Some types of ants such as carpenter ants are associated with eating wood. Ants don’t eat wood, however. They chew wood digging galleries inside. These tunnels are then used as nests.
You can identify ants that eat wood by looking for piles of chewed wood similar to sawdust next to the small holes visible on pieces of wood. Getting rid of these ants involves eliminating the main sources of attraction for specific types of ants.
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Do ants eat wood?
Ants that nest in the wood are sometimes misidentified as ants that eat wood. While these don’t eat wood, they create structural damages to it.
Ants such as carpenter ants make their way inside the wood of a home. They come from nearby colonies eventually nesting inside the home. Unless dealt with as a pest, they can create structural damages inside walls, floors, furniture, deck, or other wooden parts of a home.
13 Example of ants that eat wood
The following ants nest inside wood. They are often seen as ants that eat wood. However, they only use it as a medium that’s easy to dig in to create sheltered nests.
1. Florida Carpenter Ant
Almost all Florida Carpenter Ants (Camponotus floridanus) prefer to dig their way through moist wood or decaying wood. These ants don’t start chewing up wood that’s in good condition.
The ants are interested in eating their way through outdoor wood such as trees and indoor wood such as the frames of a house, furniture, or windows.
You can recognize their nests by looking for frass. This is chewed up wood and pieces of dead insects.
Finding the main nest where the queen lives is important when trying to get rid of Florida Carpenter Ants. This can be complicated at times.
Once found, the nest is sprayed with insecticide. Most insecticide applications are successful. Others just prompt the ants to find a new nest nearby.
2. Ferruginous Carpenter Ant
These ants (Camponotus chromaiodes) are largely found in Eastern US. They are known as ants that dig into wood. Unlike termites, ants don’t eat wood which is also the case of Ferruginous Carpenter Ants.
Making their way through wood as a nest, these ants are mostly found in decaying wood or pieces of wood already damaged by other insects.
Highly common in woodlands, the ants make their way through wood and sometimes continue building connected galleries underground.
Large compared to other carpenter ants, they can reach a size of up to 13mm. However, they still manage to build tunnels inside wood. Rotting wood is first excavated by these ants.
3. Eastern Black Carpenter Ant
These ants (Camponotus pennsylvanicus) are native to the US. They are mostly found in woodlands. A pest status is reached when the ants make their way inside the home.
With the ability to chew wood, these ants make their way through moist wood and moist areas of the home. This type of wood is easier to dig in than dry wood.
The ants are known for creating long galleries of hundreds of yards around wood. These galleries aren’t smooth inside since they are filled with excrements.
All tunnels dug by the Eastern Black Carpenter Ant run parallel to the wood grain for easy digging.
4. Cylindromyrmex Ants
These ants (genus Cylindromyrmex) are common in Central America and South America. Costa Rica, Peru, Venezuela, and Ecuador are among the countries where they are found in large numbers.
The ants are known for chewing up dead pieces of wood.
Interestingly, they are often confused with termites not because they eat wood but because they sometimes share the same habitat. Cylindromyrmex ants are sometimes found in the wood galleries of termites.
5. Crematogaster scutellaris
These ants are common in Europe and Northern Africa. They are considered some of the most aggressive ants that live in wood.
These ants are particularly aggressive with other ant colonies.
Large colonies have been studied in orchards and forests. Crematogaster scutellaris ants prefer to nest in trees.
6. Colobopsis anderseni
These species is found in Northern Australia. It lives in colonies where each nest represents an individual colony.
It’s believed these ants make their way through wood only with short diameter tunnels. This can be seen as a defensive mechanism.
Flooding is rare whenever the tunnels dug into wood are narrow. Each colony has multiple entry points to the nest inside the wood which is all flood-safe.
7. Liometopum luctuosum
These ants occur in elevated locations throughout Western North America. They are some of the most aggressive ants to live in wood.
Fights between various colonies of the same species occur frequently. Most of these fights are territorial whenever a colony makes its way to a tree or a piece of wood that nests another colony.
Most of these ants live in tree roots or right underneath them. They rarely move on to homes as they aren’t seen around households often.
8. Melissotarsus ants
The species (genus Melissotarsus) is known for its strong set of teeth which allows it to chew through live wood. Trees are the preferred live wood of these ants.
These ants also produce silk. It’s believed silk is used to seal off the tunnels in the wood, mainly to protect their eggs.
9. Liometopum occidentale
These ants are found throughout North America. They are identified by their distinct golden yellow color.
They live in riparian woodlands. These are all woodlands next to sources of water.
Rarely seen around homes, these ants that eat through wood are sometimes referred to as aggressive as they get into conflicts with other ant species.
10. American Carpenter Ant
These ants (Camponotus americanus) nest in wood and in the ground, particularly under large rocks. They can become pests and the use of pesticides is common to eliminate these Carpenter ants.
Their natural habitat is in various oak forests. The ants nest at the roots of various oak trees.
