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Are Carpenter Ants Less Destructive Than Termites?

By Chris Williams on April 20, 2015.


We thought we had termites damaging our home, but an inspection found out that it’s carpenter ants instead. That’s better news isn’t it? I know that termites eat the wood and carpenter ants don’t. D. F., Everett, MA 

carpenter ant damageCarpenter ants may not be eating the wood like termites, but they can still excavate a lot of wood and can cause structural problems just like termites. Carpenter ants have very large, strong jaws (mandibles) to tear out chunks of wood.

There is usually no external evidence of carpenter ant damage to wood other than the slit-like openings that the ants use to eject wood debris from the nest. You will have to break into the wood with a screwdriver to see the damage and galleries. You will see large open nest galleries with smooth walls and no sawdust inside. Infested wood can be almost completely hollowed out by carpenter ants with only a thin exterior outer wall.

New England is a Hot Spot for Carpenter Ants

In some parts of the country, carpenter ants are not much of a problem at all. Unfortunately, here in New England and in the Pacific Northwest, carpenter ants can be a major problem, in some areas even more so than subterranean termites.

The potential for damage from carpenter ants depends on many variables, including moisture levels and the size of the colony. The longer carpenter ants have been present, the greater the risk of any serious structural damage to your home (see Carpenter Ant Damage to Wood – How Bad Can it Be?). Also, older homes are at greater risk of serious damage from carpenter ants than newer homes.

Water Damage Could Be Your First Problem

Maybe more importantly, the presence of either carpenter ants or termites can be the indication of a moisture problem, or water or roof leak in your home. Both wood pests like water-damaged wood and will often begin their infestation in such sites (see Carpenter Ants Prefer Damp Wood). Although carpenter ants may invade wet or water-softened wood initially, they can then move into totally sound, dry wood as well.

Carpenter ant control is complicated by the fact that the ants can have multiple nest sites which may be in the home or outside, or both. You don’t want to ignore carpenter ants. Give Colonial Pest a call. We’ll send out a carpenter ant expert to help evaluate the extent of the problem and advise you on control options.

Photo credit: Jean-Jacques Boujot / Foter / CC BY-SA

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