Ants in a tree


How to Get Rid of Ants Around Your Trees

They are something you never want to see inside or outside of your home: ants. While they are small, they have the ability to make quite a mess out of anything they touch. When it comes to having ants in or around your trees, it is almost always a sign that something terrible is going on or could be just around the corner. Ants are a common sight in yards, so most people don’t think anything of it. However, they can render your trees, plants, and other foliage useless. They’ll cut off the water supply, eat away the greenery, steal the nutrients, and generally just make a mess of the place.

Even worse, as they make the tree weaker, they get stronger so that more of them come. Eventually, you may have an infestation problem that goes into your house, garage, and other structures on your property. It can even spread to your neighbors.

While ants are one of the pests that don’t typically hurt us physically, they can do quite a bit of damage to our bank accounts and the structures in our homes. Ants are a problem and that problem is something you probably want to solve sooner rather than later. If you believe that ants are starting to colonize in or around your trees, there are a few ways to eliminate them:

5. Petroleum Jelly

  • Easy to find in any store
  • Rarely impacts other foliage or greenery
  • Works great when combined with other approaches

Petroleum jelly or Vaseline may seem like an odd way to approach infestations, but it is actually quite a common solution, according to Martha Stewart. You have to use the jelly as a blocking shield to either keep the ants away from their colony, keep them in the colony, or stop them in their tracks. Smearing petroleum jelly around the colony, especially on any concrete path you may have, will stop the ants from moving around. They will get caught in the jelly and you can just eliminate them how you choose.

Using petroleum jelly can also help you to find colonies so that you can attack them with some of the other options on the list. Just make sure you don’t stain your concrete or stone. Do a spot check first to ensure that you won’t ruin anything.

4. Sprinkle Pepper

  • In your spice cabinet
  • Use black or cayenne pepper
  • Great for smaller infestation

Don’t like spicy things? You aren’t alone. Ants are not a fan of spicy things, whether it be black pepper from your table or cayenne pepper. Sprinkling pepper in the soil around your tree can help to reduce the population of ants. Since you likely have this in your cabinet at home, it is a great way to tackle small problems before they can turn into big problems. You do have to ensure that you don’t have any sensitive plants around that could succumb to the pepper as well. Roses and orchids, for example, don’t like pepper.

According to Home Guides, you can either sprinkle pepper or use it when utilizing a flooding method. This will allow you to get the pepper deeper into the soil, keeping the ants at bay.

3. Flood Ant Hills

  • May need to do it multiple times
  • Beware of underwater hills
  • Easy to do

One of the easiest ways to eliminate ants around your trees is to flood the ant hills or colonies with water. This takes a bit of patience and time, because you may have to do it repeatedly to get it to stick, but it does work. It is better to hit the colonies with water every few days or so, even if it has recently rained, according to Ask an Entomologist. This ensures that they aren’t just burrowing underground and building something bigger.

Wait until you don’t see ants milling around for a few days before you start backing off from the procedure. You may even want to do one of the other options listed here for a few days after you stop flooding the ant hills.

2. Peppermint Oil

  • Easy to find at any health store
  • Can use peppermint soap in a pinch
  • Smells better than some other options

One of the most simple and effective ways to eliminate ants in your home, yard, and around your trees is peppermint oil. This is a miracle oil of sorts because it naturally deters pests and animals of all kinds, including ants. Per the DIY Natural website, all you have to do is soak a cotton ball or a piece of cloth in the essential oil and put it around the tree. The ants will smell it and stop coming around. This is great for smaller infestations but may not work for bigger ones, who will simply try to eliminate a cotton ball.

If you don’t have peppermint oil handy, there are many other things that have strong peppermint smells that you can use, like teas, soaps, and lotions. Just make sure that whatever you use is all natural so that it doesn’t interfere with the other plants in your yard.

1. Contact a Professional

  • Any infestation you haven’t cleared up yourself in a few weeks
  • When the infestation grows for a few colonies
  • If the ants have started to attack your trees or plants

Unfortunately, home remedies only work so well. According to the University of Minnesota, once you see more than a few “towers” or hills, it is time to call a professional. Most of the time, seeing more than one hill means that you have an extremely large problem that needs to be handled using chemical solutions that aren’t available to the general public. Some of these are completely safe and natural, but they still aren’t sold at the store.

Do not use chemicals on your own, as they can be extremely dangerous to your children, pets, and other plants. Even worse, they can cause complete devastation in your yard. A professional team that knows how to handle ants and the tools used to eliminate them is the best option for bigger problems.

At Menchhofer Tree Care, our main goal is to keep your trees and yard safe so that you can live in those spaces. We understand that sometimes, something will compete with us and we will have to go to war. Ants are formidable competitors, but they are nothing against our team of experts. We know the gentlest, safest, and most effective ways to handle your ant problems.

Give us a call at 1 (317) 661-4240 so that one of our professionals can come inspect your tree and determine what the next steps should be.

Header photo courtesy of Danilo Rairán on Flickr!

On August 15, 2017 / Outdoor Living, Tips, Trees

Keeping Ants Off Trees and Shrubs


We have “a lot” of little ants in the yard. Many of them are at the base of my trees, shrubs, and plants. I am looking for something that will get rid of them and not harm my plants. We also don’t want to use anything that will harm our dog or cat, deer, or other little animals. Thank you for any help you send.

