Know Your Enemy: Carpenter Ants

There are an estimated 22,000 species of ants on the planet. These social insects, which live in colonies and cover nearly every landmass on earth, are highly organized, adaptive, and invasive. Among the 22,000 estimated species, 12,500 of them have been classified. But there is just one kind of ant you need to be thinking about in St. Louis – the black carpenter ant.


Carpenter ants are large (.25 to 1 in/0.64 to 2.5 cm) ants that can be distinguished from other carpenter ant species by the dull black color of the head and body, and by whitish or yellowish hairs on the abdomen. Even within one colony not all worker ants are the same size. But unless you are as passionate about bugs as we are, you probably don’t want to hold a magnifying glass up to the ants to see what’s in your home. Instead, you can tell a carpenter ant by their behavior.


Black carpenter ants are known to forage up to 100 yards in search of food. Workers are most active at night, traveling from their nest to a food source following trails. You’ve probably seen a line of ants marching through your home, carrying a bounty of crumbs back to the nest. The ants accomplish this by leaving a chemical trial that tells others ants where the source of food is. This is also why once you spot one ant you’re likely to spot a thousand more very soon. That scout is looking for food and leaving a chemical trail calling all his friends.

The chemical trail black carpenter ants leave isn’t just a marching order for the colony to invade your home’s food supply. Black carpenter ants are also very territorial and evasive. The chemicals they excrete can ward off other ant species or inform their own colony of your efforts to defeat them. That’s why we don’t recommend you just start spraying Raid all over the place – the ants will detect it, warn each other, and adapt. While it makes the ants temporarily disappear, this actually makes it harder to control your ant problem.


St. Louis ants prefer dead and damp wood for their nests. Black carpenter ants don’t eat or digest wood like termites do, but they still tunnel through wood. In their natural environment these ants enhance decay, which has ecological benefits. But when they invade your home, they represent a threat to the structural integrity of your home or deck. If you are on or within 100 yards of a wooded property, black carpenter ants are something you’ll want to watch out for.

Holper’s Pest & Animal Solutions is your St. Louis ant exterminator expert. Continue reading to learn more about how to get rid of ants or contact us now to speak with your neighborhood pest control professional!

How to Get Rid of Ants

Since carpenter ants favor moist wood as a habitat, any condition that promotes moisture should be eliminated to prevent infestation. The easiest of these is keeping gutters clear so that water does not run down the side of the structure. Moist wood is much easier to chew. The ants do not eat the wood, but remove it to create galleries for their activities.

Any wood in contact with the ground can be a source of entry, and water draining toward the structure will also encourage these ants. Leaks inside the house from plumbing or appliances can also create the moist conditions that encourage these species. When summer in St. Louis gets hot and dry, ants will move closer to the home to find moisture. Your kitchen is likely where they’ll end up – the sink and dishwasher are ant magnets during the hot St. Louis summer.

Reducing moisture alone will not eliminate an established colony. You can spray the insects with common household insecticides to kill them, but that won’t kill the colonies deep in the wood. Only complete removal of the nest will solve your problem, which is why a professional treatment is often the most effective solution.

The main nest must be located by tracing the foraging workers as they return home. Winged males leave the nest to reproduce, so there is little point in following them. The males leave in search of sunlight, so they are often seen near doors and windows (as exit points). If winged ants are seen, there is a colony nearby, so this is an important warning sign. Structural damage can be extensive by the time external damage is visible, such as sawdust or bubbling paint.

Holper’s Approach

We get rid of ants in St. Louis by understanding how they behave and why. We study your property and your home to understand exactly where the nest is and what is drawing the ants to your home. With over 30 years of experience, we know that ants in one neighborhood don’t exactly behave the same as they do in another. We apply local knowledge, combined with pest control expertise, to ensure that the problem is solved and not just concealed.

If your home and peace of mind are under assault by unwanted ants, call Holper’s today (314-732-1413) and discover how we can set you free from these pests with precision and effectiveness.