How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants in Trees (Practical Guide)

Interested in how to get rid of carpenter ants in trees? This guide is for you!

One of the most common ant species is the carpenter ant. Although they are small insects, they can cause a lot of damage to your garden.

Carpenter ants often live in rotten, damp, and decaying wood, and they are mostly active in the summer and spring.

While these ants do live in the wood, they do not actually feed on it like termites do. Instead, carpenter ants use the wood to create smooth tunnels that allow them to move around easily.

But their excavations can sometimes cause permanent damage to trees.

So how do I get rid of carpenter ants from my trees? Firstly, you need to find the entry points of their nests. Then you need to thoroughly apply an insecticide to their nest. Lastly, put a few ant baits around the tree or on the ant trails to get rid of any other nests in close proximity.

In this guide, we discussed the signs of a carpenter’s ant infestation in your trees and provided a practical step-by-step guide to help you get rid of them.

What is a carpenter ant?

Carpenter ants get their name from their ability to build nests very quickly.

They are fast workers and can easily create a system of complicated and well-connected tunnels in the wood.

Physical appearance

Carpenter ants are usually dark brown or black in color, but it is also possible to find red or yellow carpenter ants.

This ant species is relatively large, and its length varies from ¼ to ⅜ inches.

Carpenter ants vary in size depending on their role in the colony. For example, the queen is larger than the workers.


In an average carpenter ant colony, there are about 20,000 workers. But in larger colonies, there can be up to 50,000 workers.

So getting rid of carpenter ants immediately is very important to prevent them from growing into multiple colonies.

It is very easy for a carpenter ant infestation in your tree to get out of control.

Signs of carpenter ant infestation in trees

Before you decide to get rid of the carpenter ant infestation, you should first understand the symptoms.

Rapid deterioration of trees

The most visible sign of the carpenter ant infestation in trees is the rapid deterioration of the tree.

Carpenter ants can usually live in the tree for a long period of time without causing any health complications for the tree.

Often, these ants are not responsible for the initial damage to the tree, but they are opportunists and will infest a tree that has already been damaged or is in a state of decay.

Keep in mind that if the infestation has been going on for a long period of time, it may be more challenging to tackle and the tree could have suffered permanent damage.

Piles of sawdust

When you are dealing with a carpenter ant infestation, it is common to find a pile of sawdust at the base of the tree.

Try to look for an ant nest close to the base of the tree. However, because carpenter ants build their nests inside the wood, you will most likely only see the opening of the nest.

If you are unsure about the signs and how to manage the carpenter ant infestation in your trees, then the best option is to contact a professional pest control company.

They will be able to easily remove the carpenter ant infestation. But if you prefer to do it yourself, check out the detailed guide below on how to get rid of carpenter ants in trees.

How to get rid of carpenter ants in trees: A step-by-step guide

Once a carpenter ant infestation has progressed, it can be difficult to get rid of them. The best way to get rid of them permanently is to locate and eliminate their nests.

Although finding their nests can sometimes be tricky, there is no need to worry; we are here to guide you through this process.

Step 1: Locate the carpenter ant nest in the tree

Find the carpenter ant colony and look for the holes that the ants use to enter the nest.

If you can’t see the opening of the nest, use a scraper to dig around the tree base.

When you spot a whole lot of ants crawling out of one place, then that is most probably the nest.

Step 2: Use an appropriate insecticide.

After you have located the nest, you need to apply either powder or liquid insecticide. You can also opt for ant bait.

Powder insecticide

If you use a powder insecticide for carpenter ants, ensure you evenly spread it around the entrance of the ant colony.

The powder will instantly kill the ants touching it and poison the other ants that try to carry the dead ones back into the nest.

This is an easy and highly effective method to get rid of carpenter ants. Remember to reapply the powder insecticide in case rainwater washes it off the tree.

Liquid insecticide

If you decide to use liquid insecticide, ensure you thoroughly spray or soak the nest and the entire tree trunk, starting from the bottom and working your way up.

Try to cover as much area as possible because the ants will try to escape around the edges and under the ground.

If you spray the nest well from the inside, you may completely destroy it.

Ant baits

Ant baits for carpenter ants can be used as an alternative method because it is probably the most effective, but it takes time to work.

If you use this method, place the carpenter ant baits around the tree and on the ant trails.

This will also help kill any other ant colonies in the surrounding area. You can use plastic bait stations or ant stakes.

Remember to regularly check the bait systems, as they may need to be replaced.

Before you use any ant baits, make sure that you carefully read the instruction manual.

Avoid using repellent insecticides and ant baits at the same time and in the same area because the repellent insecticides will repel ants away from the bait.

If you want to use both methods at the same time, make sure the insecticide you use is non-repellent.

Step 3: Evaluate the health of the tree.

If the tree is too far gone, remove it to prevent re-infestation.

But if the tree can still be saved, ensure you regularly apply insecticides until you are certain the carpenter ant colony is completely destroyed.

Step 4: Regularly inspect other trees.

Always check the entire area and the other trees regularly to ensure that they are in good health and that there are no carpenter ant colonies nearby.

Home remedies to get rid of carpenter ants in trees

There are some simple and natural home remedies that you can use to get rid of carpenter ants in trees.

But if these fail to work, call a professional pest control company for assistance.

Peppermint essential oil

Dilute 30 drops of peppermint essential oil in a gallon of water. Spray the solution on the tree after thoroughly mixing it.

Try and saturate the base of the tree, as that is probably where the infestation is.

Ants hate peppermint’s smell, so they will quickly escape. But to see results, you need to apply this solution on a regular basis over the course of a few days.

Diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth is a finely ground powder that is made from algae fossils.

It acts as a natural pesticide and is effective because it damages the joints and exoskeletons of the ants, which ultimately kills them.

But there are different types of diatomaceous earth; make sure you buy the food-grade one.

You can evenly scatter this powder on the ants’ nest and throughout the base of the tree.

Reapply the powder after it has rained. It is 100% organic and safe to use in gardens.

Frequently asked questions

Will carpenter ants kill my tree?

Carpenter ants can live in a healthy tree for years, only using the dead tissue to create their tunnels.

This is how they go unnoticed for a long time until the condition of the tree starts to deteriorate. 

Carpenter ants do not cause the initial damage to the tree, but because of them, your tree may not be able to recover naturally, and its state will only get worse over time.

That is why it is important to regularly inspect your trees and keep a lookout for infestations.

Why are carpenter ants eating my tree?

Carpenter ants do not actually feed on the tree; they just chew through it to make different tunnels for them to travel through.

Carpenter ants discard the chewed wood, also known as frass. That is why, when you see piles of wood shavings near a tree, it is a clear indication that an ant colony is nesting inside.


If you realize that you are dealing with a carpenter ant infestation in your tree, then you need to act quickly.

Remember, the more time that passes, the bigger the ant colony gets, and very soon, the infestation will be difficult to handle.

Our guide can help solve your problem, whether you want to use chemical products or natural home remedies.

To prevent carpenter ant infestations in trees, make sure you take proper care of your trees and ensure that they are always healthy and in good condition.

Similar Posts