Hardiness Zone: 8a

Jodi From Gary Texas


Texas is home to hundreds of species of ants. Some of them like to feast on sugar, while others prefer eating protein and fat. Most ants are harmless in the garden. Certain species will defoliate and damage plants, others have a stinging bite, and still others are beneficial and keep harmful insects like termites from taking up residence near your home. Advertisement

There are several different ways to control ants in the yard, while still keeping pets and kids safe. Keep in mind that you may have to do a little experimenting to figure out what method works best for the kind living in your yard.

  1. Certain ants are attracted to the sweet honeydew left behind by aphids on trees, shrubs and plants in the garden. These species will even go as far as “keeping” aphids, defending them from other insect predators, protecting their eggs over winter and actually transporting adult aphids from plant to plant in order to keep them fat and happy (and secreting honeydew).

    Check the plants in your yard and garden for infestations of aphids, scale and mealy bugs-these insects all secrete sugar that some ants feed on. A good spray with the hose is often enough to dislodge these insects. Getting rid of them will often get rid of your ants.


  2. Frequently flooding ant hills with the garden hose (boiling water is not necessary) will encourage ants to relocate. This takes a little patience (and water), but is effective if you only have a few big ant hills in your yard.
  3. Certain products sprinkled around trees and shrubs seem to keep ants at bay: scented baby powder, cinnamon and black pepper. Ants navigate by scent and these strong smelling deterrents are said to confuse them.
  4. Applying Vaseline or another sticky substance around the base of the trees and plants they seem to be favoring will prevent them from climbing.
  5. Boric acid is very effective at killing ants. Although considered a relatively safe chemical when used correctly (diluted boric acid is used in some ointments and salves and Boron occurs naturally in the environment), it is not safe for children, pets or the environment in higher concentrations or when used incorrectly. You can get around this by making a homemade trap. Advertisement

    Homemade Boric Acid Ant Trap

    Wear gloves and mix 3 cups of water, one cup of sugar and 4 teaspoons of boric acid. Fill several glass jars with cotton batting soaked in this mixture.

    Cap the jars with lids that contain holes punched in the top to let the ants in. Mark the jars as containing poison (skull and cross bones) to be safe.

    Leave them in areas of your yard where ants are a problem. They will enter the jars, suck up the mixture and take the bait back to share it with the colony where others will eat it and die.

    For protein-eating ants, substitute dog or cat food or peanut butter for the sugar. For carpenter ants, substitute wood soaked in a mixture of water and boric acid instead of cotton batting. Do not let pets or children near the jars.

Small but mighty, ants pose an extreme danger to many homeowners that have trees in their yard. Ants are so destructive that anyone who has been on the receiving end of their might shivers at just the mention of them. Ants cause big problems for trees and gardens in general. If ants colonize around your trees, you need to start acting quickly.

Your first reaction may be to look for at-home cures for the ant problem, and there are quite a few. However, you do need to make sure that the solutions are actually working, or you could end up with an even bigger problem on your hands. Ants can easily work their way into your home and that can be harder to deal with, especially if you cannot evacuate your home for a few days.

If you don’t handle your ant problems now, it is likely that the problem could extend into your home and into the yards of your neighbors. There are a few steps you can take to handle the problem by yourself, however. Try these out to see if you can eliminate the ants around your trees and in your lawn:

  • Helps with small infestations and colonies
  • Can use black, cayenne, or other kinds of acidic, spicy pepper
  • Be careful around sensitive trees or plants

Ants aren’t really a fan of anything spicy – which is why areas with ant infestations grow peppers so well. Table pepper is just spicy enough, so you can use that to keep ants away from your trees. You do have to be careful about spreading pepper around because it can kill many different plants.

Sprinkle it around any colonies that you see and be sure to put some into any openings that you might see. According to Organic Lessons, “An alternative solution is to mix some pepper with water and spray it at the ants. The pepper won’t kill the ants but it could deter them from returning.”

Once again, you cannot do this for larger infestations because it will be too much pepper and it will simply kill everything else. Make sure to find the best balance.

3. Petroleum Jelly

  • Use old petroleum jelly for better results
  • Won’t impact sensitive plants
  • Combine with other steps for the best results

Petroleum jelly is something that you probably have sitting around your home that you don’t really use all that often anymore. It is an odd product to take outside, but it really does work. In fact, the Queen of Home, Martha Stewart, has given it her seal of approval.

Use the jelly to shield the ants from getting into their colony so they have to move elsewhere. For the ants that are already in the colony, it will act as a shield to keep them in their colony, cutting them off, or it will cut off their path and trap them in the jelly. This gives you the opportunity to eliminate them as you wish.

Often, petroleum jelly will be the first step to eliminating the ants from your trees. Then, you can combine them with a few other options like flooding the ant hills or sprinkling pepper.

2. Flood Ant Hills

  • Combine with other methods for the best bet
  • Use clean water the entire time
  • Beware that underground hills may still exist

The first thing you need to be aware of when flooding ant hills is that Ask an Entomologist warns that the colonies these ants have made are much stronger than they appear – that is clearly seen in floodwaters where you see entire colonies floating together. However, water can kill ants or at least make them move away from your trees. It will take some regular flooding, so you have to be careful not to overwater your trees.

The best thing you can do to utilize this method is to flood the ground surrounding the trees and near the colonies, every day for a week and then back off slightly. Then, you can use some of the other tricks, like petroleum jelly or pepper to eliminate any lingering around. Then, you can flood it again and repeat until you see most of the infestation move away.

  • Best for larger infestations or infestations that get worse
  • Helps with ants that are particularly vicious or continue to come back
  • Trees that are distressed need to be looked at quickly

American Forests has a great article that explains how important ants are to the lifecycle of a tree – but there is more to it than that. They point out that good soil, the kind that trees thrive in, comes from ants: “In these areas, much of the topsoil was created by ants. In fact, ants create soil up to 10 times faster than earthworms, excavating as much as 30,000 pounds of soil per acre every year, creating about 4 inches of new soil per millennium in the process.”

