Pest Resources

Killing Carpenter ants in a boat


This article has a complete guide on killing Carpenter ants in a boat. Here you will learn how to get rid of ants on your boat. We have some great advice for you on how to get rid of a Carpenter ant infestation on your boat quickly and effectively and how to prevent the ants using the best methods that are easy to apply and work as soon as possible.

Let’s get started!

Why are Carpenter ants on my boat?

Carpenter ants are attracted mainly to damp wood; if your boat has wet wood, it is easier for ants on the boat to chew through.

If you do not use a mooring cover, the wood will eventually start to rot. Unlike termites, Carpenter ants do not eat wood on your boat. They make tunnels through the moist wood to set up a colony and nest.

Older boats are more likely to attract Carpenter ants, mainly if the wood is moist. They can easily nest and build colonies in the rotting damp wood. Your boat can suffer severe damage from these ants, especially if you have a wooden deck.

You might find the ants do not have a nest on your boat. It could be they have a nest in an area of soggy wood or wood piles near the mooring site.

Food particles attract ants on a boat

bread-crumbs-and-breadAnts are very organized insects. They send out worker ants to forage for food. They will undoubtedly forage on a boat for food.

If they find food particles on your boat, they will leave a pheromone trail letting all the other ants know where the food source is.

The Carpenter ant workers will come in swarms and take the food back to the rest of the colony, including the queen.

Carpenter ants find food on boats a great attraction. It could be the Carpenter ants have found food scraps in trash bins, or the trash bags were not sealed up properly. Even tiny crumbs or microscopic food traces dropped on the ground can cause an ant infestation.


As a boat owner, you might wonder why you keep having an ant issue. It could be that there are so many ant colonies near your boat, or you have openings and holes in your boat that you keep having the same problem returning every summer.

Check your mooring cover fits tightly around your boat.

It would help if you fixed the openings and holes, found the colonies, and get rid of the ants using our suggested pest control methods.

Pet foods

containers-for-foodManaging animal food constantly may be difficult ants will be attracted to a sack of animal food that has been open for a while.

The sack sits in the same place daily, making it an easy target for ants. Store the contents in sealed food containers.

Is it possible to get rid of Carpenter ants on a boat permanently?

Yes, it is possible; follow our tips and advice to permanently eliminate an ant problem on boats.

Find out where the Carpenter ants are on the boat

The first and most important thing you need to do is find out where the ants are getting on the boat and what is attracting the ants to the boat.

When the sun begins to set is the ideal time to look for the ants on a boat. Seeing them is not always easy; a flashlight will help you spot them.

Apply ant dust powder and insecticide

Now you have found the nest; it is time to get rid of it. You do not want the ants to leave and set up satellite nests in different parts of the boat.

Use an insecticide spray or ant dust powder on all the ants and the nest, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and keep away from children and pets. Both are available in-store or online. Use in all the nooks and crannies of the boat for the best results.

Bug Bomb or fog for extreme ant infestations

If you have a severe ant problem and everything you have tried has failed, you could also try a bug bomb or fog.

This method of pest control should be used if all else fails.

This would mean creating a tent on the boat to keep the fumes in place long enough to kill the ant pests. Please be warned the fumes are not healthy for anyone.

Everything on your boat will need to be removed, and all gaps will be sealed up and ready for treatment.

The pest control expert will blow a fog of ant poison into the boat.

The boat must be left sealed up for around four to five days. This is to allow the fog to get into all the nooks and crannies of the boat in order to kill the ants.

Once the pest control treatment has finished, the boat should be ventilated for a couple of days.

Ortho Home Defense

You can make a barrier around the perimeter of your boat with this product. This product kills numerous pests.

It should be applied before any rainfall so that it can dry; drying takes around two to four hours. When it has dried, it is safe for people and pets and will offer up to twelve months of protection.

Always follow the manufacturers’ instructions.

Replace the wood the ants are attracted to


This is an excellent solution for boats that Carpenters have damaged. The wood should be replaced as soon as possible as the ant problem will have chewed away at the inside of the wood. When you have replaced the wood, ensure the boat is adequately covered.

