How to Find a Carpenter Ant Nest

How to Find a Carpenter Ant Nest

To find a carpenter ant (Camponotus spp.) nest, you first need to know what you’re looking for. These black or red ants are large; in fact, carpenter ant queens can get up to an inch long. These ants get their name from building their colonies in wood (making them little “carpenters”). It’s not always easy to know if you have a pest problem when you come across ants, but if you’re starting to see large ants regularly, it’s important to figure out if they’re carpenter ants since they can damage wooden structures on your property, including your house.

Finding a carpenter ant nest isn’t necessarily simple, so don’t hesitate to reach out to the experts at Joshua’s Pest Control for assistance. Our field experts will inspect your home for carpenter ants (both parent and satellite colonies) and help you evict these wood-destroying pests.

A close-up of a piece of wood


Are carpenter ants trying to take over your home? It can be hard to tell.

The good news is that there are several signs you can look for to figure out if carpenter ants are a pest you should be worried about. Here are several signs of carpenter ant nests to look for:


Perhaps the most obvious sign of carpenter ant nests is the fact that you’re seeing these large ants in the first place. Pay particular attention to whether or not the carpenter ants you’ve identified have wings. Carpenter ants with wings (“swarmers”) are colony members looking to mate or find a place to call home. Carpenter ants that don’t have wings may already have a nest inside or may have come inside from an outdoor parent colony.


Another sign that carpenter ants might be nearby is the presence of sawdust piles. These piles build up around the entrances of the carpenter ants’ tunnels because these pests don’t actually eat the wood they tunnel through. If you find unusual bits of sawdust, it’s a good idea to consider a wood-destroying pest as a possible culprit.


Rustling and scratching sounds can be a sign that there is an active colony inside your walls. Usually, homeowners won’t hear colonies when they’re small, but as the colonies grow, they become more active (since there are more ants) and therefore louder.


A gallery, the name for the tunnels and colony spaces carpenter ants make, is another sign of possible carpenter ant activity. To be sure it’s a carpenter ant gallery (as opposed to another pest, like termites), you’ll want to look for smooth edges where the wood has been removed. Additionally, it’s common to see ants, eggs, larvae, and pupae in the gallery if the colony is robust.

A group of ants on a log


A carpenter ant nest is usually a series of tunnels in wood. These tunnels are called a gallery. The edges will be smooth and free of debris. Frass (coarse, shredded bits of wood) are ejected into piles outside of the tunnels. People sometimes find that these nests have a sandpaper-like texture.

There are two kinds of carpenter ant nests: parent nests and satellite nests. The parent nest is the main nest, and satellite nests branch off from the original parent nest. This interconnected system is one of the reasons carpenter ants and their nests can be difficult to locate and eliminate through DIY methods.

The parent colony is established first and may be inside or outside a building. Satellite nests are then created and can also be indoors or outdoors—the ants seek places where there’s suitable moisture and decaying wood. The worker carpenter ants do go between the nests in the colony, so it’s sometimes possible to track them from one nest to another in order to locate all the pests.

The parent colony will contain all the life stages of carpenter ants: eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults. The queen may also be there—she will be around an inch long and may have wings depending on her reproductive status.

Satellite colonies don’t have as many life stages contained within their tunnels. Instead, they usually have mature larvae, pupae, and workers. This is a helpful distinction when our field experts are locating all the colonies on a property. If a nest doesn’t include all the life stages, it’s likely not the only nest nearby.

A house with a lawn and grass


One of the things to remember about carpenter ants is that they enjoy living in wood. Ideally, they’re looking for wood that’s dead, decaying, and damp—the three Ds.

Carpenter ants will look for these resources both outside and inside your home. And as with most pests, these opportunistic eaters will gladly take advantage of other habitats and food sources that are available. Carpenter ants don’t actually eat wood, so they can infest if they find food in the garbage, pantry, or cupboards. They can also be found in pet bowls or on patio grills where leftover meat juices can become a meal for them.

In addition to seeking wooden places in which to nest, carpenter ants also prefer dark places, too. For example, they’re sometimes found inside the damp bathroom walls of a home.

While carpenter ants do want to be in moist areas, that doesn’t mean they can’t be found in dry wood. Carpenter ants need a water source, but that water source doesn’t necessarily have to be in the wood. For example, if you have a yard with standing water, they could build nests nearby.

To find a nearby carpenter ant nest, you’ll need to look for the signs mentioned above and take a look in the most common areas where nests are made. Remember that carpenter ants make parent and satellite nests, so finding just one nest may not be enough to get rid of the entire colony. If you’re not sure whether you have a carpenter ant nest, or suspect that one may be nearby but you haven’t been able to find it, contact the experts at Joshua’s Pest Control. We’ll be glad to come inspect for you.


To get started finding a carpenter ant nest, begin by identifying moist or damp wooden areas in and around your home. Some places to look include:

  • Chimneys
  • Sinks
  • Bath traps
  • Wall voids
  • Door frames
  • Windows

Since carpenter ants excavate wood to create tunnels in which to nest, you can try knocking on wooden areas and listening for a hollowed-out sound. This hollow sound could indicate possible damage behind your walls.

Remember that carpenter ants don’t just make their homes inside, and they may not be picky when it comes to the degree of moisture in wood. You should also check additional—typically dry—wooden locations for nests such as:

  • Where wooden siding meets the ground
  • Around areas where branches touch a roof
  • In log piles
  • In wood-framed garages or sheds

If there is one carpenter ant nest, there may be more. But how do you find them if not all ants live in the parent colony? The easiest way is to follow the ants back to where they came from or to track them to the additional satellite colonies.

Carpenter ants usually travel outward in a straight line and return home, even though they don’t form lines with one another. That means you’re unlikely to find a long line of these ants trailing single file between nests. However, you can check to see if they are traveling along a marked path, such as the edge of a garden hose left out, or if they’re following along the edges of flooring or walls.

According to Associate Certified Entomologist (ACE) Jonathan Ferreira, our Dallas-Fort Worth Branch Manager, “The biggest thing with carpenter ants is the way they branch out into new colonies without the need for a queen in each one. That’s the most difficult part of getting rid of them. We inspect the outside of the home first, looking for branches, gutters, and fence lines that touch the home. Then, we see if ant trails are present as well. Inside, carpenter ants are most likely to be in exterior walls in bathrooms or kitchens around window sills—but they don’t really want to live inside. Treating the colonies and sealing entry points are both essential steps to getting rid of them.”

A person on the phone and looking at a computer


Carpenter ants can cause significant damage to your home and other wooden structures on your property, so it’s important to identify and get rid of them as soon as you suspect possible activity.

The experts at Joshua’s Pest Control are here to help. Our specially trained field experts will inspect your property for signs of carpenter ant nests and evict the intruding colonies. We can also provide information about eliminating the conducive conditions that attract these pests in the first place so you don’t have repeated infestations.

For more information or to get a free quote for our pest services, contact us today.