Sometimes, ants overtake trees and open them up to many other problems. When that happens, professionals are often the only resource you have to eliminate the ants completely and to ensure that your trees are healthy and happy.

One word of advice is not to use chemicals that you can buy on your own. These will do severe damage to your trees, yard, and anyone who goes into your yard. Reach out to a professional instead who can have the problems cleared in a few days.

Once again, really consider working with a professional team before you decide to buy any chemicals on your own.

If you believe that you have problems with ants around your trees or you have an ant infestation in your trees or lawn, give Go Green Tree & Landscape a call as soon as possible.

Our team is well versed in using tools of all kinds to treat infestations and diseases that impact our yards. We can work with all chemicals safely and can even recommend ways to keep the infestation from coming back once we eliminate it. We hope to be your Independence, MO option for tree care of all kinds, including tree diseases. To stop those destructive ants and ant colonies in their tracks, give us a call today at (816) 520-4864.

Find The Nest

The most effective methods for ridding yourself of carpenter ants all involve locating and treating their nests directly. Carpenter ants nest in moist, decaying wood. These nests can be located either inside or outside the home, and unless you actually follow the trailing ants back to their origin, it’s not always easy to determine which. However, in general, if you find carpenter ants inside your home during late winter or early spring, chances are the colony is located indoors. Here’s some tips for locating a carpenter ant colony:

  • Look for frass. Frass is finely ground wood debris that resembles sawdust. It’s the result of carpenter ants boring into wood to build their nests. If you see this in your home, the carpenter ants are somewhere inside.
  • Damaged wood on or within walls, doors, cabinets, and wood beams is a good indicator of an indoor colony. Look specifically for sandpaper-smooth carpenter ant galleries and holes.
  • Place attractants like dog food, jam or other sweets where you most commonly spot carpenter ants. Using their trail, attempt to find the location of their nest.
  • If you have woodpiles or other wooden debris inside or just outside your home, check them thoroughly—the ant colony could be inside.

Boiling Water

If you were able to find the carpenter ant nest (and it was located outdoors), this natural method is a way to attack the ant colony directly. It’s simple: boil a few liters or more of water and then pour it directly into the nest (this can be dangerous, so please exercise extreme caution). Adding a natural and water-soluble insecticide, essential oils, or soap to the boiled water will make this approach even more effective. You may have to repeat this process two to three times to completely eliminate the colony.

Sugar and Baking Soda Bait

A simple and natural carpenter ant bait can be made by mixing equal parts baking soda and powdered sugar. Strategically place this mixture in shallow dishes in the locations with the most ant traffic. These can also be placed outside, particularly near doors and windows. The sugar in the mixture attracts the ants, while the baking soda naturally kills them (for chemical reasons, baking soda is deadly to ants).

Essential Oils

Like most ants, carpenter ants use pheromone trails for navigation and communication—it’s also how they find food. Essential oils can be used to disrupt these trails, which ultimately disorients and deters ants. Lemongrass, peppermint, clove, cedarwood, tea tree, orange and lemon oil are all effective.

Dampen a cotton ball or kitchen towel with an essential oil of your choosing. Use this to wipe windowsills, baseboards, the perimeters of countertops, door frames, and any potential entry points. Repeat daily until ant population disappears. Your chosen oil can also be diluted with a carrier oil to create a natural ant-killing spray.

Soap & Water

A simple mixture of soap and water is toxic to carpenter ants. Mix one part natural dish soap to two parts water in a spray bottle. Spray as needed to kill ants and eliminate their pheromone trails. Continue to treat problem areas until the ants no longer return.

Diatomaceous Earth

Made from crushed algae fossils, Diatomaceous Earth is a well known natural pesticide. This abrasive material damages the exoskeleton of ants that come into contact with it, eventually killing them. Spread DE throughout ant problem areas and directly on the colony’s nest if possible. Diatomaceous Earth is especially effective for combatting carpenter ants, which regularly die from consuming it.

Non-toxic Insecticides—Both Indoor and Outdoor

All natural, over-the-counter insecticides are often the easiest and most effective option for completely eliminating a carpenter ant colony. The best approach is to treat both outside and inside your home. Non-toxic indoor insecticides can be used as both a repellent and a contact killer. Naturally sourced outdoor insecticides also work as both deterrents and spot killers. For best results, apply non-toxic outdoor pesticides alongside fence lines and your home’s foundation; this will create a repellent barrier to keep ants from entering your home. Treating your entire yard will help to eliminate any active outdoor carpenter ant colonies.


Vinegar is an extremely effective natural carpenter ant deterrent. It disrupts their pheromone trails and the smell prevents them from returning. Mix a 1-to-1 ratio of water to vinegar in a spray bottle (both apple cider and white vinegar will do). Shake the solution and then spray along baseboards, door frames, window sills, countertops, and directly on the nest if possible. Repeat the process daily or as needed to repel carpenter ants. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and multi-surface cleaner—so feel free to use the spray liberally.

Cinnamon & Cinnamon Oil

Not unlike the previously mentioned essential oils and vinegar, cinnamon and cinnamon oil deter ants by interfering with their pheromone trails. Dispense the cinnamon in whatever form throughout ant problem areas and directly on the nest if possible. When used around windowsills, baseboards, near doors and alongside countertops, cinnamon helps prevent carpenter ants from entering your home.

