

What Is the Carpenter Ant?

Carpenter Ant Up Close

The carpenter ant usually gets its 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. Slowly, the leaves will start to wither; 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 of a larger size, 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 in order to get rid of the infestation.

Signs of Infestation

Ant Hill Near Trunk of Tree

However, 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 some pretty 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 pretty 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 a pretty 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.

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.

So How Do You Get Rid of Them?

Getting rid of a carpenter ant infestation is really not as easy as you might think. There are some simple home remedies that are given below and if those do not work, the best option is to hire a pest removal company for the job.

Here are some simple solutions that you can implement.

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.

Remember that 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 on a regular basis 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. Therefore, you will 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, it’s important that you 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 you 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 very 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 in order 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.


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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!