Carpenter Ants in Winter: Do they Freeze or go Dormant?

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Carpenter ants are one of the most prevalent pests in in the upstate New York area, and they can cause some serious damage over time if you don’t keep careful tabs on a possible infestation. Carpenter ants are often found infesting homes and buildings during the spring and summer months. But, do carpenter ants go dormant in the winter? Unfortunately, no. 

Why am I Seeing Carpenter Ants in Winter?

So what do carpenter ants do in winter? Great question. There’s a good chance that you’re reading this article because you’ve either seen carpenter ants in your house during the winter, or you’re concerned that your home may be a target for carpenter ant infestation. If the carpenter ants have nested in a location with plentiful heat, they will stay active, even in colder months. So how do you know if you have carpenter ants, and how can you get rid of them in winter or any other time of the year?

What Do Carpenter Ants Look Like? 

  • Black or red in color
  • Size ranging from 3/8 to 1/2 inch--although size can very smaller or larger dependent on species
  • A waist with one node
  • Thorax with evenly rounded upper surface

It can be difficult to tell the difference between carpenter ants vs termites, so if you're not sure what you’re seeing take a look at our helpful guide, or give us a call. 

What Do Carpenter Ants Eat? 

When you find evidence of carpenter ants in your home, it can be an easy thing to shrug it off. While carpenter ants are the largest ants that get into homes, they're still pretty small--they are ants after all. Like many other ant types, carpenter ants are attracted to sweet things, along with protein heavy prey--usually in the form of other insects; in other words carpenter ants will be going after anything sweet in your trash, kitchen, and pantry. You won’t typically see hundreds of carpenter ants swarming a trash can or covering a box of cereal in the cabinet; usually, it is only a single scout ant you’ll be able to identify.  

Carpenter ants can also feed on a wide selection of food, which means that they don't need to raid your pantry or kitchen cabinets to get a bite to eat; they can find all the food they need outside your home near the trash can! Carpenter ants are nocturnal insects, and if they manage to find a food source inside your home, you very well might never know about it: oftentimes they forage at night and are back in their hiding spot before the sun rises. 

What are the Signs of a Winter Carpenter Ant Infestation?  

Seeing carpenter ants indoors during winter can be an indication that there is a nest somewhere in your home. Sometimes carpenter ants will hitch a ride on some firewood that you have brought inside; luckily workers from firewood are not able to start nests in homes, nor do they damage wood structures in buildings. 

However, carpenter ant workers may become active during winter if their existing nest is receiving sufficient warmth from sunlight, mild outdoor temperatures, or from indoor heat, which is something that you should be mindful of; these types of carpenter ants will cause structural damage if left to their own devices for too long. There are also a few other signs that you have a carpenter ant nest in your home:

  • When ants are active during the winter they will forage at night, searching for moisture. It is common for a home dweller to enter a room early in the morning, turn on the lights, and see ants scurrying for cover.
  • Cabinets, sinks, dishwashers, rolled-up towels, bathroom tubs, sink and toilet areas, or other moisture abundant spaces are all places that carpenter ants will seek out. 
  • On a bright sunny day, you see ants walking randomly through different areas of the house.

Carpenter ants may exist in a house during the winter but not be noticed. If the nest exists at a site that does not receive sufficient indoor heat or sunshine, e.g. a north-facing outside wall, the ants will remain dormant until spring.

Can you treat for carpenter ants in the winter?

If you've seen a few ants here and there, you may be tempted to think, "Why bother taking care of those carpenter ants? The winter cold will kill them off." But that couldn't be further from the truth. 

Every spring, you find ants in your yard. That's because ants know how to hide from the winter cold. Carpenter ants are no different. In fact, they have an advantage over other ants--especially if they've already established themselves in your walls. Those carpenter ants will be snug as a bug in your walls, all winter long.

When pests appear, you should never shrug them off, especially when they are a wood-chewing pest that can eat away at your equity all winter long. While it is possible for carpenter ants to be somewhat dormant during the winter, under the right conditions, they can actively damage your home even when temperatures outside are well below freezing.

If you're seeing carpenter ants this fall, contact us here at Thomas Pest Services. Our team of professional pest techs at will look into your pest issues and offer solutions for carpenter ant removal. Thomas Pest Services is an industry-leading pest control provider that has earned the QualityPro seal of excellence from the National Pest Management Association. You can trust our team of educated professionals to take care of your pest problem, every time.



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