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Best product
for Carpenter Ants

Few pests cause more panic around the home than those involving wood-destroying insects. Carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) damage wood by tunneling and nesting inside it. However, unlike termites, they do not feed on wood, but burrow into it to build their nests. They usually prefer damp, decaying lumber that is easy to excavate and rarely cause harm to sound structures. Read on to learn how to get rid of carpenter ants yourself and save BIG money!


Carpenter ants are large (3/8 – 3/4 inch long) when compared to most ants and black, reddish brown or yellowish in color, depending on the species. They are often found inside during spring. However, their presence is not sufficient enough evidence to conclude that there is a problem inside your home. Concerned homeowners should try to determine whether the ants are coming from an outdoor or an indoor nest, although this can be difficult.

Tip: According to the University of Minnesota Extension Service, if you find carpenter ants in your home during late winter or early spring, that suggests the ants are coming from a nest inside your house. However, if you see activity later in the year, it is less clear if the nest is inside our outside. In almost all cases, ants seen indoors during winter months are an indication that there is an inside nest. One exception is when ants are brought indoors in firewood.

Life Cycle

Ant colonies are founded by a single fertilized queen which lays approximately 15-20 eggs after establishing a nesting site in a cavity in wood. She feeds the developing young with salivary secretions and does not eat or leave the nest during this time. The queen has few duties except to lay eggs. The workers which are reared first assume the task of gathering food with which to feed the younger larvae. They are also responsible for excavating galleries to enlarge the nest and tending the eggs, larvae and pupae of the next generation. Colonies grow very rapidly and reach a peak population (approximately 3,000 workers) within 3-6 years. At this time, winged reproductive females are produced and fly off to establish new colonies.

How to Control

  1. Prevent excess moisture accumulation in wood through good maintenance of the house structure and surroundings.
  2. Repair existing damage, then cut off ant access routes.
  3. Eliminate potential nesting areas by repairing injured trees and removing stumps and wood debris.
  4. Prune branches that touch the house and eliminate wood/earth contact with structures.
  5. Broadcast least-toxic, weather-resistant TERRO Ant Bait Plus around exterior structures, trees, stumps and firewood piles. Reapply every four weeks, as needed.
  6. Apply Insect Killer Granules around foundations, lawns and landscaped areas to eliminate or repel all kinds of troublesome insects.
  7. Apply Bora-Care directly to ALL untreated wood surfaces. Its patented formula penetrates deep into wood and provides long-lasting protection against boring insect damage.
  8. Locate nests by trailing workers and searching for frass piles (insect feces) and saw-dust like wood shavings. If nests are found, apply non-toxic diatomaceous earth or boric acid powder to eliminate colonies.
  9. If pest populations become intolerable, spot treat with a fast-acting botanical insecticide. These natural sprays have shorter half-lives and less toxicity as commercial chemical pesticides.
  10. Check firewood carefully for insects prior to bringing inside and monitor closely once the wood warms.

Tip: Store firewood off the ground and as far from the house as practical.

Insects will always find ways to get into our homes to eat our leftover food and damage our houses. While many insects might invade your home, few will cause a homeowner to panic more than the wood-destroying carpenter ants.

This particular ant species will damage the wood around your house by tunneling and nesting inside the wood. Carpenter ants like to nest in wall voids, hollow doors, beams, cabinets, and structural lumber. If you are dealing with a carpenter ant infestation, learn how to get rid of carpenter ants naturally.

Unlike termites, these pests don’t feed on the wood; instead, they like to burrow into it to build their nests. These big black ants like to live in damp, decaying lumber because it is much easier for them to excavate. You will typically find a carpenter ant nest in tree limbs, tree stumps, and tree branches.

When outside, carpenter ant colonies don’t cause much harm, but once they find their way inside, they will scour for savory and sweet foods that they can take back to the parent colony.

What do Carpenter Ants Look Like?

Compared to other kinds of ants, carpenter ants are relatively large, measuring up to ¾ of an inch in length. While most carpenter ants are black, some species will appear reddish brown or yellowish.

Spring is when the black carpenter ants come inside; however, the presence of carpenter ants in your home doesn’t necessarily mean you have a carpenter ant problem. If you’re concerned about the carpenter ants that you find in your home, you’ll need to determine whether they are coming from outside or an inside nest.

Signs You Have a Carpenter Ant Infestation

A visible sign that you have a carpenter ant infestation is the presence of worker ants inside your home. However, this isn’t necessarily a sure sign that an entire colony and any satellite colonies of carpenter ants have established their nest within your home.

Since carpenter ants burrow into wood to create their nests, you might hear a rustling sound inside walls or woodwork. If an infestation is severe, you may notice carpenter ant damage in the form of wood shavings beneath window sills and other wood objects in your home.

Getting Rid of Carpenter Ants Naturally

If you are dealing with an infestation of carpenter ants, your first reaction might be to call a local pest control company that specializes in pest management. However, many of the products that these companies use for pest control contain toxic chemicals that could be harmful to your family and damage the environment. Over time, the chemicals used in commercial insecticides will cause respiratory disorders when inhaled.

It is highly effective and safer to use home remedies to get rid of carpenter ants. Here’s how to get rid of carpenter ants in your home with safe and natural ingredients.

Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth or DE is a 100% organic and all natural, silica-rich powder that is an extremely effective way to kill carpenter ants. The insecticide dust is deadly to many kinds of insects and contains the fossilized remains of microscopic algae called diatoms.

The razor sharp edges of the diatoms rip through the fragile exoskeleton of the insects and suck the moisture from their body, effectively dehydrating them until they die. Once you’ve determined the nest location, you can use diatomaceous earth to kill the entire colony.

