Carpenter ants on wood in Michigan before Ant Control

Carpenter ants are among the largest and most common ants found in Michigan. Unfortunately, these insects get away with a lot, even for a pest. Whereas the termite inspires fear and indignation, most of the public doesn’t even consider the insidious carpenter ant—let alone all of the damage they can cause over time. 

Here, the experts at Griffin Pest Solutions discuss what homeowners need to know about carpenter ants in Michigan and how to avoid them.

How to Identify Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants look like their sugar or pavement ant cousins, except bigger and darker. They’re typically brown or black and about ½ an inch long, though they could be red-and-black and even larger. Like most ants, carpenter ants are eusocial and live in a colony where members have specialized roles and characteristics. Unlike most ants, carpenter ants build their colonies by burrowing into moist wooden structures.

How Are Carpenter Ants Different From Termites?

Unlike termites, which they are sometimes mistaken for, carpenter ants have a distinct body structure. They possess a single “petiole” or waist segment separating the abdomen from the thorax. Additionally, their thoraxes are evenly rounded and appear smooth or uniform.

Not only that, but termites and carpenter ants have different behaviors; while termites consume the wood they live inside, carpenter ants only excavate galleries within the wood to create nesting sites. The wood debris they produce is expelled from the tunnels, often resembling sawdust. 

Are Carpenter Ants as Dangerous as Termites?

You could probably use a little good news after all this bad news. We’ve got some… kind of: compared to termites, carpenter ants work slowly. The first year they establish a nest, the colony grows slowly and the damage it inflicts is minimal. That said, they can still cause just as much damage as a termite if left untreated.


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Where Do Carpenter Ants Hide?

Carpenter ants gnaw the wood they want to move into a compact, sawdust-like material. Spotting this transported wood dust is one of the only reliable ways to find carpenter ants. Be careful, hollowed out wood takes on a dry, smooth, almost sandpaper-like appearance and may collapse under strain.

Outside, carpenter ants usually build colonies in wood that’s already been hollowed out. Most outdoor “parent” colonies are found in rotting trees, tree stumps, roots, fallen logs, or other decaying wood. As colonies expand, they require “satellite” colonies to continue to support a growing population. These expansion efforts are usually what brings carpenter ants into a house in fall and spring.

Carpenter ants prefer to inhabit areas with poor air circulation, access to soil and the outdoors, and condensation. You’ll probably find them in your:

  • Basement
  • Attic
  • Crawl space
  • Foundation
  • Roof
  • Porch
  • Doors and windows
  • Wood chips
  • Older siding

Are Carpenter Ants Dangerous?

Carpenter ants may not receive as much attention as termites, but they are significant pests that can cause considerable damage to homes and structures. Understanding why carpenter ants pose a problem is essential for implementing effective control measures.

One of the primary concerns with carpenter ants is their ability to damage wood. Unlike termites, which consume wood as a food source, carpenter ants excavate galleries within wood to create nesting sites. As they tunnel through structural wood components, such as beams, joists, and siding, they weaken the integrity of the wood. Over time, this can lead to structural damage, compromising the stability of the affected areas.

What Do Carpenter Ants Eat?

Since they don’t eat wood, many people wonder what carpenter ants actually do consume. Their diets are varied, ranging from sweets like nectar and sugar to protein-rich items like meat and pet food to even other insects. Carpenter ants will eat a wide range of items, but one thing is for certain; they don’t consume wood and cellulose the same way that termites do.

Do Carpenter Ants Bite?

Carpenter ants will bite in self-defense. Their larger size and strong mandibles make carpenter ant bites potentially painful. They can also spray formic acid into bites, causing further pain. If you are bitten, keep the bite clean and treat inflammation with ice. If you experience a severe reaction, see a physician immediately.

When Are Carpenter Ants Most Active?

Carpenter ant workers actively build their nests whenever they’re warm enough to move around.  In the fall, carpenter ants seek warmth so they can continue building their structures, but they’re usually found in springtime or summer when the temperatures are a bit higher.

Carpenter ants usually spend winter dormant; they return to their nests and wait for temperatures to warm back up. If they’re nesting in a warm place such as your home, however, several workers may remain active all year. If you encounter carpenter ants indoors during the winter, they are most likely infesting wood in your home.

How to Avoid Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants can cause significant damage to wooden structures in your home if left unchecked. Thankfully, there are a few steps you can take to avoid an infestation. Here are a few tips to help you avoid carpenter ants:

  • Trim tree branches and shrubs away from the house.
  • Keep firewood, lumber, and other wood piles away from the house and elevated.
  • Clean up food spills and crumbs promptly, especially in kitchen areas.
  • Seal cracks and gaps in your home’s foundation, windows, and doors.
  • Fix leaks and ensure proper ventilation to reduce moisture buildup.

Get Rid of Carpenter Ants

If you need some help managing a carpenter ant problem this fall or any time of year, give Griffin a call today. We’ll be able to tell you where the ants are, how they got in, why they want to be there, and how to get rid of them. Whether you suspect an infestation or know they’re chewing away at your home, Griffin Pest Solutions is prepared to help you get rid of your carpenter ant problem for good. 

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