Do Ants Eat Wood? What Damage Do They Do?

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Do ants eat wood? This question has puzzled scientists for years, and there is still no definitive answer. Some believe that ants only feed on food items that are located near the ground, while others believe that some ants consume small pieces of wood as part of their diet.

No matter what the truth may be, it’s pretty exciting to think about the possibilities!

As a matter of fact, Ants can cause structural damage whether they are eating wood or not.

In this post, we’ll look at whether ants eat wood and what you can do to keep ants away from your wooden furniture.

Do Ants Eat Wood?

Some ants, like Carpenter Ants, will eat wood. Carpenter ants will tunnel into wood to create their nests. They can cause a great deal of damage to structures and furniture.

Do Ants Eat Wood

Wood-eating ants are not as common as other types of ants, but they can do some damage if they establish a nest in your home.

Carpenter ants can also be a problem in greenhouses. In these structures, the ants are often attracted to the sweet nectar of flowers. The more sugar you have, the more carpenter ants will come to your home.

Carpenter ants can be very destructive. They will chew into the wood, causing the wood to become thin and weak. Carpenter ants can completely destroy the structural parts of your home.

If you notice ants in your house, you should contact a pest control company to have them removed.

Ants can cause damage to wood and other materials if they are not taken care of properly. People frequently wonder if ants will harm their wooden deck or outdoor furniture or if they will even invade their home to consume the wood.

Well, Ants don’t eat wood, but they do ruin it when they make their nests in it, as it turns out. 

Carpenter ants drill tunnels into the wood with their strong jaws and teeth, especially softer wood that is rotting due to water damage or mildew. They devour insects and nectar and reside inside these tunnels.

How do Ants Damage Wood?

A single black carpenter ant causing destruction to wood in a house residential building.

When carpenter ants invade a house, they’re not just looking for food. They’re also looking for moisture and nesting sites.

Once they find them, they’ll set up colonies of thousands of ants. Consequently, this utilization of wood as nesting sites leads to the damage of wood.

Furthermore, as these colonies grow, the damage to wood can become extensive.

It is important to know how to determine if there is an ant infestation as well as what control measures to take.

How do carpenter ants nest in wood?

Carpenter ants are a type of gregarious ant that prefers living in colonies.

These colonies can be very large, with up to 500,000 ants. Interestingly, carpenter ants nest in wood for protection.

One colony can have many nests- called satellite nests. The satellite nests help protect the colony from danger and also allow for quick communication between the different parts of the colony.

Furthermore, as the colony gets bigger and matures, workers build smaller nests in the wood close to the parent nest.

Therefore, though carpenter ants do not eat wood, they nest in wood and can do significant damage over time if left untreated.

What Attracts Carpenter Ants?

A close up of a carpenter ant crawling on wood.

The first line of defense is to figure out what an invading pest prefers. Carpenter ants are attracted to the following factors:

Wet, softwood

Carpenter ants are drawn to decaying, moist, and deadwood.

It’s the reason they’re alive.


Their principal source of nutrition is honeydew, which is secreted by the aphids they raise. Carpenter ants feed on both plant nectar and small insects. They’ll happily eat protein and sweets left on kitchen counters and in garbage cans.

Carpenter ants are drawn to food left in pet bowls and meat fluids left on backyard barbeque grills.

Damp and gloomy locations

Carpenter ants are commonly found under dishwashers and air conditioners, at the backs of moldy cupboards, under leaking pipes, and in wet, decomposing wood.

Do Carpenter Ants eat Healthy Wood?

Indeed, carpenter ants are known to eat healthy wood. The preference of some species toward hardwood surfaces can cause damage over time.

Do Carpenter Ants Leave Sawdust?

wood and sawdust in a forest, stock photo

Carpenter ants are a common variety of ant that can be found in many parts of the world. These little pests may inflict a lot of harm to wood as they consume and burrow into it.

When carpenter ants invade a home, they can be difficult to get rid of. Not only do they damage the wood in the home, but they also leave behind telltale sawdust and other debris they chew through the wood.

By acknowledging what to look for, homeowners can better identify an ant infestation and take steps to address it.