Use a device, like a medicine dropper, to inject the DE into the nest and let the fossilized diatoms do the rest. You can also use diatomaceous earth to kill other types of ants, roaches, fleas, and any other pest that is causing you problems, too. Food-grade DE is safe to use around pets and children and it is quite inexpensive.

Boric Acid

Boric acid is a white, odorless powder that is known for its antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. The dry powder adheres to the carpenter ants’ exoskeleton, and when the groom their legs and ingest the boric acid it works as a stomach poison, leading to the carpenter ants death.

Homemade Boric Acid Carpenter Ant Bait

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons boric acid

In a small container, mix the sugar and boric acid. Sprinkle the mixture around your home where you suspect the carpenter ants are entering. The sugar will attract the carpenter ants, but the toxicity of the boric acid that the carpenter ants feed on will kill them.

You can use this mixture for perimeter treatments around your home, so the carpenter ants take the small particles back to their satellite nests and eliminate the entire colony.

White Vinegar

A staple product in most homes, white vinegar is a convenient remedy for carpenter ant control. With its five percent acidity ratio, white vinegar is exceptionally toxic to carpenter ants. The pungent smell will make the carpenter ants keep their distance. Combine equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spray the solution directly into a carpenter ant nest to eradicate the entire colony. You can also use this solution as a perimeter spray and spray it around your home, especially at entry points in your home.

Liquid Dish Soap

Liquid dish soap is another convenient and highly effective solution for getting rid of carpenter ants. Ants and other insects breath through their skin, so spraying them with a mixture of water and dish soap will effectively suffocate them.

Dish Soap and Baking Soda Ant Killer Recipe

  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons liquid dish soap
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda

Add all ingredients to a spray bottle. Spray the solution directly on any carpenter ants that you spot, and down into their nests to get rid of the entire colony.

Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint essential oil is an organic insect repellent that is effective at keeping carpenter ants and also spiders away from your home naturally, as well as being effective at repelling spiders. When ants enter your house looking for food and water sources, they leave a scent trail so their fellow ants can follow in their footsteps.

The strong aroma of the peppermint oil disrupts their abilities to follow the path and keeps them from being able to smell any food sources.

DIY Peppermint Ant-Repellent Spray

  • 15 drops peppermint oil
  • 5 drops lavender oil
  • 5 drops citronella oil
  • 1 ½ cups distilled water

Fill a spray bottle with the distilled water. Add the essential oils and secure the cap. Shake well to make sure all the ingredients are combined. Spray the solution around your kitchen and anywhere else where ants might be entering your home.

You can also place one drop of the peppermint oil on cotton balls and leave them in areas where you suspect ants are entering your home. You can also put peppermint plants around your doorways to keep ants from entering your home.

Put Up Defensive Barriers

To keep ants from entering into your house, you can put up defensive barriers around areas in your home that might be access points, like your doors, windows, and any cracks and crevices you might have in your walls and baseboards. Many of the products that you can use as a barrier are most likely in your pantry.

Natural Defensive Ant Barriers

  • Turmeric
  • Cinnamon
  • Powdered charcoal
  • A line of chalk
  • Citrus oil
  • Black pepper
  • Vaseline
  • Baby powder
  • Powdered cleanser
  • Baking soda

The idea here is that these natural defensive barriers disrupt the pheromone trails that are left when ants enter your home. If they are unable to detect the scent trail that they left behind, they won’t be able to follow the same path to their food and water source.

Unfortunately, they may still be able to find another way into your home, so you should use this deterrent along with some of the other methods mentioned for killing and repelling ants.

Does Neem Oil Kill Ants?

Neem oil is an extremely effective insecticide that is safe to use around humans and pets. But, does neem oil kill ants? Unfortunately, neem oil doesn’t directly kill ants. Instead, it disrupts their hormonal balance and causes them to die before they can transform into their next stage of life.

The active ingredient, Azadirachtin, works to reduce their feeding activity and makes it harder for them to grow and lay eggs. So, while neem oil isn’t a long-term solution to a carpenter ant problem, it can be used with the other proven methods to reduce the population dramatically.

Commercial Pest Control Methods

If all else fails, and these natural home remedies don’t effectively rid your home of carpenter ants, then you may need to turn to a commercial insecticide product or call your local pest control company. Here are the top five carpenter ant killers you can find online or at your local home improvement store.

Best Commercial Carpenter Ant Killers

  • Advance Carpenter Ant Bait
  • TERRO Outdoor Liquid Ant Baits
  • Maxforce Carpenter Ant Gel
  • Carpenter Ant Control Kit
  • TERRO Carpenter Ant and Termite Killer

How to Prevent Carpenter Ants from Returning

Now that you’ve been able to eliminate the carpenter ants in your home, you’ll want to keep them from returning. The first step for preventing a recurrence of carpenter ants in your home is to seal all cracks or gaps in your home’s exterior, including utility pipes and other items that might penetrate the walls, and seal any gaps around the electrical outlets in your home to keep carpenter ants from entering.

Look around for any moisture problems and dry up any leaks that you find both inside and outside your home. If you find moisture-damaged wood, be sure to repair or replace it. If you have any tree stumps in the yard, make sure you ship the stumps and keep any wood debris far away from your house, or have it mulched.

Make sure that any wood piles that you have aren’t located near the house; you don’t want the wood to be touching the wall or garage.

Check all of the trees around your property and make sure there aren’t any tree branches touching the roof or exterior walls because this can make it much easier for carpenter ants and other insects to enter your home.