Place ant killer liquid patches around the boat

Ant killer liquid patches and ant baits are excellent for getting rid of ants. The product comes in a tube containing Boric Acid with patches. You must squeeze the contents, which have a thick consistency, onto the cardboard patches and place the ant baits near the nest and where you have seen most ants.

The ants find the sugar in the patches very appealing; they take the ant bait to the queen and other ants to be eaten in the nest, causing death to the entire colony.

This method works best if you use it regularly and can be used alongside other pest control methods.

Ant traps to get rid of ants on a boat

Ant bait traps enclose a sweet liquid with Boric Acid. Ant traps work in a similar way to the liquid patches. The ready-made ant bait trap containers allow only ants inside. Therefore they are safer to use around children and pets.

Boric acid to kill ant infestations

It is excellent at getting rid of insects like ants and roaches that may be on your boat. Although it destroys ants and cockroaches, it is harmless to human beings.

Boric acid is readily accessible online, and it is relatively inexpensive.

To get rid of ants on the boat, mix the Boric acid with a bit of water and sugar and place it in small jar lids all over your boat. The sugar will attract a few ants at first, and then more ants will come for the bait, and eventually, the colony will die and, hopefully, any satellite nests.

Vacuum and clean the boat

After about seven days, your ant infestation should be gone.

You will need to give the boat a clean. Dead ants need to be vacuumed up as Carpenter ants eat dead insects, and you do not want more ants onboard.

Clean food storage areas and containers

Wipe the outsides of food storage containers to remove any food residue.

Clean your fridge and trash bin

Ants detest vinegar. With that in mind, we recommend you wipe areas over with a damp cloth and a few drops of vinegar.

Clean your trash bin, fridges, stoves, and table tops, and wipe the shelves inside storage areas and galley working areas with the vinegar.

Clean in all the little gaps

Food crumbs can fall, and the debris can land in hidden places. Look down the back of the seats and vacuum the area. Vacuum in gaps between seating benches and down the sides of stoves.

Clean the stove

clean-boat-stoveTiny splashes of grease around your stove will attract ants on a boat.

Move the stove out and clean behind it and down the sides of the stove. The grease and food debris must be removed. Otherwise, the ants will return.

Wash the dishes and produce clean trash

Dishes left dirty in the sink will attract an ant infestation. Wash and dry them as soon as you have finished eating.

Before you put items in the trash bag, clean them before doing so.

We recommend rinsing out tins, cans, and plastic containers to remove any food debris left on them.

When it comes to throwing away unwanted food, please put them in a sealable bag before putting them in the trash bag.

How to get rid of ants on the dock lines

The dock lines provide a way onto a pontoon boat for fire ants, Carpenter ants, and many other species of ants. Applying engine lubrication oil is a great tip to stop ants from getting on a pontoon boat or any other boat.

Here's what to do with the lubrication oil

Cut a piece of cloth into strips, then soak them in engine lubrication oil, wrap them around the dock lines, and secure them. Ants struggle to walk over the oil.

How to prevent Carpenter ants on boats

Next, we have some top tips on how to prevent an ant invasion.

Take home the trash bag. Make sure the trash bag is sealed correctly.

Clean food surface areas after use. Wipe away food debris and on the marine decking. Even tiny food particles attract ants.

Wash dirty dishes after use and produce clean trash.

Cover boats to protect them in the wet weather.

Keep stored food, especially sugary treats, and pet food, in air-tight containers or sealable bags on the boat.

Get rid of all food sources ants like when you are not using the boat.

Never store your boat under a tree. It will provide easy access for ants.

Check incoming bags and cardboard boxes on the boat for ants and eggs.

Do not leave uncovered food out on the boat.

And finally,

In the article “Killing Carpenter ants in a boat,” we presented methods for fighting ants yourself on a boat; we hope you have found the article helpful; if you feel the problem is getting out of hand and you have tried our ant infestation removal methods, then it is time to call a professional to remove the ant infestation.

Good luck!

Ronald has 25 years of pest control experience under his belt. He scrutinizes each control method, product and process to prevent infestations effectively. 

Read more here.

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