Signs of carpenter ants in your house

To properly exterminate carpenter ants, you must first be certain that they are indeed carpenter ants. Watch out for the following signs:

  • Detecting the ant(workers or flying reproductives) – An occasional ant maybe a scout hunting for food, but continuous or many ants are a sign of nesting.
  • Frass – a finely shredded material that collects in mounds or gets entangled in spider webs. Small sawdust from construction, doors or cabinets rubbing against one another, or drywood termite fecal pellets are not to be confused with.
  • Carpenter ants will frequently construct tight, closely linked trails that can be traced back to the nest area. Trails can often be traced along carpet edges, door frames, exterior eaves, fence tops, telephone and power cables, and other surfaces.
  • When disturbed ants use their mandibles or gasters to rasp the substrate or excavate wood, they make rustling or tapping noises. You can get an excellent impression of what carpenter ants sound like by pressing your ear against a hollow door and scratching your fingers on the opposite side.

Are Carpenter Ants Dangerous?

carpenter ant

Carpenter ants have a stinging bite that can break the skin, but they are otherwise considered harmless.

However, these ants can potentially wreck your home from the inside out if allowed to their own devices.

Their gnawing activity rips decomposing timbers apart. It’s possible that if they make a nest in a home’s support beam, the structure will be seriously weakened. 

Remember, While carpenter ants are not normally hostile, they can cause considerable harm if left unchecked, particularly in terms of property damage and home devastation; thus, the carpenter ant should be avoided.

How to get rid of ants that are destroying your wood?

The most efficient way to get rid of carpenter ants is to locate the colony and kill the queen. Enlisted below are some tips for identifying and removing a carpenter ant nest both inside and outside your home.

To begin with, locate the nest.

Follow a scent trail or look for visible indications of damage in questionable wood, keeping in mind that ants typically forage around 300 feet from the nest. Carpenter ants have frequently been nesting indoors in sinks, tubs, and other high-moisture areas.

Check for visible moisture damage around tree stumps, firewood stacks, and wood structures outside.

Step two is to demolish the nest.

Once you’ve found a nest indoors, inject pesticide dust into the hole you drilled in the wall where the nest is believed.

Non-toxic alternatives include borax, boric acid, and diatomaceous earth. It’s possible that you’ll have to repeat the procedure multiple times. If the nest is outside, use a liquid insecticide to saturate it.

Insecticides may harm children and pets. Carefully follow the instructions on the label.

Place the bait.

If you can’t find the nest or it’s difficult to access, instill granular bait (tamper-resistant bait stations if you have children or pets) at entry points and wet locations where ants are likely to assemble.

Foam or gel baits can be sprayed directly into ant tunnels, through nail holes in walls, around plumbing gaps, and into voids. Ants carrying the bait will hopefully return to the nest and kill the entire colony, including the queen.


Pesticides should never be sprayed on ants. Because a deceased worker or scout can’t bring the bait back to the colony to share with his comrades, killing them separately defeats the goal.

 If the steps mentioned above don’t work, contact a local pest control company specializing in carpenter ant control and elimination. 

Is there a distinction between termites and ants?

Though ants and termites may look similar, there are some key differences. Ants have disproportionally large wings in comparison to their body, while termite wings fall off easily.

Additionally, termites eat wood, while ants only eat sugary foods. If you observe ants in your home, it is likely that they are eating the sugar from your food and not doing any damage to the wood.

However, if you see termites, it is important to address the issue quickly, as they can cause serious damage to your home.

How Do You Keep Carpenter Ants From Invading Your Home?

Ant colony disperses after discovery under bark of pine tree firewood.  Likely carpenter ants Camponotus  pennsylvanicus.

Carpenter ants are larger than normal ants, but they’re still ants, and they can get inside your house through frame joints, foundation fractures, and gaps under doors.

Use the measures indicated below to prevent carpenter ants from constructing a nest in or around your house, saving you the time and money of dealing with an infestation.

  • Spills and crumbs should be cleaned immediately.
  • Food items should be stored in air-tight containers 
  • Fill up cracks and holes; cut back vegetation around the house;
  • Any decaying or unhealthy wood should be removed from the structure.
  • Remove the firewood from the ground;
  • Spray your home with a chemical or non-toxic pesticide barrier.


Carpenter ants do not consume wood, preferring to excavate tunnels, establish colonies, and construct nests instead. You’ve probably got an ant problem if you detect little heaps of frass or wood shavings beneath the holes.

Ant infestations can be controlled by eliminating the sources of attraction. If you can’t get rid of the ants with household remedies, you should seek expert aid.

Hopefully, this article was helpful for you.

About the author

A biotechnologist by profession and a passionate pest researcher. I have been one of those people who used to run away from cockroaches and rats due to their pesky features, but then we all get that turn in life when we have to face something.