Keep the inside of your house clean to deter the carpenter ants from using your home as a breeding ground. Make sure you clean up any spills, cleaning your floors well, keeping pet food in a sealed container and fixing any leaky faucets that might dampen the wood cabinets in your home.

Get rid of any clutter that might create shelter for the carpenter ants, and make your home as unfriendly to their preferred habitat as possible.

Dealing with an invasion of carpenter ants can be exhausting and a bit frustrating, because it can be challenging to find their nests. With these simple and inexpensive solutions for getting rid of carpenter ants, you can eliminate the problem for good.

After you’ve eradicated these pesky insects, be sure to follow the preventative measures to keep the carpenter ants from returning.

We hope you enjoyed learning how to get rid of carpenter ants. If the information in this article was useful, please feel free to pass it on to all your family and friends.

How Do I Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants: Home Remedies For Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants may be may be small in stature, but carpenter ant damage can be destructive. Carpenter ants are active during spring and summer months. They nest in moist wood inside and outside, often in rotting wood, behind bathroom tiles, around sinks, tubs, showers and dishwashers. They also may inhabit hollow spaces in doors, curtain rods, foam insulation, etc. Humidity is necessary to sustain their eggs, but it is possible to find satellite nests that are not in moisture laden areas where some of the colony can reside. Let’s find out more about how to get rid of carpenter ants.

Carpenter Ant Damage

Carpenter ants do not eat wood, but they remove wood as they create tunnels and galleries for their nests. Their primary food sources are proteins and sugars. They feed on living and dead insects outdoors. They are attracted to honeydew, which is a sweet liquid produced by aphids and scale insects. Indoors, carpenter ants feed on meat and sweets, such as syrups, honey and sugar.

Carpenter ants tree damage is caused primarily by the ants burrowing tunnels to build their nests. They do not harm trees, but their excavating further compromises wood that already is soft and weakened.

How Do I Get Rid of Carpenter Ants?

There is no easy way to get rid of carpenter ants. Most importantly, the only way to get rid of carpenter ants is to find and destroy their nest. Outside, look for carpenter ants tree damage and activity in rotting wood, stumps or wooden structures. Inside, nests and carpenter ant damage are more difficult to find.

If you lay out bait, you can follow the ants back to their nest. They are most active between sunset and midnight. Ants do not see the color red, so the best way to track them is to cover a flashlight with a red film and follow their activity at night.

Home Remedies for Carpenter Ants

Professional exterminators are the most reliable source for getting rid of carpenter ants because they have insecticides that are not available to the public. However, if you would rather tackle the problem yourself, understand that there is no easy way to get rid of carpenter ants.

If a nest is exposed, spray insecticide directly onto the nest to kill the colony.

If the nest cannot be located, bait food with a combination of 1% boric acid and 10% sugar water. Worker ants eat the baited food and share it with the rest of the colony through regurgitation. This is a slow process and could take weeks to months. Do not put insecticide directly on the food because it will kill the worker ants before they return and share the food with the colony.

If the nest is behind a wall, the boric acid can be sprayed through the electrical outlet into the wall void. Ants travel along electrical wires and will be exposed to the boric acid. Caution: Use care when using this method to avoid electrical shock.

Carpenter ants are persistent, but if you are patient, you can eliminate them from your home and property.

If you have a tree that is infested with ants, then you are going to want to take the necessary steps to eradicate that problem. Ants frequently travel up and down the trunk of a tree and disappear into the cavity, where they nest. Due to those nesting opportunities and the relative comfort ants experience when settled inside a tree, if this isn’t handled as soon as possible, the number of ants in the tree is likely to continue to grow.

The big, black ants that predominantly hang out inside of the tree are called carpenter ants. These ants almost always attract attention, whether they are crawling on the floor in your house, entrenched in your flowers, tunneling into the ground, or, of course, going in and out of a tree trunk.

Carpenter ants love logs and stumps, but they also love to nest in trees, especially older ones that have a lot of wood that is dead and/or decayed. When nesting, carpenter ants use trees with wood that is already decayed because of the high amount of moisture found in those trees. The softness and brittle nature of the wood allow the carpenter ants the ability to easily set up and establish their colonies. The decay could have been caused by a variety of factors: environmental conditions, stress, disease, or even other insects doing damage to the limbs and branches, which severely weakened them. Whatever it is that causes the initial damage, it leads to wood decay, and once that sets in, the carpenter ants are able to move in and colonize.

It is important to remember that carpenter ants are not the ones who are destroying the tree initially, they are simply taking advantage of conditions that have been left for them by circumstance. In a sense, they are behaving like vultures, seizing an opportunity that they didn’t actually create. The carpenter ants may make the damage worse and help prevent the tree from gaining any further strength, but they are not the cause of the problem itself when it first occurs. Once the carpenter ants pounce, they nest by chewing tunnels through the wood. However, the carpenter ants cannot eat the wood, so instead, the wood gets cast aside and tossed away from the nest as piles of sawdust, which may contain a combination of discarded wood and dead insects.

So, why exactly is it important to rid the tree of these carpenter ants?

While they aren’t the ones doing the actual damage, they are able to play a role in stopping the tree from getting back to full strength. However, even more importantly, it is incredibly important to make sure these carpenter ants are kept out of other nearby structures where they can be incredibly disruptive, like a house.

It is essential, however, to avoid sealing tree cavities or plugging them to treat wounds because they are not necessary and will not do anything to stop decay or deter carpenter ants from colonizing.

