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Do I have carpenter ants or black ants?

Determining whether you have carpenter ants or black ants invading your home is important for controlling these unwanted pests. Carpenter ants and black ants have different behaviors and nesting habits, so identifying the ant species gives clues about where they’re entering and how best to get rid of them. Here are some quick answers to common questions about identifying carpenter ants versus black ants:

What do carpenter ants look like?

Carpenter ants are large, ranging from 1/4 to 1/2 inch long. They are black or red and black in color. They have a thorax that looks almost evenly rounded and a single node between their thorax and abdomen, giving them an elbowed appearance. Their antennae are bent at a 90 degree angle.

What do black ants look like?

Black ants are smaller than carpenter ants, measuring only 1/8 to 1/4 inch long. They have a thorax that looks uneven, with a steep slope leading to the abdomen. Black ants have a two-node appearance rather than the one-node look of carpenter ants. Their antennae have a gentle curve rather than a sharp 90 degree bend.

Where do carpenter ants nest?

Carpenter ants build nests by excavating wood, particularly softer, moist wood. They will nest in dead trees, tree stumps, logs and landscaping timbers. Indoors, they nest in wet, rotten or hollow wood in walls, flooring, roofs, door and window frames. Their nests have smooth tunnels packed with sawdust-like wood particles.

Where do black ants nest?

Outdoors, black ants nest under stones, landscaping debris, logs and in the soil. Indoors, they nest in wall voids or hollow spaces in insulation, floors and ceilings. Black ant nests contain irregular chambers and lack the smoothed, packed tunnels of carpenter ants. Their nests contain soil particles rather than sawdust-like wood particles.

Do carpenter ants damage wood?

Yes, carpenter ants excavate wood to make their nests, creating smooth, round galleries and tunnels. This can severely damage wooden structures over time. Carpenter ants don’t actually eat wood. They excavate it to make space for their nests.

Do black ants damage wood?

No, black ants do not excavate or damage wood. They nest in existing spaces and crevices in walls, floors, etc. rather than burrowing into solid wood. Their nests may contain soil particles carried in from outdoors but they do not carve tunnels or chambers within wooden materials.

Do carpenter ants eat wood?

No, carpenter ants do not consume wood. They excavate it to create their nests but do not eat the wood itself. Carpenter ants feed on sources of protein and sugar such as insects, insect secretions, plant sap and fruit.

Do black ants eat wood?

No, black ants do not eat wood. Like carpenter ants, they nest in voids and spaces within wood but do not consume it. Black ants forage for food outside, feeding on sweets like honeydew and sugary secretions from plants and insects.

What do carpenter ants eat?

Carpenter ants get nutrition from feeding on:

  • Insects and insect larvae
  • Nectar from flowers
  • Honeydew and other sugary secretions from insects like aphids
  • Plant sap
  • Fruit and juices
  • Kitchen foods containing sugar or protein

What do black ants eat?

Black ants feed on:

  • Honeydew secreted by aphids and other insects
  • Sweets like jellies, syrup and sugar
  • Proteins from dead insects
  • Fruits, seeds and fungi
  • Kitchen foods and garbage

Do carpenter ants come inside?

Yes, carpenter ants will forage inside homes and structures looking for food and moisture. It’s common to see large, black carpenter ants trailing through kitchens, bathrooms, into walls and other areas where water leaks or spills provide moisture.

Do black ants come inside?

Black ants rarely nest indoors but will forage inside, following scent trails along baseboards and countertops. It’s common to see lines of black ants marching through kitchens or crawling on sinks. They enter seeking sugary foods and water.

Are carpenter ants active at night?

Carpenter ants are most active in the evening hours when it’s dark. So if you have large black ants roaming at night in search of food, they’re likely carpenter ants.

Are black ants active at night?

Black ants forage day and night. They form long lines along scent trails whenever they leave the nest to search for food. So black ants marching single file, either day or night, indicates a nearby colony sending out worker ants.

Do carpenter ants bite?

Carpenter ants can inflict a painful bite, but they rarely do. Male carpenter ants guard the nest and may bite if directly threatened, but foraging worker carpenter ants focus on gathering food rather than defense.

Do black ants bite?

Black ants can bite using their sharp mandibles, but seldom do. Bites mainly occur if the ant gets trapped against bare skin. The small size of black ants results in minimal pain and swelling if they do bite.

Can carpenter ants damage your home?

Yes, carpenter ants can cause significant damage if left uncontrolled. By excavating moist, damaged or decaying wood, they can compromise structural integrity. Some indications of carpenter ant damage include:

Signs of Carpenter Ant Damage
Hollow sounding wood when tapped
New or enlarging stains on exterior wood
Fine sawdust around doors, windows or other wood
New holes in wood structures
Weakened parts of wooden buildings – sagging roofs, floors, etc.

Can black ants damage your home?

Black ants do not damage or excavate wood, but they can be a nuisance by invading homes. Some signs of black ants inside include:

Evidence of Black Ants Indoors
Long lines of ants marching along walls
Small piles of dirt or sand in corners or closets
Ants congregating around food, water or grease spills
Flying ants and discarded wings from swarmers around windows

How to get rid of carpenter ants

To control carpenter ants:

  • Locate and destroy nests – inspect wood structures and trees/stumps near the home
  • Remove excess moisture – fix leaky roofs, plumbing, etc. and ventilate damp areas
  • Apply targeted insecticide sprays or dusts into nest openings
  • Use ant baits containing slow-acting poison to kill foraging ants
  • Plug entry points with sealant or copper mesh after eliminating nests
  • Replace any wood damaged beyond repair by carpenter ant excavation

How to get rid of black ants

To eliminate black ants:

  • Clean up food spills and sticky residues to remove attractions
  • Plug cracks and openings where ants enter with caulk or petroleum jelly
  • Apply insecticidal dusts or sprays along ant trails and entry points
  • Use ant bait stations or gels – workers share the bait and kill the colony
  • Seal food in containers to deny access
  • Wipe out ants with soapy water to interrupt scent trails


Identifying whether carpenter ants or black ants are invading your home is the first step toward getting rid of them. Look for signs like large ants excavating wood versus smaller ants foraging for food. Black ants pose more of a nuisance, while carpenter ants can compromise the integrity of wooden structures. Use targeted control methods to eliminate colonies and prevent future infestations by either ant species.