carpenter ant on a piece of fruit

Of all the wood-destroying organisms that can invade your home, and damage your property, carpenter ants are the most misunderstood. These pest ants are connected to a dangerous assumption. Since carpenter ants don't eat wood, many property owners believe that they can know how big their infestation is by how many ants are getting into their food. But carpenter ants don't need to feed on any of the food found inside a structure to use that structure as its home. When carpenter ants or their swarmers appear, some folks suck them up with a vacuum and go on with their day. Perhaps you've even done this. But you shouldn't. If left untreated, carpenter ants can do significant damage. Be aware of the warning signs when you see them, and have an educated pest control specialist take a look at your carpenter ant infestation to determine how significant it is.

One Large Ant

Carpenter ants are the largest ants that enter homes. If you see an ant that looks big, there is a good chance that ant is a carpenter ant. These ants are usually all black or a mix of dark red and black. If you look closely between its thorax and abdomen, you should see one node. While carpenter ants are not the only invading ant that has one node, a single node on a large ant should be enough for proper identification of this pest.

When you see a single carpenter ant, be aware that the number of these single "scout" ants is not a determination of how large your infestation is. There may be many scouts that never roam around inside your home. Carpenter ants eat a wide range of foods, many of which can be found in your yard, or in a nearby wooded area.

That single ant is a warning sign you should take seriously. These wood destroyers are easily overlooked. This may be the only clear warning sign you get.


If you see a large ant with wings--or several large ants with wings--crawling on the inside window panes of your home, look to see if these are carpenter ant swarmers. These swarmers can be one to two inches in length, and have wings that are yellowish-tan in color.

Swarmers are most likely seen in spring. When carpenter ant nests wake up from a long winter, their first order of business is usually to send swarmers out.

Swarmers are flying reproductives that have only two purposes: to mate and to establish a new nest. When these winged ants appear in your home, it means you have a mature nest that is about to replicate itself. The more times this is allowed to happen, the worse the damage will be.


Carpenter ants do not consume wood. They chew tunnels and galleries in wood and push the shavings out "kick-out" holes. These shavings are called frass. This frass can be obvious, or concealed, depending on where it is being pushed out. You should know the difference between frass and dirt. Dirt is the most common material frass is mistaken for. Not because they look so similar, but because frass is often mixed with dust and dirt that is around or under a home.

Frass can be hard to see when it is generated in a crawl space or some other hard-to-reach location. It can also go undetected when it piles up in rafters, dark areas, exterior wood debris, near wood piles, or in areas where carpentry projects create sawdust and other particulates.

Wood Damage

When carpenter ants damage wood, most of the damage is unseen. But these ants can, and do, damage exterior wood. If you see wood damage of any kind developing on the wood of your home, you should have it inspected by a pest professional. Over time, this damage can lead to windows and doors that stick, walls that bulge, floors that sag, and ceilings that dip. While carpenter ants prefer wood that is rotted or damaged by moisture, they can chew on sound wood as well.


Sometimes, the only sign you get is the appearance of several shed wings on your window sills in spring time. Be aware that carpenter ants and termites both shed their wings during their swarming process. If you see shed wings, and you do not have ongoing pest services in place, it is vital that you schedule an inspection.

Carpenter ants are destructive insects that should never be allowed to live in your home. If you are in our Tennessee service area, reach out to Russell's Pest Control for sound advice and treatment options for carpenter ants and other wood destroying pests.


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