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It is also a bad idea to cut down the tree just to avoid problems the ants can cause because the carpenter ants can just go to a different tree on the property or one that is nearby. Unless you want to cut down every tree you have, the best option is to go through the proper process of eliminating the ants, rather than eliminating entire trees. Plus, if you cut down all of the trees just to eliminate the ants, you won’t actually eliminate them, as they will just be emboldened to go elsewhere, like the house you wanted to avoid them spreading to in the first place.

And, if carpenter ants do get into a building of some sort, they can infect virtually anything made of lumber, including window frames, deck boards, and door sills. However, in virtually all cases, the area is already very moist and as such, it has a pre-existing weakness that the carpenter ants, vulture-like opportunists that they are, can exploit.

Ways to Kill off Ants in Your Tree

1. Spraying ant powder all around the base of the tree is far and away the easiest way to deal with a tree infested with ants since it doesn’t take much effort to apply and is effective at killing the ants when they leave the tree to gather food.

The powder not only kills the ants who are touched by it, but also kills many of the other ants because they will eat their own dead and in doing so, absorb the poison themselves. While this is an easy process, it is important to remember to reapply after it rains, as the water will wipe out the powder and stop the ants from being killed.

2. We have found that ants typically live above the entrance hole. We assume this is the case so that any water that infiltrates the entrance hole can’t seep downward and flood the nest. If the entrance hole can be safely reached, activate a can of room defogger into the opening (the type that is meant to bug bomb a house for spiders and other bugs). If they are living above the hole, they will come flooding out by the thousands. Have a few aerosol cans of Raid or Ortho Ant Killer ready and spray the ants as they evacuate their ‘protected’ environment. Between those that are killed instantly and those that will feed off of the dead ant carcasses later, the problem should be able to be brought under control fairly quickly.

If you find that your infestation caused significant tree death and you want to evaluate if your tree is worth saving or needs to be removed before it causes an unsafe environment, contact us at Mr. Tree to make an appointment with one of our certified arborists.

Tagged as: ant infestation, Diseased Tree, Mr. Tree care, professional tree care

Little Black Ants


SIZE: Workers of this species measure about one-eighth of an inch in length. Colonies contain multiple queens who are two to three times larger than the workers.


BEHAVIOR:Little black ants are usually seen around homes following well-defined trails between the nest and food and water sources. They feed on a wide variety of foods, but the workers are partial to the sweet honeydew produced by aphids, scales and mealybugs found feeding on many trees and plants. Fruit trees, roses and many shrubs serve as hosts for aphids and may contribute to ant infestations in homes and other buildings. Most infestations inside are the result of workers searching for food. On occasion, a colony or part of a colony may establish itself inside a wall, behind brick veneer or beneath the carpet by a doorway.


This ant will take advantage of any suitable, moist space to locate its colony. It is commonly found infesting rotted logs, stumps and fence posts and may be found in tree holes and dead tree limbs far above the ground. Nests are also commonly located within piles of lumber, rocks, bricks and similar items.

Tips for Control

Infestations of little black ants often require patience and skill to follow the trails back to the nest. The type of treatment used depends on the location of the nest (e.g., inside wood, within a brick pile, etc.). Baits can be effective but require persistence and follow-up to achieve results. General tips for limiting ant infestations include:

  • Eliminating piles of lumber, bricks or other debris that could serve as a nesting site for ants.

  • Keeping landscape mulch less than two inches thick and at least 12 inches away from foundations.

  • Ensuring the sprinkler system does not spray directly onto the foundation.

  • Sealing as many cracks in the building’s exterior as possible.

  • Keeping tree and shrub branches trimmed to prevent touching the building.

  • Considering re-landscaping to avoid using plants that are prone to aphids and similar insects. At the very least, treat such plants for aphids regularly. A tree/shrub company can be helpful with this task.

Carpenter ants nesting in trees and homes

Are carpenter ants killing my trees?

Seeing dozens of large ants coming and going out of the base of a large tree often elicits a fear that the ants are damaging the tree. Carpenter ants do not feed on wood, but they do create galleries within rotting wood to build their nest within the tree. Unlike termites, an insect that does eat wood, carpenter ants excavate tiny bits of wood that look like course sawdust. Piles of sawdust deposited by carpenter ants can often be found at the base of the tree. The fact that you see them wandering out of the tree is the nature of ants, not termites.

Evidence of a carpenter ant nest within a tree does not indicate the tree is in a state of decline. Often, nests go unnoticed for years in healthy trees since the ants are tunneling in dead tissue and not disrupting the flow of water and nutrients.

Carpenter ants are opportunists and will look to build a nest where ever they find wood that is exposed to moisture, whether in a home, firewood or a tree with decay. Winged ants emerge in spring to early summer to seek new sites to establish their colonies.

An injury to a tree can expose wood to moisture, creating the right environment for carpenter ants to build a nest. Injury to trees can come from a lawn mower bumping into the tree, pruning wounds, a weed whip cutting through the bark, a woodpecker drilling into the tree, a buck rubbing the bark, a borer type of insect feeding under the bark or a fungal disease. Some openings through the bark are caused by the environment, including a lightning strike, broken branches due to wind and even low temperature damage to the wood of young trees. Exposure to moisture allows fungi to attack the wood and decay begins.

What are carpenter ants eating?

Carpenter ants feed on living and dead insects as a source of protein and on a sugary substance called honeydew (produced by insects like aphids and scale that siphon the sap out of plants). Carpenter ants may even forage inside a home for protein and sugar sources such as pet food, sugar, syrup and other sweets.

Are carpenter ants nesting in my home?