Dark red-brown body colors make identification easier for these ants. However, the male and the female ants don’t seem to have visible physical differences.
11. Jet Black Ant
These ants (Lasius fuliginosus) live in large colonies. These colonies are sometimes as numerous as 15.000 ants.
One of the distinct abilities of these ants is to build nests from scratch.
They mix chewed wood with saliva to create a cardboard-like material. This material is then used to create large nests in hollow trees. All of these nests are dominated by a single ant queen.
12. Western carpenter ant
These ants (Camponotus modoc) are mostly found in woods. They nest under tree bark. They only nest in cabins found in the woods.
They are characterized by very numerous colonies. These large wood-nesting colonies are run by multiple queens.
These ants are both diurnal and nocturnal. They are known for constantly looking for food sources near rotting wood.
13. Chestnut Carpenter Ant
These ants (Camponotus castaneus) are known for living in forests. They create complex underground nests under the American beech tree.
These ants are mostly diurnal but they can be nocturnal at times. Generally, they aren’t seen as house pests with the exception of Illinois where they regularly infest homes.
Signs of Wood-eating Ants
Wood-eating ants are not difficult to identify. Removing them from the house is more complicated, however. Here’s how to establish if your home is infested with wood-eating ants.
Frass is a mixture of chewed wood and saliva. It’s always found on the surface of the wood. This is an excavated material that is carried out of galleries as ants don’t eat wood as termites do.
Galleries running parallel to wood grain
Some galleries are visible on the side of a piece of wood. Ants always dig parallel to the wood grain as this is easier.
Hollow sound when knocking on wood
You can knock on wood to check for hollow sounds if there are no visible signs of a possible ant invasion. A hollow sound is typical to pieces of wood that already have multiple galleries within them so this method is not recommended for the early stages of identification.
Soft crinkling noises can be interpreted as ants making their way through wood. These noises are heard both when ants make their way through wood inside of the house and when they nest in or under trees.
How to Get Rid of Ants Eating Wood
Eliminating ants that eat wood implies eliminating their nest. First, it needs to be identified. It’s then eliminated using pesticides.
Destroy scent trails
Scent trails are used by ants to move around a house or out in nature. These scent trails can be eliminated by cleaning the home often.
Cleaning the walls and the floors eliminates all scent trails. A cleaner with a strong scent or even essential oils with water can eliminate all scent trails and prevent ants from moving around easily around the house.
Pesticides are used to kill off ants and to destroy their nests. Since pesticides are dangerous this process is best left to professionals.
Pest controllers assess the problem in a house and then proceed to use pesticides to eliminate the nests or multiple ant nests inside a home.
How To Prevent Ants Eating Wood
Keeping ants away is the first step when it comes to protecting wooden structures and wooden homes. Ants that make their way inside of the house can already do some structural damage even if deal with quickly.
Ants that eat wood are normally attracted to a type of wood that’s either affected by fungi or simply decaying as a sign of water infiltration or high humidity. These are the risk factors that need to be controlled to keep wood-eating ants away.
Seal cracks and crevices
Cracks and crevices are crawl spaces for ants. These use these small spaces as trails. Pheromones are used to attract other ants by scent.
Sealing all cracks and crevices around the house, particularly in areas that are hard to reach is the first step to keeping ants that eat wood outside.
Replace damaged wood as soon as possible
Damaged wood is the only type of wood ants are interested in. Dry wood in good condition is difficult to chew for ants. This is why wood that is decaying is ideal for these insects.
Wood can be damaged by fungi. It can also be damaged by high humidity or by water in the case of a water leak.
Regular home maintenance is one of the best ways to ensure ants stay out. All affected pieces of wood can be replaced so that there’s no soft or decaying piece of wood left for ants to chew through.
Repair water leaks
Water leaks will eventually trigger fungi, mold formation, and wood decay. Even small water leaks can be problematic for the floors, walls, and basement of your home.
Water leaks are also present under the roof. Even the attic can be attacked by ants in case of continuous water leaks from the roof.
All water leaks are urgent repair tasks around the house.
Clear vegetation around the home
Vegetation such as tree branches touching your house or leaning over your home creates pathways for ants.
Make sure to clear all of these branches and other forms of vegetation that may favor ants crawling towards your home.
Store food in the refrigerator
Food left outside tends to attract ants. All food should be refrigerated. Fruits are a type of food that ants love due to their high sugar content.
This is why fruits and decaying fruits around the yard should always be picked and cleared.
Store long shelf life food in sealed containers
Dry food or food with a long shelf life is often left uncovered in the house. It’s best to store these foods in sealed containers to keep all ants away by blocking their scent.
Ants don’t actually eat wood. They chew it up and spit it out digging narrow tunnels inside old wood or damp wood. Ants in wood can be identified by the frass they leave behind.
Carpenter ants are one of the most common families of ants in the US that eat through wood. These ants are often found in homes attracted by rotting wood.