What Do Carpenter Ants Eat?

Carpenter ants are among the largest species of ants. Adults can grow up to 12 millimetres in length, while winged swarmers or males can grow up to 18 millimetres. Queen carpenter ants can measure up to 20 millimetres in length.

Mature colonies can contain up to 3,000 adult carpenter ants. Some ant species, however, can have up to 100,000 inside their colony. Ants are social insects that live in colonies, which contain various castes including major and minor workers and a queen. But what do carpenter ants eat?

what carpenter ant eats

They Do Not Consume Wood

Contrary to popular belief, carpenter ants do not eat wood. They only carve galleries and tunnels to set up nests and produce more ants.

When they have more ants, they need more galleries and wall voids to nurture even more ants. But while they do not eat wood, they do look for shelter, food, and moisture to create a place where they can live and thrive.

Your house may unintentionally provide the resources that attract them to your property. That is why you should know what they eat and what conditions attract them so that you can prevent them from infesting your house.

carpenter ants eating wooden structures

Signs Your House Is Infested with Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants build nests by removing a portion of wood with their mandibles and depositing this piece in a collective repository. So, when you suddenly see a pile of sawdust in a certain area, it means that your home is infested with wood carpenter ants.

Another sign of carpenter ant infestation is the sudden appearance of swarmers or winged ants from the primary nest. The swarmers usually come from a certain area of your house that showed no sign of water retention.

What Carpenter Ants Eat

  • Carpenter ants eat sugar and protein.

  • Indoors, they eat pet foods, meats, and sweet foods such as syrup, sugar, honey, and jelly. 

  • Outdoors, they will feed on honeydew as well as dead insects. Carpenter ants usually go foraging for food at night between midnight and sunset during summer and spring. 

If you saw a single ant foraging for food, you may think that you are only dealing with a few carpenter ants. Most carpenter ants, however, stay inside their galleries and tunnels.

wooden items or pet food scraps

Only a few ants will come out of their galleries and tunnels to look for food. That is why you need to know what attracts them to homes and buildings so that you can get rid of those resources immediately.

Ants need satisfactory living conditions and food to survive. Carpenter ants, however, need 3 things to live and thrive - shelter, food, and moisture. They usually reside in leaf and woodpiles, decomposing fence posts, dead tree stumps or structures with rotting debris and wood.

These insects prefer moist areas because the moisture makes it easier for them to chew through wood. They also look for spots where condensation gathers such as windows, kitchens, roof vents, laundry areas, bathrooms, doorways, pipes, and drains.

And unlike termites that eat wood, carpenter ants cannot digest wood. Instead, these pests feed on sugar and protein. Food carpenter ants also eat honeydew, the sweet liquid secreted by aphids. They come out at night to look for anything sweet, meaty, or sticky.

Where Can You Find the Main and Satellite Nests?

Keep in mind that carpenter ants have main and satellite nests. 

Differences of Main and Satellite Nests

The main or primary nest is usually found in moist areas with high humidity levels, while the satellite nest is often found in drier locations with lower relative humidity levels.

carpenter ant nests


Indoors, the primary nest is often found around or in windowsills, door thresholds or areas beside roofs that have started to leak.


Outdoors, the main nest is usually found around or in woodpiles, tree trunk or leaf litter.

How to Prevent Carpenter Ant Infestation


The first step in preventing a carpenter ant infestation is to know what they look like. Carpenter ants can be red or black. They are easily distinguished from other species of ants due to their large size and the single node between their abdomen and thorax.

You should also know what carpenter ant swarmers (flying ants) look like. Carpenter ant swarmers are large ants that have wings. It is also important to know what their wings look like. Swarmers will leave behind transparent wings on windowsills, patios, foundation walls or decks.

Removing Attractants

Another way to prevent carpenter ants from infesting your home or building is by removing water sources and food particles that can attract these insects. You should also store food in airtight containers. Pay attention to the spots that are usually ignored such as under appliances and underneath the refrigerator. Ants, cockroaches, and other pests can invade these areas to look for food. 

Avoid Storing Firewood Indoors

Also, avoid storing firewood inside your house for more than 2 days because the wood might be infested with ants. Fix areas around your house with water damage and seal any cracks, holes or gaps in the outer walls or foundation. You should also keep your garbage in a tightly sealed container to prevent ants and other pests from invading your house. 

preventing controlling carpenter ant infestation at home

How to Control Carpenter Ants

If you see signs of carpenter ants in your home or building, the best thing that you can do is to call a pest management professional. They will inspect your property to find the nest and apply the necessary pesticides to get rid of carpenter ants and control the population of this pest.

Remember, if you want to control carpenter ants, you need to find and destroy their nest. You also need to replace decayed or damaged wood and fix moisture problems in your home. Simply using ant baits and traps to get rid of these pests will not work. You need a pest control expert who specializes in removing carpenter ants.

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It is not easy to control carpenter ants. That is why early detection of this pest is important. You should also work with a professional who can eliminate these pests properly and safely to prevent them from causing damage to your home.

pest control for carpenter ant