When you find ants searching for food within your home, it is important to first identify the ant since this will give you an indication of their nesting habits. The University of Nebraska Extension has a great Ant Identification Resources webpage.

Carpenter ants: workers, drone and queen. Photo by Duke Elsner, MSU Extension.

If the ants in your home are carpenter ants, it does not necessarily mean they are nesting in your house or building. Worker ants will forage for food up to 100 feet from their nests. They also follow common paths, so it is possible to observe the ants and follow them from your home to a nest outdoors. Sometimes, though, the nest is within the house or structure.

Nesting within a structure usually indicates wood is being damaged by water. Rotting window sills, wood located around sinks and tubs or rotting roofs are common sites where carpenter ants can be found. As with the old rotting tree, the ants are not eating the wood but excavating it.

Managing carpenter ants indoors and outdoors

Managing the problem indoors requires locating the nest and killing the ants, but also requires fixing the moisture problem and damaged wood to prevent structural problems and further ant infestations indoors.

Outdoors, carpenter ants are considered beneficial as predators of other insects. However, a nest in close proximity of a house can create a nuisance indoors as they hunt for food. Understanding the carpenter ant’s role in nature and that they are not the underlying factor in the decline of a tree are factors to consider when determining a course of action.

I see carpenter ants as an indicator of a moisture and decay problem. Knowing the problem gives you the opportunity to act. If the problem is indoors, you’ll likely need to stop a water leak to prevent further damage to a structure. If the problem is within a tree, it may mean pruning out a decaying limb where ants are nesting.

In old trees, there may be little action that can be taken when the decay is at the base of the tree other than to reduce any additional stress, especially from drought conditions. You may need to continue monitoring decay where trees are near structures to determine if there is a potential hazard of the tree collapsing. Controlling the nest itself is unnecessary to protect the health of the tree since carpenter ants are not feeding on the tree, but living within it.

For more information on managing carpenter ants, visit the University of Minnesota Extension’s Carpenter Ants webpage.

Carpenter Ants in Trees

Carpenter ants nesting inside trees often expel large quantities of coarse sawdust found around the base of the tree.
Photo by Suzette Striegel, Mahaska County Extension

By Donald Lewis
Extension Entomologist
Iowa State University

Big, black ants always attract attention, whether they are on the peony blossoms, digging in the ground, crawling on your kitchen floor or trundling up and down the old tree trunk next to the house. The description of “big, black ant” nearly always refers to carpenter ants, even though other species of ants are nearly as large and nearly as black. For example, the big, black ants that nest in the ground making ant mounds in your lawn are not carpenter ants but an unrelated species called field ants.
Carpenter ants serve a useful purpose in the real world. Their nests consist of tunnels and chambers chewed into soft wood. The openings and hollow spaces they create contribute to the natural decay of stumps, logs and dead limbs. Without recyclers such as carpenter ants we would be up to our necks in dead, un-decomposed organic matter in the landscape and woodlands.
In addition to logs and stumps another common place to find carpenter ants is nesting inside trees, especially older trees that are hollow or have a significant amount of dead, decayed wood. The nests are made in wood that has already started to decay because of excess moisture let in through an opening to the outside such as mechanical injuries, knots, cracks, holes and old insect tunnels. The ants are only taking advantage of an existing situation of soft, weak wood in which to establish their colony. Stress, mechanical injury, environmental conditions, disease or other insects are responsible for killing limbs or sections of the trees in which the ants are able to nest. Once injury has occurred, wood decay can set in if moisture is present; it is the wood decay that gives the carpenter ants the opportunity to colonize the tree.
Carpenter ants are opportunists that take advantage of an existing situation. The opening to the outside, the moisture, and the soft, decayed wood already existed. The ants came second. The ants may extend the damage into sound wood and an injured tree may be further losing structural strength. Still, ant control is not essential for the tree’s health.
Carpenter ants make nests in wood by chewing sandpaper-smooth tunnels and chambers in wood. They cannot eat the wood. The wood is discarded as shredded fragments of coarse sawdust ejected from the nests. The sawdust may contain dead ants and bits of dead insects that the carpenter ants have eaten.
Control of carpenter ants inside a tree may not make any difference to the tree but it may be warranted as one way to reduce invasion of the ants into adjacent structures. Insecticides labeled for use on trees in the landscape can be applied (dusted or sprayed) directly into the nest cavity. An alternative is to treat the trunk and ground around the tree in hopes of reducing the population of foragers (workers). Treatment is not likely to permanently rid a tree of carpenter ants; retreatment every year or so may be necessary.
Plugging or sealing tree cavities or treating tree wounds with wound dressings is not advised. Such treatments are unnecessary and will not eliminate nor prevent decay or carpenter ant activity.
Cutting down an otherwise viable landscape tree in the hopes of avoiding ant problems in the home is an extreme response and is not recommended. If someone suggests removing trees from your landscape to control ants, remember that complex problems rarely have such simple solutions. Check and double-check with qualified arborists before making drastic and irreversible assaults on your landscape plantings.
On occasion, carpenter ants do infest the house and ruin window frames, door sills, deck boards and other things made of lumber. However, in almost all cases of severe damage there is also a persistent and long-standing moisture problem. Too much moisture in lumber leads to both wood decay and carpenter ants. It’s hard to say which lets you down faster. For ant control indoors, consult your local pest control professional for sprays, dusts or baits to reduce the ant population.

One high resolution photo is available for use with this column: Carpenterantsawdust.jpg
Suggested Caption: Carpenter ants nesting inside trees often expel large quantities of coarse sawdust found around the base of the tree. Photo by Suzette Striegel, Mahaska County Extension.

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